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WUC CEO speaks on water projects

Gaselemogwe Senai

The Chief executive Officer of Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) Gaselemogwe Senai has weighed in on the debate around the water supply situation in the country, the Masama water pipe line, the North South Carrier and other operational issues concerning his organisation.

The CEO’s intervention comes following a barrage of criticism levelled at the WUC especially relating to state of water supply in the Greater Gaborone, the billing system, and Masama project.  According to Senai “the primary sources of water for Greater Gaborone are Dikgatlhong Dam and Letsibogo Dam through the North South Carrier”. He further shares that Gaborone Dam plays a critical role as a strategic resource for the Greater Gaborone area because currently it is the only dam that supplies the Southern part of the city, as well as the southern areas of the Greater Gaborone area that include Lobatse, Ramotswa and the western part, Gabane, Mogoditshane, Mmopane and Tlokweng.

To put matters into perspective, Senai says “with the ongoing reinforcement of the Gaborone Master Plan, with a pipeline under construction that will be carrying water from Mmamashia in order to get water to the biggest reservoir we are constructing at Forest Hill that will give us the flexibility to supply and support the areas from the North South Carrier.”

The CEO says this will reinforce the NSC as the primary source of water supply to the Greater Gaborone Area. “With that said, currently the Gaborone dam contributes to 30% of the water supply for the Greater Gaborone area. With this pipeline which we anticipate to complete in May this year we will be able to supply the entire Greater Gaborone area even if the Gaborone Dam dries since is very vulnerable to drought,” he observes.

On the hand, Senai says Molatedi Dam plays a critical role as well for the Greater Gaborone water balance at a full supply 13.5 Million litres of water per day thus complimenting supply from Gaborone Dam. “We need to put Molatedi dam into perspective as a riparian country we extracting water from Molatedi Dam as a bonafide beneficiary of the river system. The cost we incur is not for the sale of water but for the cost that goes into production of the water, primarily pumping it to Gaborone”.

On annual basis WUC spends between P14 Million and P16 Million to pump water out of Molatedi dam. “Compared to water supplied from the NSC it is quite reasonable because the NSC entails four pump stations, the biggest being in Dikgatlhong Dam with a 2.2 Megawatts. Out of our electricity costs of about P280 Million per year, the majority of the cost goes to pumping water. It is not a cheap business,” he reasons.

Senai also gave updates on the progress made so far in the development of the Chobe Zambezi Water Transfer Scheme. He says as for Chobe – Zambezi water transfer scheme comes at the realisation that there are no available dam sites for the construction of new dams in the country. Therefore, for water security beyond 2029, WUC is looking into exploring the prospects of getting water from the Chobe – Zambezi River.

The WUC CEO says progress has been made with regard to the Chobe-Zambezi river in that, through negotiations with the riparian countries, Botswana has been able to secure 95 million cubic litres from Chobe-Zambezi of which studies are ongoing to establish the feasibility of pumping the water. Firstly to Pandamatenga as irrigation water and downstream to water demand domestically in the central district as well as industrially, including mines.

A few years ago, the Corporation’s Annual Report showed that it lost a third of its treated water in system losses and leaks. Speaking to this phenomenon, Senai says nothing has changed at this point concerning water leaks. “The majority of losses recorded are as a result of physical losses through dilapidate infrastructure mainly in major villages such as Kanye, Molepolole and Mahalapye. The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better because renovation of the structures in under NDP12 not NDP11. Another attribution is to stuck meters due to authorised unbilled consumption due to extensive bowsing with the onset of COVID-19,” he observes.

DEBT COLLECTION

Senai stresses the point that WUC incurs costs in supplying water. He says WUC recovers these via the customer through the tariff system that is based primarily on the affordability of the customer to pay for their water consumption. “Customers have an obligation to pay for their water bill, we encourage them to come forth when charged with high bills but the fact of the matter is they would have consumed a high amount of water through actual consumption or leaks,” he says.

SENAI ON MASAMA PROJECT

“To put Masama into perspective. It was first developed onto a wellfield as part of the National Water Master Plan. It was supposed to be fully developed during the drought of 2005 but priorities were given to other competing needs, it was eventually developed during the drought of 2015. The intention was to supply its water to the Greater Gaborone area through a dedicated line. But because of shortage of funds, Masama was developed and injected into the North South Carrier. It did not realise any benefit unlike with a dedicated line that will result in getting the entire supply to the Greater Gaborone area”.

Therefore, Senai observes that since it is portable water, by injecting it into the NSC would have resulted in making the water dirty and having to treat it in Mmamashia, therefore incurring further expenses in treating portable water. According to the WUC CEO, when the 100 kilometre pipeline was conceived, it was under emergency circumstances when there was a critical shortage of water in the Greater Gaborone area. “Ordinarily, Masama would have taken 24 months to construct but the instruction with the constructor was to do it in 12 months without compromising quality and doing it within the provided budget. The pipe was subjected to a rigorous quality assurance system to ensure that it can withstand pressure,” he says.

MASAMA AND COST CUTTING

Speaking elsewhere, the WUC technical director, Ntshambiwa Moathodi explained that while it was the corporation’s first to embark on a project of this magnitude under strict deadlines, the WUC is not only excited about the timely and smooth delivery of the work by the contractor, but perhaps most importantly the resounding success of the Masama 100km pipeline project has strengthened WUC ‘s resolve to adopt the similar low cost pricing regime for the rest of their mega water projects in future.

”You will see in the next two years, we will be delivering similar projects just as cost effective, there is no doubt we can bring down the cost of mega water projects”. At the cost estimates of current local market price, we have not only been able to complete a complex 100km Masama project, we have also added a very big water treatment plant,” the WUC’s technical director further explained.? By awarding Khato Civils the Masama 100km pipeline project for P781 million, government saved more than P1.2 billion compared to the usual costs of similar large scale water projects in the country.

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Media have a Role in Accelerating Harm Reduction Adoption

8th December 2022

African Scientists and Experts Call for the adoption of a Harm Reduction in approach in Public Health Strategies and Tobacco Control. Media have a critical role to play in accelerating Harm Reduction efforts by informing and sensitizing cigarette smokers on the availability and benefits of alternative, potentially lower risk products to cigarretes. Traditional cessation and smoking prevention norms are not the only ways that smokers who cannot or don’t’ want to quit can make healthier choices that cause less harm to themselves and those around them.

This was said during the 2nd Harm Reduction Exchange conference for African journalists held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 1st of December 2022. Speaking at the Harm Reduction Exchange Conference, Integra Africa Principal Dr. Tendai Mhizha emphasized the role that journalists and media houses should play in handling misinformation and disinformation in tobacco harm reduction discourse that is actually perpetuating the death and disease caused by people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes. “There has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects that e-cigarettes have on public health.

This has led to policies that disfavour risk reduces products and narratives that completely deny their benefits. The media have the difficult responsibility to curb the scourge of disinformation and misinformation on harm reduction just like on other socio-political stances that are prescriptive and do not uphold consumers’ right to healthier lifestyle choices,” Dr Mhizha said.

The Harm Reduction Exchange cast a spotlight on alternative ways to reduce harm among tobacco smokers. Held under the theme Harm Reduction: Making a difference in Africa, the conference focused on the progress being made through harm reduction strategies in all fields related to public health such as drug and alcohol abuse, excessive sugar consumption, skin lightening and other addictive and behavioral practices. A wide array of harm reduction strategies and initiatives that are deployed towards reducing unnecessary deaths through non-communicable diseases were presented and discussed.

On his part, Prof. Abdoul Kassé, a world renowned and awarded Oncologist and a Professor of Surgery at the Cancer Institute in Senegal, said that Harm Reduction is a powerful public A Summary of the HR Exchange 30th November  1st December 2022 health tool that has the potential to reduce cancer by 30% and should be at the centre of all public health development strategies. Harm reduction, he said, has already benefited many people in public health and is the most viable alternative in tobacco control.

It applies to areas where there is a need to reduce the harm associated with a practice or consumption of a substance that is overused in society leading to increased morbidity and mortality. “Innovative Harm Reduction initiatives will help to keep more Africans alive. Tobacco Harm Reduction initiatives, including the use of popular e-cigarettes, nicotine patches and chewing gums, have continued to generate a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and in the media. However, there is evidence that the use of potentially less harmful alternatives than cigarettes for those who are not willing or cannot give up smoking with currently approved methods may be a solution, not necessarily the best for everyone but by far better than continuous smoking.

Where cessation repeatedly fails, switching to less harmful products is expected to result in benefits for many smokers,” Prof. Abdoul Kassé said. Similarly, views were expressed by Kenya’s Dr. Vivian Manyeki who said tobacco Harm Reduction has a solid scientific and medical basis, and it has a lot of promise as a public health measure to assist millions of smokers. “Many smokers are unable, or at least unwilling, to achieve cessation through complete nicotine and tobacco abstinence. They continue smoking despite the very real and obvious adverse health consequences and against the multiple public health campaigns. Conventional smoking cessation proposals should be complemented with alternative but more realistic options through Harm Reduction,” Dr. Manyeki said.

Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smoking—the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “Nicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Across the world, there is growing interest among experts in novel approaches towards tobacco control and there is an ongoing discussion that reducing the negative effects of smoking can be also achieved by tobacco harm reduction,” Dr. Kgosi Letlape, an ophthalmologist and President of Africa Medical Association and the president of the Association of Medical Councils of Africa, said.

Tobacco cessation is a key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Abstinence from tobacco smoking is one of the primary goals for health promotion and management globally but it is unachievable in a huge amount of cases. This task remains unaccomplished despite extensive public campaigns on the health dangers of tobacco smoking. Thus, the development of novel strategies to reduce smoking is imperative. Moreover, the use of innovations in smoking products has been currently adopted by several smokers to reduce the health risks of smoking.

“The Harm Reduction approach prevents drug-related deaths and overdose fatalities and is the only way out for addicts. In the same way these alternative technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world as they reduce exposure to toxicants,” Bernice Apondi, A Policy Manager at Voices of Community Action and Leadership Kenya (VOCAL-Kenya), said.

During the Harm Reduction Exchange, journalists drawn from Southern, West and East African countries, including: Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe debated and set forth several resolutions in regards to the present and future as well as the challenges and progress made in Harm Reduction,and science-led regulation.

The Harm Reduction Exchange brought together high-level policy makers, physicians, scientists and health policy experts with media stakeholders from Africa in a lively mix of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. The key note speakers included Prof Abdoul Aziz Kasse, Ms Bernice Opondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma, Clive Bates, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Dr. Vivian Manyeki and Dr. Tendai Mhizha.

 

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Over 2 000 civil servants interdicted

6th December 2022

Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.

According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reaching WeekendPost shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.

In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.

This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publication’s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, “as you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,” she said.

She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.

Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.

Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.

Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.

“It is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,” he told WeekendPost, adding that “when a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolved”.

Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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