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.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.