Basarwa case raises tribalism issues at the High Court
Tribalism could have played a part in determining the termination of basic services for Ranyane residents in the Gantsi District, the Gaborone High Court has been told.
When explaining to the court the reasons behind shutting down water and draught relief programmes from Ranyane ahead of the forced resettlement of Basarwa tribes from the area last year, the Gantsi administration authority suggested that it was because the free services which were initially reserved for Basarwa tribes of Ranyane were no longer sustainable due to the influx of Tswana speaking farmers in the area.
The Gantsi District Council revealed to the court that the decision to terminate provision of fuel and maintenance to the engine at Ranyane was taken because of the influx of a lot of Tswana speaking farmers from other settlements. According to the Council the services were exclusively meant to service Basarwa tribes who have lived in the area over a long period of time.
The 115 residents of Ranyane who are demanding the restoration of the services have taken the Council to court. Their attorney, Onalethata Kamabai has argued that the reason for termination of the services as appears from the Council papers are offensive to the constitution of the country because they suggests that the decisions were taken along tribal discriminatory basis.
For many years, the Gantsi District Council has provided various services to the Ranyane residents including provision and maintenance for the borehole engine which the people depend on for their daily water needs. Various government drought relief schemes have also been provided to the residents for many years by the Council.
However on or around July 2013, the Council announced that it will stop providing several services which it has been providing to the residents. This announcement gave rise to the present suit wherein the residents seek restoration of those services that the Council used to provide. Such services include fuel and maintenance of the borehole engine, mobile clinic and Ipelegeng programme.
The broad issue for determination before court is whether the manner of termination of these services and other benefits which the Council used to provide to Ranyane is lawful.
“The applicants case centres on legitimate expectation, and to this end the narrow issue for determination is whether the applicants had a legitimate expectation that they will continue to enjoy the services provided by the respondents uninterrupted and that in the event of any decision adversely affecting their enjoyment of the services is taken by the respondent, they were entitled to a hearing before such a decision is taken,” contended Kambai.
THE BOREHOLE ENGINE The residents have averred in their affidavit that since around 1990s, the Council has been providing them with engine to provide water for domestic use and watering their animals. The engine was used to draw water from the only borehole at Ranyane for residents.
The issue that the Council had since 1995 provided diesel and maintenance for engine to the Ranyane borehole is not disputed. The residents averred that the Council stopped provision of diesel and maintenance for the borehole engine in the first week of December 2011. The engine according to the complainants was removed by the Council employees around that time and was brought back five Months later. The engine has since broken down and the residents had to fend for themselves.
According to them this is a nightmare for them since most of them are unemployed and do not have any source of income as the Council has also terminated the draught relief programme, Ipelegeng which was the only source of income for the majority of Ranyane residents.
The Council’s decision is viewed to be in violation of the international consensus on the right to water by the United Nations General Assembly which declared that the right to safe and clean drinking water is a fundamental human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.
However the Council contends that the Ranyane residents had borrowed the engine and made an undertaking that they will take full responsibility of its maintenance and fuel supply.
TERMINATION OF IPELEGENG PROGRAMME Around 2009, Ipelegeng was introduced at Ranyane during a kgotla meeting. According to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, this programme was aimed at short term employment support and relief whilst at the same time carrying out essential development projects that have been identified and prioritised through the normal development planning process.
The programme employed forty residents on a rotational basis. The Council’s report for 2012/2013 on Ipelegeng shows that there was deliberate planning and budgeting of the programme at Ranyane.
When the programme was terminated, a certain Council employee was sent to inform the Ranyane Headman of Arbitration that he should inform his people that they should not report for duty on the 4th of July 2013. In the answering affidavit filed at the High Court, the Council contend that the programme was terminated because Ranyane is an unrecognised settlement and therefore there were no projects to implement in the area.
However the residents contend that at the time of the termination of the programme they were engaged in a number of projects including, de-bushing, cluster policing and cleaning the kgotla.
In fact it is through Ipelegeng that a kgotla, flush toilet, standpipe and fencing of the grave yard were constructed in the settlement.
The Council had a difficult time convincing the court as to how public funds were used on these developments which are located on an “unrecognised settlement.”
“The respondent’s reason is palpably untrue and contradictory because by virtue of Annexure “I” the Attorney General at the time acting on behalf of the respondent (Council) reasoned that there is no Ipelegeng in Ranyane. In annexure “K” the government spokesperson Dr. Jeff Ramsay stated that there was a reassessment regarding the Ipelegeng programme. There has never been any progress report of the alleged reassessment whatsoever to date,” the complainants’ attorney, Onalethata Kambai told the court.
The inconsistent statements regarding the termination of Ipelegeng at Ranyane therefore gave people a reason to conclude that the project was terminated as an extra-judicial measure to starve the residents of Ranyane and compel them to relocate from the place.
When Ipelegeng was introduced in the settlement back in 2009, there was no issue of the place being unrecognised settlement. The programme continued uninterrupted until it was unceremoniously terminated in 2013 following the Council’s failed bid to relocate the residents against their will to the nearby Bere settlement.
MOBILE CLINIC SERVICES Following the initial case Management conference held at the Gantsi District Council Chambers of record, there was consensus that the mobile clinic matter could amicably be resolved at the hearing. Ranyane is said to be now receiving a couple of mobile clinic services and therefore this one demand was taken down from the list of demand brought in by the residents.
Meanwhile Justice Terrence Rannowane has reserved the judgment on this matter.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.