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Distressed miners, ex-miners want REWARDS

BOLAMA-Executive-Secretary-Kitsi-Phiri

Botswana’s US $1.6 billion mineral wealth has made it one of the richest countries in Africa, but remains as a deeply unequal and unfair nation, a report by Botswana Labour Migrants Association (BoLaMA) has said.

The country is discriminating particularly to the miners and former miners, who excavated minerals for many years, making the country the diamond hub it is today. The newly published titled “All Risk and No Reward” report on how government and mine companies fail to protect the right to health of miners and former miners in Botswana. The report has underscored how uneven and partial Botswana is to miners.

The report shares findings of the miners’ right to health project’s two year assessment of these workers. On the basis of its assessment, the project involved extensive desk-based legal and social science research and focus group discussions as well as key informant interviews with more than fifty stakeholders in Botswana.

According to the report, miners and former miners continue to suffer deprivations of their health. The report indicate that the workers suffer from preventable injuries and diseases due to insufficient health and safety measures, inadequate training and equipment, coerced labour under excessively dangerous conditions, and a lack of responsiveness on the part of mine companies to address these and other occupational health and safety hazards.

As a result, the report says health outcomes among miners, former miners and their communities are worse than the general population in Botswana, especially form injuries, respiratory illnesses such as tuberculosis and silicosis, chronic illness as well as HIV.

“Miners in Botswana undertake dangerous work, often living in poor conditions, at great risk to their health with incommensurate financial returns. In doing so, they experience significant deprivations of their right to health. Miners are especially vulnerable to occupational injury and disease, including bone fractures, repetitive strain injuries, loss of hearing and sight, spinal cord injuries, lung diseases, such as tuberculosis, and other communicable diseases, including HIV,” reads the report.

For example, while the national tuberculosis prevalence in Botswana in 2013 was 383 people with tuberculosis per 100,000 people, during the same year 741 per 100,000 people had tuberculosis at the BCL mine hospital in Selebi-Phikwe. By comparison, the two highest national tuberculosis prevalence rates in the world in 2013 were 715 and 559 per 100,000 people, respectively.

“In another example, the national HIV prevalence rate in Botswana in 2013 was 18.5%.3 During the same year, HIV prevalence rates in the mining communities of Selebi-Phikwe and Francistown were as high as 27.5% and 24.3%, respectively. By comparison, the highest national HIV prevalence rate in the world in 2016 was 27.3%,” the report states. The report indicates that mine companies interfere in miners’ health care, lowering the quality of their care and harming their health.  If further underlined that this creates a culture of compromised ethics at mine hospitals.

“Corporate interference significantly reduces the quality of health care miners receive in mine hospitals and leads to poor health among miners and ex-miners. Mine companies also violates ethical standards requiring physicians to “do not harm” and to make health care decisions based solely on the health and wellbeing of their patients,” the report says.

Corporate interference in health care involves both direct and indirect pressure to declare sick or injured miners “fit for duty” when they are not and to downgrade the severity of miners injuries for reporting purposes, according to the report. Poor mental health has been pointed out as one of the challenges former miners and their families experience at times.

The report stressed that this often leads to suicide. Research conducted by the group indicates that the social and economic impacts of the sudden closure of the government-owned BCL copper mine in Selibe-Phikwe and the Tati nickel mine near Francistown has led to anxiety and depression among former miners and their families.

“These conditions have also likely led to the suicides of BCL ex-miners. The suffering and suicides among BCL former miners and their families is further exacerbated by the critical dearth of mental health professionals and mental health services in Botswana,” notes the report.

In this report, miners and former miners in the country face a number of challenges in accessing health care. These include geographic barriers and difficulties traveling to clinics; the lack of specialist care at mine hospitals; the need to pay out-of-pocket for specialist services and second medical opinions at private clinics; long delays waiting for health care; the loss of health care upon termination or retrenchment as well as insufficient access to drugs due to periodic stock-outs at government health facilities.

Miners and former miners are not provided opportunities to participate in decision making about their health, the report said. These workers together with their unions as well as Department of Miners confirmed that miners and former miners are not directly involved in key decision-making processes on their health and safety in government, at mine companies or in the Chamber of Mines.

The report shared that miners and former miners and their family members often receive inadequate and unreliable compensation for occupational injuries, illnesses and work-related deaths, saying that factors contributing to this issue are the under diagnosis and under assessment of miner’s injuries and illnesses by mine doctors and insurance companies during incapacity designation;

the difficulty miners face in accessing their medical records to seek second medical opinions; the lack of miners and former miners’ participation in decision making processes related to compensation; and the narrow scope and outdated content of the Workers Compensation Act, 1998 that establishes the injuries and illnesses for which miners can obtain compensation.

The report suggest that the statistics are just part of the story: As the Critical Issues for the Right to Health of Miners and Ex-Miners in Botswana section of this report reveals, the miners and ex-miners that power the country’s economy experience severe deprivations of their right to health.

It further states that the Critical Issues to Finance the Right to Health in Botswana section of this report further demonstrates that the Government of Botswana and the mining industry fail to generate, allocate and spend sufficient resources to realize the right to health of miners, ex-miner and their communities.

According to the report, since the early 1980s, the mining industry has been the largest contributor to Botswana’s GDP, accounting for between 20% and 50%. It says mineral revenue continues to be the single largest source of revenue for the Government of Botswana. As of 2020, mineral revenue accounted for more than 30% of the country’s total revenue collected at approximately US $1.6 billion.

“In 2016, 90% of the country’s total export value was from the mining sector, with diamonds alone account for 85% and the remaining 5% from copper-nickel.7 In 2018, mining accounted for about 34% of gross value added to the Botswana economy.8 And in a country of with less than a million people of working age, more than 11,500 are employed in the mining industry.”

The mining industry’s immense share of the economy and the co-mingling of government and private ownership among the more than 20 mine companies in Botswana make the industry the most powerful in the country. Of these companies, Debswana Diamond Company Ltd. (Debswana) is perhaps the most powerful. Debswana operates four mines in Botswana in Orapa, Letlhakane, Damtshaa (OLDM) and Jwaneng.10 It is the largest diamond mining company in the country and the largest private sector employer with over 5,000 employees. Debswana is also the largest single contributor to the Government of Botswana’s revenues.

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Details emerge in suspected Batswana poachers in Namibia

28th June 2022
suspected Motswana poacher arrested

New details about a suspected Motswana poacher arrested in Namibian and his accomplice who is on the run were revealed when the suspect appeared in court this week.

The Motswana Citizen who was shot and wounded by Namibia’s anti poaching unit is facing criminal charges under criminal case number (CR NO 10/06/2022) which was registered at the Divundu Police Station in the Mukwe constituency of the Kavango East Region on 10 June 2022.

It is alleged that a patrol team laid an ambush after discovering a giraffe’s fresh carcass in a snare wire and hanging biltong.  According to the Charge Sheet, the suspect Djeke Dihutu, aged 40 years, is charged with contravening and transgressions of Nature Conservation Ordinance andcontravening Immigration Act 07 in Mahango Wildlife Core Area, Bwabwata National Park. Dihutu’s first court appearance was on the 17th of June 2022, Rundu and it was postponed to the 07 July 2022. He is currently hospitalized in hospital under Police Guards.

Commenting on this latest development, the Namibian Lives Matter Movement National Chairperson Sinvula Mudabeti applauded the Namibian Anti Poaching Unit for its compliance with what it called the universal instrument on the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/169.

“We are aware that the duties of the police carry a great deal of risk, but our police has shown that they have a moral calling and obligation to protect even foreigners suspected of serious crimes on Namibian soil,” said Mudabeti.

According to him, whereas the Botswana Police Service, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) have “very low moral ethics, integrity, accountability and honesty, the Namibian security agencies has shown very high levels of ethical leadership in the discharge of their duties even under duress.”

He said Namibian’s anti poaching unit has exercised one very important value, that is, the use of force only when it is reasonable and necessary. Mudabeti said this is in harmony with international best practices as enshrined in Article 2 of the UN instrument on law enforcement conduct, “In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.

Our police have protected the life of a Botswana poacher and accorded him dignity, which is very foreign to our Botswana counterparts,” he said. He said article 3 of the same instrument above, calls for Law enforcement officials to use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.

“This provision emphasizes that the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of suspected offenders, no force going beyond that was used by our Police,” he said.

Furthermore, Mudabeti said, whereas the universally accepted norm of the law of proportionality ordinarily permits the use of force by law enforcement, it is to be understood that such principles of proportionality in no case should be interpreted to authorize the use of force which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved.

“Our police have used force proportional to the situation at hand. Great work indeed! Article 6 urges law enforcement officials to ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and, in particular, shall take immediate action to secure medical attention whenever required,” he said.

Mudabeti said the Botswana poacher was immediately taken to hospital whereas the Nchindo brothers who were captured on Namibian soil, beaten, tortured and executed while pleading to be taken to the hospital we left to die.

“The Namibian Doctor gave evidence in court that Sinvula Munyeme’s lungs showed signs of life (during the autopsy) and that he could have survived if he was accorded immediate medical assistance in time but was left to die while BDF soldiers looked and possibly ignored his cry for help,” he said.

Mudabeti said unlike in Botswana where there are no clear separation of powers between the BDF, Botswana Police Service, Department of Intelligence and their Directorate of Public Prosecutions,” we have a system that allows for checks and balances and allows our people and foreigners who are found on the wrong side of the law to be accorded the right to a fair trial.”

He said Botswana citizens are treated with dignity when apprehended in Namibia and not assaulted, tortured and executed. “We are a civilized country that respects international law in dealing with non-Namibian criminals. The Namibian Police have not mistreated the Botswana poacher but have given him the benefit of the doubt by allowing due processes of the law to be followed,” he said.

He added that, “We are a peace loving nation that has not repaid Botswana by the evil that Botswana has done to Namibia by killing more than 37 innocent and unarmed Namibians by the trigger happy BDF.” He concluded that, “Our acts of mercy in arresting Botswana citizens should never be mistaken for cowardice.”

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Gov’t, Unions clash over accommodation

28th June 2022
accomodation

The government has reportedly taken a decision to terminate provision of pool housing and subsidy for civil servants as it attempts to trim the public service wage bill.

This emerges in a dispute that is currently before the Labour Office headquarters lodged by unions representing thousands of civil servants across the country. This publication understands that the decision to cease providing pool housing and rental subsidy for public officers is part of proposals that government put on the table during its negotiations with public service unions in order for it to adjust salaries.

A letter from Labour Office addressed to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) shows that the directorate is cited as the First Respondent. The letter is titled, “Dispute lodged: Cessation of provision of pool housing and subsidy for pubic officers.”

“This serves as a notification and requirement to a mediation hearing,” the letter informed DPSM. According to the letter, the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) and Botswana Land Board &Local Authorities &Health workers Union (BLLAHW) who lodged the complaint are cited as the Applicant.

“Please come for mediation hearing. The hearing will be conducted by Mr Lebang. The hearing is scheduled for date/time 29th June 2022, 09: 00HOURS at Block 8 District Labour Office, Gaborone. Please bring all relevant documents,” reads the letter in part.

According to a document described as a proposal paper on the negotiations on salaries and other conditions of employment of public officers by the employer (government), the government did not only propose to stop providing accommodation to civil servants but also put a number of proposals on the table.

The proposal papers states that the negotiations (which have since been concluded) cover three government financial years; 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25. The government proposed an across the board salary adjustments as follows; 3% for the financial year 2022/23 effective 1st April 2022, across the board salary adjustment of 3.5% for the financial year 2023/24 effective 1st April 2023 subject to performance of the economy and across the board salary adjustment of 4% for the financial year 2024/25 effective 1st April 2024 subject to performance of the economy.

The government also proposed phasing out of retention and attractive (Scarce Skills) Allowance with a view to migration towards clean pay, renegotiate and set new timelines for all outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement, executed by the employer and trade unions on the 27th August 2019, to ensure proper sequencing, alignment and proper implementation.
The government also proposed to freeze public service recruitment for the 2022/23 financial year and withdraw the financial equivalence of P500 million attached to vacancies from Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).

Another proposal included phasing out of commuted overtime allowance and payment of overtime in accordance with the law and review human resource policies during the financial year 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.

The government argued that its proposals were premised on affordability and sustainability adding that it was important to underscore that the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers was taking place at a time when there were uncertainties both in the global and domestic economies.

“Furthermore there is need to ensure that any collective labour agreement that is concluded does not breach the fiscal deficit target of 4% of GDP,” the proposal paper stated. The proposal paper further indicated that beyond salary adjustments, the Government of Botswana is of the view that a more comprehensive consideration “must be taken on the issue of remuneration in the public service by embracing principles such as total rewards compensation which involves taking a fully comprehensive and holistic approach to how our organization compensates employees for the work.”

The proposal paper also noted that, “Clearly, the increase in salaries and changes to other conditions of service which have monetary consequences will further increase the proportion of the budget taken by salaries, allowances and other monetary based conditions of services.”

“The consequential effect would be a reduction of the portion that can be used for other recurrent budget needs (e.g. maintenance of assets, consumable supplies such as medicines and books) and for development projects,” the proposal states.

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BPF NEC probes Serowe squabbles

28th June 2022
BPF

Opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee will in no time investigate charges party members worked with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) membership to tip the scales in favour of the latter for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship in exchange for deputy seat in a dramatic 11th hour gentleman’s deal, leaving the ruling party splinter under the political microscope.

In a spectacular Sub-council election membership last Thursday, the ruling BDP’s Lesedi Phuthego beat Atamelang Thaga with 14 votes to 12 for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship coveted seat and subsequently the ruling party’s councilor Bernard Kenosi withdrew his candidacy in the final hour for the equally admired deputy chair paving the way for Solomon Dikgang of BPF, seen as long sealed ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ gentleman’s agreement between the contenders.

Both parties entered the race with a tie of votes torn between 12 councillors each, translating for election race that will go down to the wire definitely. But that will not be the case as two BPF councilors shifted their allegiance to the ruling party during the first race for Chairmanship held in a secret ballot and no sooner was the election concluded then the ruling party answered back by withdrawing its candidacy for the deputy chair position to give BPF’s Dikgang the post on a silver platter unopposed.

BPF councilor Vuyo Notha confirmed the incident in an interview on Wednesday, insisting the party NEC was determined to “investigate the matter soon”. “During the race for the Chairmanship, two more BPF voted for alongside the ruling party membership. It was clear Dikgang voted alongside the BDP as immediately after the vote for Chairmanship was concluded, Kenosi withdraw his candidacy to render Dikgang unopposed as a payback,” Notha added.

As for the other vote, Makolo ward councilor will not be drawn for the identity preferring instead to say: “BPF NEC will convene all the councilors to investigate the matter soon and we will take from there.” Notha will also not be drawn to conclude may be the culprit councilors could have defected to the ruling party silently.

“If they are no longer part of us they should say so and a by-election be called,” was all he could say. As it stands now, the law forbids sitting Councilors and Parliamentarians from crossing the floor to another party as to do so will immediately invite for a new election as dictated by the law. Incumbent politicians will therefore dare not venture for the unknown with a by-election that could definitely cost their political life and certainly their full benefits.

Notha could also not be dragged to link the culprit councilors actions to BPF Serowe region Chairperson Tebo Thokweng who has silently defected to the ruling party and currently employed by the party businessman and former candidate for Serowe West Moemedi Dijeng as PRO for the highly anticipated cattle abattoir project in Serowe.

“As for Thokweng he has not resigned from the party but from the region’s chairmanship,” he said. WeekendPost investigations suggest Thokweng is the secret snipper behind the recruitment drive of the votes for the elections and is determined to tear the party dominance in Serowe and the neighbouring villages asunder including in Palapye going forward.

This publication’s investigations also show BPF’s Radisele and UDC’s Mokgware/Mogome councilors are under the radar of investigations for the votes-themselves associated with the workings and operations of Thokweng.

“NEC will definitely leave no stone unturned with their investigations to get into the bottom of the matter. Disciplinary actions will follow certainly,” Notha concluded, underscoring the need to toe the party line to set a good precedent. For the youthful councilor, the actions of his peers has set a wrong precedent which has to be dealt with seriously to deter future culprits.

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