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Batswana ex-miners in 3 billion rands windfall

Close to 3 billion rands is sitting in the bank accounts in South Africa and are destined for the ex-mine workers including Batswana who have worked in that country whom will be able to be traced to get their dues.

 

Weekend Post has established that the R3 billion was mobilised for the South African, Botswana governments as well others in Southern Africa to come up with the plan to compensate the ex-miners who had worked at SA mines.

 

In fact there was a large number of claims that were unpaid of labour miners particularly the ex-miners mostly who were originally from the neighbouring countries like Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Malawi.

 

Therefore the Weekend Post has gathered that the World Bank is funding a pilot project that instigated in November 1st in which they have gathered that the ex-miners are facing some challenges that were affected by their jobs in the SA mines particularly contractual occupational diseases.

 

This publication has also gathered that their issues other than occupational matters that the ex-miners encountered while working at SA mines include injuries although were never compensated, and non-payment of insurance and pensions.

 

According to a Senior Health Officer under the Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness, under Tubercolosis (TB) Program, Thandi Katlholo the delayed claims are a  priority for the World Bank and they are getting assistance to look for the ex-miners and dully compensate. Katlholo also coordinates a project called TB in the mining sector in Southern Africa which is directly responsible for the ongoing compensation process.

 

Katlholo told Weekend Post on the side-lines of a meeting in Molepolole that most of those who had submitted claims have not yet been paid so the South African government through the World Bank said they have around 3 billion rands on the bank account that must be disbursed to the ex-miners.

 

The Ministry of Health official emphasised that Botswana already has around 105 people who are due for the claims – although the project and registering is continuing.

 

“When you also look at our records, they illustrate that in Botswana we have about 105 people that are due for second degree compensation. Second degree compensation can be up to R100 000. So out of the top of the head when we calculate that’s close to R11 million due for Botswana ex-mine workers that is if we get these and trace the 105 people so that they get their dues.”

 

Katlholo explained that a second degree compensation can be up to R100 000 and then there is first degree which can be up to R40 000. She said the medical doctor, after assessment determines the compensation looking at the amount of damage and disease stage. 

 

Katlholo continued to explain that the 3 billion rands is from World Bank and the Global Funds is in the amount of 30 million US dollars which will be disbursed to 8 countries and that the projects are running parallel.

 

The World Bank, she said it is covering the pilot program that ran from November which will later become a national project and, the long term project is covered by the Global Fund which is in the mining sector and that they are already looking at the miners and their occupational disease in the project.  

 

“World Bank comes in after realising that we have a list of people who have been submitting applications over the years which delayed because of our bureaucratic system of our government and that of SA,” the Ministry official pointed out. 

 

World Bank is in the 5 countries and Global Fund is for the 10 countries excluding Namibia and Angola. World Bank disbursed funding to track ex-miners and the Global Fund money is managed by Wits University.

 

“We had limited time and money for administration costs and therefore World Bank got the governments together to pay the former miners,” Katlholo further told Weekend Post.

 

In addition, a South African partner and Project Manager at Medical Bureau for Operational Diseases (MBOD’s) which falls under the National Department of Health which falls under the regulation called occupational disease in mines which governs the entire occupation process for ex and current mine workers, Aretha Naidoo, stated to this publication they have built a backlog that needs to be fast tracked.

 

She said that over the years they have built up a backlog because of various systems and processes and the difficulty they had in contacting the ex-miners as previously they did not have contacts like cell phones for the mine workers and that is why they have now built up a backlog of 100 000 claims that are due to the mine workers.

 

“We have started on various processes of restructuring the MBOD’s and in the last 3 or 4 years we have changed the processes around so that we can have a close contact and we can begin to have the mine workers that we are looking for who has an existing claim on our day to day basis,” Naidoo told this publication.

 

She said as a result to that the World Bank has given them funding to go out to track and trace as this time around the funding involves areas of Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa. “We will register any person who has worked at the mines at SA as we also want to build a data base. We are also assisting the ex-miners do a chest x-ray and lung infection test.”

 

She also highlighted that Botswana Labour Migrants Association (BoLAMA) is on registration exercise on door to door in the country to track these ex-miners.

 

According to the Project Manager for the SA MBOD’s the criteria of how much they compensate is legislated. “Whatever disease is calculated on the client’s salary, the type of work and the number of risk shifts they had that is how many times they have been underground and the duration,” she pointed out.

 

So 2 mine workers having different jobs and salary scales and having different diseases do not necessarily get the same compensation because it based on a calculation on individual bases, she added.

 

A Coordinator for the project at BoLAMA also said in a separate interview that the process of paying claims for former mine workers in SA was already there but it had challenges. It is understood that through the MBOD’s under the Department of Health in South Africa it needed only fast tracking because they were dealing with a large number.

 

Phiri asserted: “now we are saying that because of the flawed system under the MBOD’s, the World Bank approached the government of SA to say what can we do to address this issue how can we ensure that all these unpaid claims are paid to reach their intended recipients or beneficiaries and expedite the process?”

 

Local Ministry of Heath which runs the program of ex-miners compensation he said they had already had a program which they were running of trying to compensate ex-miners, so as a result of that, a lot of the claims which were being sent to SA by that department was “slow and the turnaround period was very low as well.”

 

“So what they did was they found that there were administrative flaws within the department of SA so they came up with a plan of ensuring that these claims are paid up. World Bank then assured them that they will fund them to start a pilot project for two months or so where they can see the challenges and how best they can address the issue,” BoLAMA Coordinator said.

 

Phiri continued to state the challenges faced by former mine workers that includes lack of documentation and therefore that it’s very difficult to access some of the processes without mine documentation to proof that they were really working at the mines. Also widows of ex-miners do not know which mines their husbands were working at so it’s difficult to assist them, he added.

 

Phiri also maintained that the reason why Molepolole was chosen as a centre for the project was precisely because there is a high concentration of ex-miners in Kweneng District. Initially we were supposed to get 1 500 ex-miners but we got them in Molepolole alone before we can go to other parts of the country, he justified the move.

 

It is understood that also under the Global Fund project, there will be an occupational health centre which will be set up by that fund also in Molepolole at Boswelatlou. A mobile clinic for medical assessments and administration of unpaid compensation claims of ex-miners is as well scheduled for Molepolole.

 

BoLAMA is housed under the auspices of DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights and they are in partnership with the National Department of South Africa and the Ministry of Health and Wellness on a pilot project to tackle the legacy problems of non – delivery of medical services and payment of compensation to current and ex-mineworkers.

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No end in sight for Nam, Botswana borderline feud

27th July 2021
Namibian-report

Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.

Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.

“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.

Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.

The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.

The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River.  They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).

His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.

The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.

Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.

37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far

Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.

“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.

It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.

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Masisi gives KBL the “middle finger”

27th July 2021
President Masisi

Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.

This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.

In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.

“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.

Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.

Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”

Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.

He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”

According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.

Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.

“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.

He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.

Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.

“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.

He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”

Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.

However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.

In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.

“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.

Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.

“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.

Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.

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Gov’t gives parallel statements on COVAX

27th July 2021
COVAX---lelatisitswe

In  an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.

The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.

“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.

According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.

“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more  money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.

Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.

“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.

“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.

COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.

Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).

On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.

Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.

President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.

“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.

On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.

In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.

Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.

Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.

As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.

This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.

The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.

As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.

“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.

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