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Water crisis: Another NSC shutdown on the cards

Close down on the pipeline next week

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.

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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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