It doesn’t rain but pours for the beleaguered Water Utilities Corporation (WUC); as yet another shutdown on the North South Carrier is expected, next week.
The NSC 1 pipeline has lately been prone to excessive shutdowns that often lead to the Greater Gaborone areas running on dry taps for days and sometimes effectively rolling into weeks.
According to highly placed sources at the WUC, “next week Friday the NSC will be shut down again.” During this period the Greater Gaborone area will experience increased supply outages.
“The shutdown is meant to ensure proper interconnection in the system that is currently done for the refurbishment of the pipeline that was laid in place of the GRP pipeline,” a WUC official told the WeekendPost.
It is understood that there is a 26km pipeline made of material called GRP (Glass-fibre Reinforced Polyester) – is the weakest part of the NSC pipeline. These pipes made of centrifugally cast glassfiber reinforced plastics (GRP) which consist of a combination of thermosetting plastics such as for example unsaturated polyester or vinyl ester resins, chopped glass fibers and reinforcing agents. GRP are generally of low standard.
The part, which is 26 km out of the 365 km NSC 1 is said to be problematic. “It has a lot of leakages because of GRP which is essentially a weak material. It’s no longer helpful and therefore requires to be replaced,” he said.
This publication has gathered that the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MMEWR) has replaced the weak link with a steel pipeline. “It now has to interconnect to the NSC 2 pipeline which is currently under construction. In other words we have to move from the weakest link to the new pipeline made of steel.” “The shutdown is meant to ensure that we transfer from NSC 1 weak link to the new one made of steel.”
It will not be the first time the pipeline is closed. Recently, on 4th September 2015, the pipeline was shut to repair a leakage around the Bonwapitse area. The pipeline also “experienced a pipe burst upstream” at Palapye earlier in May, and WUC had to shut it down to carry out the necessary repairs.
On January 7, 2014 the corporation also closed the pipeline to allow for repairs following another burst. The shutdowns have often resulted in periods of no water supply in the Greater Gaborone area, outside the water rationing schedule.
The North South Carrier Scheme I (NSC I) is a pipeline that transports water from Letsibogo Dam to the South of the country and supplies Palapye, Mahalapye, Serowe and the Greater Gaborone area which includes essentially the Southern part of Botswana.
Information gathered also suggests that as from the 9th of March this year the newly commissioned Dikgatlhong Dam has also been supplying water to these areas through the same pipeline, relieving the Letsibogo Dam.
However the immaculate source at WUC pointed out that the shutdown was about interconnections and fixing certain leakages. “This time around we want to allow the contractor doing the parallel line to switch from the current to the new one. We already have NSC 1 while NSC 2 is still under construction. The 26 km pipeline has been brought up as part of NSC 2. We are building a parallel 26 km, which is part of NSC 2.”
The WUC Corporate Communications Manager, Matida Mmipi who was not immediately available for comment at press time, is expected to address the media before the NSC 1 shutdown scheduled for next week. Future of Molatedi dam supply to Botswana “uncertain”
Meanwhile, more water woes are expected as Molatedi Dam in South Africa, which has been supplying 26ml/day to Botswana is drying up. The dam is now said to be supplying reduced amounts of 4.8 millilitres per day. Recent Media reports have alluded to officials in that country considering cutting off supply to Botswana.
Weekend Post has turned up information that the WUC has been in a series of meetings with their South African counterparts to discuss the matter further. “They are constantly reviewing the amount that is coming to Botswana and it will not be a surprise that they will cut water to Botswana,” the WUC official told this publication.
WUC Board Chairperson, Matome Malema told this publication that Molatedi dam is still supplying to Botswana and they have not cut ties with them. He said the agreement they have with them still stands. “As far as I know, they did not cut ties, our agreement is that when the dam goes down they reduce the amount they give us,” Malema maintained.
According to CCTV Africa, South Africa is set to cut off Botswana from receiving water supplements after Molatedi Dam dropped to extremely low levels. The dam is located near Zeerust in North-West South Africa. For years Gaborone has been receiving water from South Africa but an agreement dating back to 1988 required that when the dam level dropped by 26 per cent, supply would be cut.
Paul Bender to replace Leornard Nxumalo at WUC?
International media reports have been abuzz with reports that former Cleveland Public Utilities Director Paul Bender has resigned effective October 7, and linking him with WUC in Botswana.
Bender is alleged to have asserted that his work in Cleveland was both challenging and rewarding, but he “has an opportunity to help the Republic of Botswana ‘consolidate all water and waste water services to the national level.’”
However, the Weekend Post source said he was not aware whether Bender will be employed full time at the corporation, saying, “Bender has always been advising WUC on how to structure the tariff.”
He stated: “he has been around to advice on tariff framework – how to structure it, how you charge water to customer in terms of volumes, and if you consume a certain volume how much you charge, he is an expert in the area.”
Bender, who is said to have received $200,000 a year as utilities director, was permitted to remain an outside consultant and take unpaid leaves of absence to do work for other clients, including Botswana.
“His work as a consultant and then director was critical to improving customer service in the Division of Water, the implementation of the automated meter reading program and putting the Division on track to be able to potentially not raise water rates for five years beginning in 2015,” his former employer mayor Frank Jackson wrote on North East Ohio media Group.
Jackson hired Bender as chief of public utilities in March 2013, after he had spent two years working as a consultant to oversee sweeping improvements to a Water Department plagued by billing problems, staffing inefficiencies and complaints of poor customer service.
Under Bender's tutelage, calls are now answered more promptly, bills are timely, and the collections rate has spiked to more than 99 percent, the city has reported. “The department is installing an automated meter-reading system throughout its 72-community service area — which is expected to end the department's practice of estimating bills when faulty meters go undetected for an entire billing cycle.”
In Botswana, some believe that he was supposed to be Chief Executive Officer prior to the appointment of Swazi born Leornard Nxumalo. Nxumalo has a fixed contract that ends in March 2017 and those close to the top man say that its renewal is dependent on whether at its end, he or the employer will be willing to renew it. “He is doing his best at the beleaguered corporation but he may leave before 2017 as he has offers in his country Swaziland,” one source close to the CEO said.
Malema however dismissed the assertion as baseless and indicated to this publication in a brief interview that there was no how Bender would come to Botswana to replace the current CEO. “No, there is nothing like that, he won’t replace the CEO,” the board chairperson insisted.
He pointed out that Bender “is just a consultant, we have a relationship with him in that we used his services before, in terms of tariffs.”
Information gathered suggests that Bender's résumé boasts 30 years of financial management and consulting experience, including two decades as chief financial officer for municipal gas, water and wastewater utilities in Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va.
However it is still unclear which role he could assume at the struggling water corporation, should he come.
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.
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.
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.