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Why has Gaborone dam dried up?

The Gaborone dam which has a carrying capacity of 141 million cubic meters was declared officially dry in February this year after its water level went below the pumping level. This is the second largest dam in Botswana after the 400 million cubic meters Dikgatlhong dam which was completed in 2011, is full but not able to supply Gaborone due to the incomplete delivery infrastructure.  

The Gaborone dam has been threatening to dry since around 2000 when the levels started decreasing. Officially, this is due to the cyclic nature of the rainfall patterns, the high  temperatures and evaporative rates, the growing city and increasing demand per capita as the population become more affluent and using more and more water for swimming pools, gardens and washing cars.

The communities are also building modern houses thus moving from less water intensive pit latrines to more water intensive sewer systems thereby increasing the stress on the water demand. There are also issues of wastage by users who do not appreciate the significance of water conservation.  The water authorities have also contributed to the wastage by poor maintenance of infrastructure resulting in inordinate amount of leakages.  

 What I have said above is well known, predictable and should not surprise anyone.  It happens in most developing countries. What is surprising though is that we have allowed the situation to progressively deteriorate to the current dire situation where the dam has dried up leaving us without water on some days for both domestic and industrial use resulting in wounded quality of life and diminishing business fortunes.

The world now knows that, ‘Botswana, the mining-rich country, is facing both a power and water crisis that will dampen future economic activities in the country’. We must therefore, accept that the current water crisis will impact negatively on our ability to attract and retain foreign investment and we must therefore with honesty address this issue seriously and with vigour as a nation.

The Gaborone dam is fed mainly by the Notwane River and to a lesser extent by Taung, Metsimaswaane and Nywane rivers.  Between 1971 and 2000, average annual rainfall in the catchment area was between 450 and 550 millimeters. I do not have figures from 2000 up to 2014. I am not sure why the figures are not readily available. I however doubt if the rainfall figures would be significantly different from the 450 mm average we have experienced in the past. I stand to be corrected.  The relevant authorities should be transparent and publish such information without pressure from outside.

We know the government has an emergency budget of about P600 million to bring water to Gaborone. The efforts are welcome but if we saw this coming from as far back as 2000 why has it taken so long to act? The efforts include bringing water from Dikgatlhong dam, the dam has long been completed as stated above but there are no delivery pipe lines and transfer stations to bring water the Gaborone areas as planned. 

The Minister said this week that they have started pumping water to Gaborone. I do not know how as the infrastructure is incomplete? Our planning is really failing us, we must admit. The equipping of the Masama well fields near Mahalapye has long been in the seemingly endless pipe line, the rehabilitation of Ramotswa boreholes, which thankfully is now complete, has also been on a long pipe line.  How about the reuse of waste water, which has also been in the pipe line for many years now?

Other than the official reasons given above, I believe there are other more controllable, but controversial reasons for the failure of the Gaborone dam which I will discuss below. I believe we ought to be honest and address these more critical contributory factors.   Without addressing these factors, doing all the intended projects and bringing water from Dikgatlhong, I am afraid will not be a lasting solution.

We do not control the weather. The persistent erratic rainfall pattern is God given for our region. We cannot change it. The high temperature in our country are part of out heritage, we cannot change it.  What we can change however, is how we build our dams and preserve the water that God has given us so generously.  God can never give us less than what we need to survive.   God has given us enough resources. All we need is to use our collective minds and abilities to develop these resources wisely and ensure that we minimise wastage and the destruction of the same resources He graciously provisioned for us.

We must be thankful that God has given us rivers. Rivers have sand that is meant to capture and preserve the water. The more sand the more water that can be preserved. The water preserved under and within the sand is protected from evaporative losses caused by high temperatures. The excess water is carried to our dams and eventually to the sea. We cannot have limitless number of dams in our rivers as this will ‘kill’ our rivers. We have to design our dams such that some water will pass on to keep the river ‘alive’ and flowing all the way to the sea. Hence the suffice areas of our dams must be small to limit evaporative losses.

Coming to my core area of my submission, I do not really believe that the drying of the Gaborone dam is a result of changing rainfall patterns. I believe it is essentially a result of the three evils I will now table.

We have allowed three evils to take place on our rivers; the proliferation of small dams along our rivers, the mining of sand from our rivers and the dumping of building rubble and domestic waste on our rivers.

There are reportedly 200 small dams built on the rivers feeding the Gaborone dam.  All these dams are reportedly full and over flowing, but the overflows are not enough to fill the Gaborone dam. I do no believe any body has officially measured the carrying capacity of these so called small dams and their impact on the flow to the Gaborone dam.  In my view, from an ecological point of view these dams should be illegal and should never have been allowed.  

The departments of mines have been at pains trying to justify river sand mining. They are saying there is nothing that can be done as we cannot stop developments.  We have still to learn the meaning of development.  We cannot sacrifice our future and the future of our future generations in this manner.  Developments must be done to satisfy our current needs without jeopardising the needs of future generations. 

This is an international obligation. What we are doing and justifying is grossly irresponsible developments. We cannot build the Gaborone City and the Greater Gaborone using river sand without killing these rivers.  Someone needs to wake up and stop river sand mining NOW. We have quarries that can provide sand and building material. If government has to subsidise these quarries to reduce the cost of sand so produced, this will be the right thing to do and government must do it.

If you take time and go along these rivers, you will be shocked by the amount of building rubble and domestic waste that has been dumped in these rivers.  This has to stop.

I see policemen all over town chasing motorists and charging them thousands of Pulas for stopping on yellow lines and other minor infringements. If we can do this, why can we not stop illegal dumping of waste and mining of sand on our rivers?  
The dams in the north are also getting water from rivers that are slowly dying because of the same evils.

The Tati, the Shashe, the Motloutse rivers are also reportedly dying from sand mining and dumping of rubble and domestic waste.  Please see this warning from an unknown source, ‘Letsibogo gets its supplies from Motloutse River, which is also said to be drying up.  The river is almost depleted as a result of sand mining by copper firms in the area, which get sand from it to wash their ores’ I hope this is wrong.

In conclusion, if we do not take these things seriously, we will wake up one day when all our rivers and dams are ‘dead’.  We will be quick to blame changing rainfall patterns; climate change but that will not help us.  Future generations will ‘curse’ us for having been irresponsible custodians of their heritage.

 Bernard Busani  E-mail:   Cell: 71751440

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The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosis actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as international waters.

Pelosis visit to Chinas Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqus. In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to Chinas position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The Peoples Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijings position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwans administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Bidens words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region. The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as Taiwan independence. The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for Chinas Peoples Liberation Army to safeguard Chinas national sovereignty, security and development interests. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard Chinas overseas investments, projects and personnel. It then follows that President Xis administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector Chinas sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part. Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The Peoples Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces. This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijings military exercises will certainly shake Taiwans confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwans central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As Chinas military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit Chinas Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to Taiwan independence separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the Peoples Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

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Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswanas democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogaes assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in theBulela Ditswedispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswewas an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties ruling and opposition have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumers piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswanas, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they dont imagine that their one download will do anything to the production houses pocket or make a dent in the actors net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musicians music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth.

As Botswanas creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africas respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswanas economy are being diverted.

Why cant our local creative industry grow? Why dont we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana? are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswanas local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the countrys economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, its imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economys growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artists music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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