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BOCONGO, BCC accuse Govt of Economic and Social Injustices


The collapse and ultimate closure of BCL has impacted on the not only economic justice of the Selibe Phikwe residents and surrounding areas. It has more badly eroded the little social justice that was aspired at the then copper mining town.

 

In the light of these, basing its authenticity on its newly adopted strategic plan, Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) is riding on partnership of its affiliating member; Botswana Christian Council (BCC) on the ongoing study to identify the social injustices preceding the economic injustices imposed on the people of Selibe Phikwe and surrounding areas through the abrupt and unforeseen closure of the BCL mine.


The ongoing survey has through its preliminary report, of which final report will be made public before the end December 2016, painted a dehumanising impact of the BCL closure on residents, vulnerable communities and families, businesses and the Non-Governmental Organisations that have been serving the dead mining town.

 

The BOCONGO Board Vice Chairperson Mr. Olebile Machete responding to the Weekend Post enquiries as to the exact purpose of the impact survey assessment explained that “we at BOCONGO together with our affiliating partner BCC are of the strong view that inclusive development through democratic ownership involves empowering people as primary beneficiaries, but also as actors in their development”. He continued that what BOCONGO is currently engaged in is just a grain of the new strategy.

 

This study is aimed at BOCONGO and BCC learning the impact of uncertainties from the Selibe Phikwe community and what is going to be of their lives.  BOCONGO expresses that this scenario will essentially impact the whole nation and thus needs mitigation of affiliating BOCONGO members to mitigate.


BOCONGO expresses that, though it does in its new dispensation continues to recognise the Government of Botswana as the most immediate strategic partner, as all the BOCONGO work is strategically aimed at complementing efforts of the Government, it is however concerned at the rate of economic and social injustices where communities have become the victim and Government being the perpetrator.

 

Machete points out that “BOCONGO shall in response to this  prevailing and growing unfortunate fashion and behavior by the Government, thus as guided by the new the new three year strategic plan, endevour to motivate more formal partnerships on delivery of certain targets in specific thematic areas based on our member comparative advantages”.


BOCONGO shall in the next three years 2017 – 2020, guided by its new strategic plan, embark on joint plans within relevant structures and appropriate entities, including government departments where direct and deliberate plans shall be developed, monitored and evaluated to a certain progress and value addition.

 

Machete is quick to emphasise that, as much as possible, the new BOCONGO, having learnt from the past will avoid casual agreements and partnerships and rather will be more legal, constitutional and obliging to ensure concrete efforts towards inclusive development as obligated by its member affiliates at the recent Annual General Meeting where the new strategy was adopted. The new strategy shall be branded and marketed for stakeholder knowledge and buy-in and follow up efforts shall be made to explore opportunities for new partnerships.

 

Machete continued that “BOCONGO readily recognises that the new targets are ambitious and therefore strongly require an aggressive approach to partnership prospecting for co-responsibility and subsidiarity for value addition in service delivery. And we shall be engaging several stakeholders such as BONELA and BOSASNET and other social justice, economic justice and human rights institutions to address social and economic injustices that we find not only in Selibe Phikwe but nationally. We can no longer pretend that the situation is normal”.


Amongst other things coming from the impact assessment survey done by BOCONGO and BCC in Selibe Phikwe is that extracting companies operating in Botswana are not regulated to the benefit of local communities. They make millions from geographical areas and not plant anything back into the communities. The Phikwe pollution has left disastrous health effects. And Machete insists that BOCONGO shall through lobby and advocacy ensure that these issues are addressed and appropriate regulation put in place.

 

“BCL for example should have set up respiratory control and treatment centres funded by the mine. This should have been a pre-requisite to mining and we will be dialoguing with Government and appropriate institutions on the way forward not only for Selibe Phikwe but for other mining areas that are ongoing and that shall arise. We have agreed that if need be we shall frequent the courts to ensure that not only economic justice is met but that social justice be upheld.


The preliminary report carries amongst other things complaints by neighbouring villages such as Sefhophe where the head teachers have already complained to the village chief that they are unable to enroll all students being transferred to their schools from Selibe Phikwe schools. Health facilities are also not coping as luxuries of private hospitals have diminished overnight. These are social pressures that were not taken into consideration when authorities decided to close the mine.

 

BOCONGO expresses worry that “it is not only with the employees that consultation should have been done but it should have also been with authorities in neighbouring villages to prepare for such drastic changes that impact directly on the day to day affairs of their operations in schools, clinics, hospitals etcetera. Micro loans are taking all the monies that have been paid to the former employees and landlords are struggling, it is all economic and social injustice misery that could have been mitigated had things been done in consideration of all affected parties.

Machete also told this publication that the new BOCONGO strategy is aligned to the reality that, in representative democracies, it becomes indispensable to have organised groups like the NGOs effectively working for the people and representing their interests. It is about creating structured and permanent forums for dialogue that includes diversity of thoughts in advising and monitoring development policies, plans and strategies.

 

The main mission of BOCONGO is to provide an enabling environment for the NGO sector to become a recognized partner in the development process in Botswana. “Furthermore, BOCONGO aims to promote experience sharing with other NGOs as well as provide and we shall carry out this mission without a grain of apology”, noted Machete who continued that, human rights norms and standards do not operate in a vacuum, they lead to a conceptualisation of political and social relations between the state and citizens from the perspective of legitimate claims and obligations.

Of central significance is seeing individuals as rights holders and states as duty-bearers. With regards to social protection such a standpoint means that the state is obligated to guarantee economic and social justice and that citizens can claim it.


Machete further emphasised that the new strategy is a focus to ensure that the concept of citizenship, in terms of what is necessary for and meaningful about being a citizen, focuses on important matters such as the quality of relationships between citizens, the distribution and mix of resources necessary for ensuring that relationships are positive in nature.

 

This perspective underscores the value in pursuing a social inclusion agenda undergirded in the idea of social citizenship. Under a social citizenship framework social resources are not granted by the state out of benevolence or other motives but rather are conferred as a right of citizenship. All these point to the painfully felt impact of closure of the BCL mine and based on the increasing inequalities in the country in other areas beyond Selibe Phikwe.


When the Weekend Post asked the BOCONGO Deputy Leader on the position of BOCONGO with regard to SPEDU plan and implementation of the same, he narrated that, according to the World Bank Report, Botswana is the third most unequal country in the world. The government of Botswana has since 1966 delivered myriad mixtures of infrastructure, goods and services with a view to fighting poverty and improving the quality of life of the people.

 

However, this social provision has not made a significant impact on poverty reduction for the majority of the people in the country. “For the funds spent, not enough has been gained in terms of enhancing the overall quality of life by reducing levels of poverty and bridging the widening gap between the rich and the poor and SPEDU if not guarded by the NGO world led by BOCONGO will simply join the fray of lost promises. We shall thus through a lot of activities planned and aligned to our new strategic plan, in robustness, in resoluteness through and with our members, address all these challenges”.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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