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.
The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.
Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.
US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.
Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.
“The founders of our Republic de-centralised authority significantly in creating our constitutional system, which means that they gave an enormous amount of independent power and authority to State and local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.
Unlike parliamentary democracies, like Botswana the United States does not have all of the national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where the entire federal government is elected all in one election cycle giving a “mandate” to a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.
The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators serve for six years and one third of the Senate is elected every two years.
For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice
President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.
An important facet of US electoral system to understand given the federalism nature of the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.
“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State is assigned a number of electors to our Electoral College and the candidate who wins the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.
“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”
Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to win a State by one vote to win a 100 percent of its electors, the margin does not matter.
“Donald Trump won many more States by smaller margins, hence he got an Electoral College majority.”
Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.
“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going to break with the popular vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.
“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”
There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.
If however there are more candidates, and this happens extremely rarely, and a third candidate got some electors to the Electoral College denying the two major party candidates, either one getting a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.
“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.
BLUE STATES vs RED STATES
Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.
Many states have populations that are so heavily concentrated in the Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.
California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.
However there are swing states, where there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.
“So it ends up making a national contest for the presidency actually look like several state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.