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Distribution of water serious problem – WUC CEO

Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mmetla Masire has said the country has ample water to supply the whole country, although the main challenge his corporation is faced with is distributing that water throughout the country.

When speaking to WeekendPost this week Masire emphasised that “our only challenge is the ability to distribute that water to where we want it to be. That’s the biggest single most important challenge faced by the Utility,” he said. Masire pointed out that the corporation needs storage facilities like tanks because if they have small storage tanks in some big villages like it is the case in Molepolole, it affects the corporation’s ability to distribute water.

 “If you don’t have the pipe you can’t get water. Sometimes when someone says they don’t have water in a village you would find that the challenge is actually the pipes and that there is normally sufficient water to provide for such but the network doesn’t reach it – that’s all part of the distribution,” he observed. The other challenge, he highlighted, is capacity and integrity of the infrastructure and land servicing. He said that if a pipe is leaking, the water would not go where it is supposed to go.

According to the WUC CEO, a dam like Dikgatlhong, theoretically, as one dam, can as a matter of fact sufficiently supply the whole country. “But we will have to get the water around the country and that’s where the challenge will be,” he added.
Masire gave an example that in the distribution of the water, the North/South water carrier project that takes water from the northern dams to the south of the country will have to break apart at some point to transfer water to other areas like Gantsi, Maun, Tsabong and all other areas around the country. “That’s why I say the issue is mostly about distribution,” he said adding that most of the villages outside the north south carrier are predominantly supported by the boreholes to source water.

Overcharging, wrong metre readings and bill queries

With regard to overcharging and wrong metre readings, The WUC top man said he partly blames customers for incorrect readings. “It’s interesting that customers complain about wrong metre readings and overcharges but there is denial of access to get the correct readings at their premises as they have high walls, vicious dogs, and they warn maids against access of strangers even from Water Utilities,” he pointed out.

He however mentioned that the issue is like chicken and eggs story but quickly admitted that sometimes they err but it has not been helped by the so called security reasons as the bottom line is: “we still have no access”. But in bringing the solution the Utility boss explained that “what we are doing about it is that we have new metre boxes erected outside the yards in some areas but attached to the main metre inside. So even if we are denied access we can still take the metre readings from outside the yard.”

He nonetheless added that “we will still have bill queries and malfunctioning metres and that with 350 000 meters it’s reasonable to expect that we will have genuine concerns but we don’t believe it is widespread as some want us to believe.”
He continued to also reveal that soon they will be introducing highly sophisticated smart metres that will pave way for prepaid metres as “that’s the future though it will cost the corporate so much”.

Water situation in Botswana currently not bad as well

Overall, the soft spoken Utility Corporation chief told this publication that “the water situation even locally is not too bad. There is water. We have enough water around the country.” Since the north south carrier project he said the water situation has really improved in the past 12 years because they have not experience any pipe burst or break down and therefore by extension there were no water cuts during the period in Gaborone and Greater Gaborone areas.

In terms of the ongoing Molepolole water crisis in which they even submitted a petition to WUC, he highlighted that the village has grown faster than anticipated and that’s why there is that serious water problem. “We expect this problem to linger on at least for two years,” he said while adding that they were working out solutions to the problem. “They will be solved through the World Bank loan of more than 1.5 billion and the project has already started following approval of the loan by parliament. It was partly to address water problems in the south like in Molepolole. It contributes to the solutions,” he said confidently.  

How Mathambo’s budget will ease water problems

Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo revealed when presenting the budget speech this week that Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation will get more than 3 billion to address water challenges. He said “a significant portion of the proposed development budget of P3.29 billion or 17.0 percent, being the largest share, is proposed for the Ministry (of Land Management, Water and Sanitation) to support initiatives aimed at improving the availability of water supply, as well as wastewater and sludge management.” 


Matambo stated that the water projects account for P2.51 billion or 77 percent of the Ministry’s allocation. The main projects implemented, he said, are the North South Carrier 2 from Palapye – Mmamashia – Gaborone at P647.29 million, which is meant to provide adequate water to the southern part of Botswana, as well as the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency project funded through the recently approved loan of USD145.50 million from the World Bank.

He said he was grateful to parliament for approving the Emergency Water Security and Efficiency Project Loan Authorisation Bill in March 2017, to raise the said P1.5 billion from the World Bank to finance the funding gap in the water sector. According to the Finance Minister, an amount of P2.53 billion has been proposed for water development programmes and projects in the 2018/2019 budget to cover investment in the improvement of water supply networks, in particular, the pipelines to transfer water from dams and well-fields in the northern part of the country to the south to support economic activity.

With regards to the development of water infrastructure, he added that government will continue to prioritise investment in this area given the critical role of water supply as an input for economic growth and development.

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.

Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.

She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”

Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.

On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.

“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.

One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.

The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”

The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.

Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.

Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022
Stan-Chart

Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.

This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.

He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.

Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”

He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.

Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.

“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.

In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”

In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.

He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.”  Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.

Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.

He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”

Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.

“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.

“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said.  Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.

Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.

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