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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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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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Botswana ranked 129 in female MPs representation

26th July 2022
Minister of Finance & Economic Development Peggy Serame

The Global Gender Gap Index, a report published by the World Economic Forum annually, has indicated that Botswana is among countries that fare badly when it comes to representation of women in legislative bodies.

The latest Global Gender Gap Index, published last week, benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment). It is the longest-standing index which tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006.

This year, the Global Gender Gap Index benchmarked 146 countries. Of these, a subset of 102 countries have been represented in every edition of the index since 2006, further providing a large constant sample for time series analysis.

Botswana ranks number 66 overall (out of 146 countries), with good rankings in most of the pillars. Botswana ranks 1st in Health and Survival, 7th in the Economic Participation and Opportunity, 22nd in Educational Attainment, and 129th in Political Empowerment.

The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity (i.e. the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed). The cross-country comparisons aim to support the identification of the most effective policies to close gender gaps.

The Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index contains three concepts: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The participation gap is captured using the difference between women and men in labour-force participation rates. The remuneration gap is captured through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income) and a qualitative indicator gathered through the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (wage equality for similar work).

Finally, the gap between the advancement of women and men is captured through two hard data statistics (the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers).

The Educational Attainment sub-index captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through the enrolment ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers is captured through the ratio of women’s literacy rate to men’s literacy rate.

Health and Survival sub-index provides an overview of the differences between women’s and men’s health using two indicators. The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women”, prevalent in countries with a strong son preference. Second, the index uses the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy.

This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by accounting for the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition and other factors.
Political Empowerment sub-index measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in ministerial positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, the reported included the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.

In the last general elections, only three women won elections, compared to 54 males. The three women are; Nnaniki Makwinja (Lentsweletau-Mmopane), Talita Monnakgotla (Kgalagadi North), and Anna Mokgethi (Gaborone Bonnington North). Four women were elected through Specially Elected dispensation; Peggy Serame, Dr Unity Dow, Phildah Kereng and Beauty Manake. All female MPs — save Dow, who resigned — are members of the executive.

Overall, Botswana has 63 seats, all 57 elected by the electorates, and six elected by parliament. Early this year, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general and Gaborone North MP, Mpho Balopi, successfully moved a motion in parliament calling for increment of elective seats from 57 to 61. Balopi contented that population growth demands the country respond by increasing the number of MPs.

In Africa, Botswana play second fiddle to countries like Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Burundi, and Zimbabwe who have better representation of women, with Rwanda being the only country with more than 50 percent of women in parliament.

The low number of women in parliament is attributed to Botswana’s current, electoral system, First-Past-the-Post. During the 9th parliament, then MP for Mahalapye East tabled a motion in parliament in which she sort to increase the number of Specially Elected MPs in parliament to augment female representation in the National Assembly.

The motion was opposed famously, by then Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, who said the citizens were not in favour of such a move since it dilute democracy, instead suggesting the Botswana should switch to Proportional-Representation-System. Botswana is currently undergoing Constitutional Review process, with the commission, appointed in December, expected to deliver the report to President Mokgweetsi Masisi by September this year.

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