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No Water: Investors directed north

Gaborone dam and Molatedi dam have been declared failed projects by the Water Utilities Corporation (WUC)

Potential investors in the mining sector this week paid a courtesy visit to Botswana to solicit information on the business environment – in particular whether it’s currently conducive for conducting copper mining, WeekendPost can reveal.


This publication has gathered that the investors, who visited this country through a consultancy, want to set up a mining venture by processing copper into final products as it has been exported to other countries while raw.


It is understood that Business Botswana, formerly Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) facilitated their business visit as they viewed it as local investment opportunity despite the country going through water and power crises.

This publication has established that the investors will henceforth weigh their options of investing after gathering first hand and sufficient information on water as well as power conditions in the country.


“Yes it is true Business Botswana brought the investors here, and basically they are doing preliminary investigations in terms of trying to establish the business environment in Botswana especially with regard to the water state of affairs,” a highly classified source at Water Utilities revealed this week, while preferring not to mention the consultancy or names of the investors.


According to the top official, the investors want to establish where they can position the mining venture in terms of water status. The investors are said to have also come to meet different stakeholders like Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), Mining companies, Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MMEWR) among others; as they try to explore chances of investment.


“We need to give them facts in this regard. We need to tell them the truth about the current situation we are facing as well as how we are stabilizing the water situation,” the WUC highly placed source indicated.

“So in our view what matters is where they place their investment. If they intend to place it in the south for sure they will face difficulties as severe water crises is felt in the south.”

He said if government is to attract investors, it needs to inject more funds into various projects by Water Utilities so as to help improve the water situation, and at the same time bridging the unemployment gap.


According to the source, funding either from government, loans or private sector remains a big issue in the matter as the corporation continuously tries to lure them to invest in the water sector so as to implement their projects line up and ultimately reach water security. The country has been plunged with a worsening water crises situation and last week it reached an all-time low level – a predicament the immaculate source who sits in the Corporation executive confesses.


According to a WUC statement, Bokaa dam has almost dried up following Gaborone dam which has absolutely dried up at the moment.

“Bokaa dam is currently at 3.5% and might fail at any time. The failure of Bokaa dam will translate into reduced supply as well as a loss of one more source of water for the Greater Gaborone area, following the failure of Gaborone dam – which dried up completely in December 2014,” WUC Corporate Communications Manager Matida Mmipi said in a statement released last week.

As a result, Mmipi states that, with effect from today (Saturday), water rationing days will be intensified from three to four days a week in Gaborone – a move the investors might find arduous for business.


Currently, she said, the Greater Gaborone area’s sources of water are the Bokaa dam, Molatedi dam (also on line to dry up) and the North South Carrier 1 (NSC 1) which transfers water from Dikgatlhong dam to the South. Bokaa dam currently produces 19 million litres a day and NSC 1 harvests 60 million litres a day while Molatedi dam churns out 9.7 million litres per day.

However the Greater Gaborone area’s average water demand is said to be standing at 125 million litres a day. This therefore means the area is running on a water deficit of 37.7 million litres a day and this is expected to drop further, due to the anticipated close down of Bokaa in a few weeks.  
In addition, and as a matter of fact, the source told Weekend Post that Bokaa dam is virtually considered failed and Molatedi dam is going down loose as well. “To tell you the truth our hopes are now on rainfall – that is where we can get the water,” he pointed out.

Apart from that he hinted that they put their last hope on the Masama West Well-fields project which is on the offing but would take almost 12 months to be operational. Masama project, which is currently being tested, will augment water to the Greater Gaborone area, and when fully functional it will inject 30 million litres into the NSC 1 a day to water Greater Gaborone area. Masama is 100km from Gaborone en-route Francistown.


Meanwhile NSC 1 which transmits water from the second largest dam, Dikgatlhong, after Gaborone dam feeds the northern part of the country, and additionally augments the south in the current arrangement. In the south the water crises is attributed to flat land and high rate of evaporation.

It is also understood that NSC 1 was never implemented to solve the water problem in the south completely but to augment it, as Greater Gaborone cannot rely on dams from the north as they will eventually dry up, even faster, too.


Information gathered also suggests that Water Utilities is looking for a fourth pump station to push more water to the South with more pressure. With more water in the pipeline, there is likelihood of a breakdown and the fourth pump would serve as back up (spare). The simple logic is that when one pump is down the other would be running.


Although the pipelines used for NSC 1 are said to be of sub-standard material, the project is fully built and now functional. “The Pipelines materials are not exactly what we wanted, we needed steel,” the immaculate source highlighted.

Currently, there is an ongoing project to replace the entire 26 km pipeline as there are already a number of leaks (around 7 to 8) in it. “These leaks cannot be repaired, the repair would take longer as water would have to be drained out of the pipeline (and it’s huge) followed by excavation and then the repairing, so the whole pipeline needs to be replaced. That is why this project is running parallel to the pipeline.”

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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