The closure of major transport routes and export ban are likely to adversely affect local food systems. While food supplies will not necessarily be affected as most farmers have the opportunity to get permits that allow them to still operate, the social distancing restrictions are likely to make it difficult for many to access and buy food.
Small-scale farmers are the food supply answer to many of the urban populace who buy in smaller quantities and are always looking for value for their money, particularly under the current conditions when income opportunities have been severely affected. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has also indicated that the closure of markets over public health concerns would likely compromise many people’s ability to buy food, particularly fresh produce, and curtail the livelihoods of small-scale producers and vendors thereby affecting food security in many communities.
Furthermore, although it is harvest season in Botswana, many farmers, particularly small-scale farmers, have been forced to halt operations due to the extreme social distancing regulations that have been put in place to reduce the spread of the COVID-19. Many small-scale farmers are also unable to access markets to sell produce or to buy inputs, such as fertilisers and seeds.
Small-scale farmer Omphemetse Mogorosi said that production might be affected because most small-scale farmers rely on casual labour in the informal sector. “These jobs will not be possible due to the conditions that are enforced by extreme social distancing rules. The regulations had severely affected our operations, although we understand that it is for the benefit of public health,” he said.
FAO indicates that approximately 60 percent of the African population is involved in agriculture, including both large-scale commercial and small-scale farmers. The small-scale farmers have been trying to integrate into global supply chains through access to local markets.
Botswana is a net importer of most of its consumables, particularly food. Botswana’s food import bill averages P60 billion, forming part of the $65 billion that most African countries spend on food imports. There has never been a time when food security was more important than now, particularly with continued efforts to ensure that Africans become food self-reliant.
A judge does not, under the guise of a judgement, “write an essay on legal issues of his concern not arising from the issues before him, no matter how erudite his opinion may, ex facie, appear”. This is the brutal conclusion of a panel of three Court of Appeal Judges as it punched holes into a judgement by Francistown High Court Judge Lot Moroka that a breathalyser machine used by police has not been prescribed by the Minister.
Justice Moroka had drawn this conclusion in an appeal by Freeman Mapukule who was convicted and sentenced by Selibe Phikwe Magistrate court in February 2018 on two counts of failure to provide sufficient breath specimen and driving a motor vehicle without due care and attention. This was after Mapukule had been involved in a car accident in Seliber Phikwe in September 2016. Mapukule appealed against his conviction and sentence on the first count only, contending that he was erroneously convicted.
His excuse was that he failed to produce enough breath specimen due to his health. Motivating this before Justice Moroka, Mapuluke questioned the serviceability of the machine arguing that he was not given the manual when he demanded documents to see if the machine was serviceable.
In his judgement Justice Moroka said the trial court erred in convicting "him on the basis of a machine whose serviceability was never proven beyond all reasonable doubt." He pointed out that in using the Intoximeter EC/IR the police were using a breathalyser not prescribed by the Minister. "The act of testing the Appellant was therefore a nullity. The result can therefore not stand." The judge said for it to be an offence under Section 47(5) of the Road Traffic Act, the failure to provide sufficient specimen of breath must be without reasonable cause. He pointed out that a reasonable excuse for purposes of Section 47(5) of the Act included certifiable health reasons or injuries arising from an accident.
He added that in cases where there is a road accident with potential for injuries to the driver and passengers, it is preferable that they be taken to hospital for medical examination and where there is need, to extract blood for alcohol testing. But Justices Isaac Lesetedi, Stephen Gaongalelwe and Singh Walia found that there was no justification is given "for this onerous and potentially resource straining obligation to the police." The panel indicated that no argument from the DPP - as representative of the state - had been heard on this point nor had it been the accused' case that he should have been taken to the hospital for extraction of blood sample.
"It is the duty of a judge to uphold, vindicate and apply the law as prescribed by statute and not to detract from it. The only time when the judge may act otherwise is when the constitutionality of the law is at the fore and that law fails constitutional muster. Startlingly, he quashed and set aside the conviction and sentence in respect of both counts notwithstanding that there was no appeal against conviction and sentence on the second count.
“I comment on the judge's views on his second issue solely because they go against the grain of the law and being those of a superior court, may be relied upon by subordinate courts if not corrected," Justice Lesetedi said adding that the finding that the device used in testing Mapuluke was not prescribed by the minister had far-reaching consequences as it affected not only him but thousands of road traffic cases in which that type of breathalyser had been used.
According to the panel one of the principles of the rule of law in an adversarial system of justice, of which "ours is one” is that the judge sits as an ‘arbiter of the dispute’ brought before him or her by litigants be it a civil or criminal case. The judges argued that either Justice Moroka was unaware of this binding judicial precedent on these well-established principles or he did not bring them to bear on the matter before him, both of which are unfortunate as they undercut basic judicial tenets.
They pointed out also that the points which Justice Moroka ruled upon in respect of whether the breathalyser used was prescribed by the minister and the appeal against the second count were not issues that arose for determination in the appeal before him. "It is improper for the judge to play the role of an appellant, a respondent and a judge all rolled into one. A judge does not, under the guise of a judgement, write an essay on legal issues of his concern not arising from the issues before him, no matter how erudite his opinion may, ex facie, appear”.
The panel of judges found that this unfortunately is not the first case of this nature coming before the Appeals court and cited examples of the case of BOTSWANA POWER CORPORATION v BOTSWANA CORPORATION MIDDLE MANAGEMENT UNION, CACGB-0077-14 at paras 26-28 and FRANCISTOWN CITY COUNCIL v X, CACGB-034-18 both cases emanating from Justice Moroka.
“It is therefore directed that the copy of this judgement be made available to Moroka J for his attention," the judges said when setting aside Justice Moroka's judgement.
Positive Performance Botswana (PPB) has begun producing and sharing short videos on ways of boosting levels of well-being during the lockdown period. The videos that cover an array of topics are broadcast on social media. Botswana is currently on day 15 of a month-long Lockdown to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Celia Boitshepho Potgieter of PPB said they were inspired to do the videos by the feelings about the present situation facing many around the world - anxious, scared, uncertain about what was coming next, looking ahead to a big unknown, and worrying about financial security. She said in an interview that like most people they don't know if their little business will survive this pandemic, but that they are also grateful that at least for the moment, their lives are a lot more comfortable than the majority of Botswana.
"We decided on videos, and posting them on social media, as a way to reach as many people as possible," she said, adding that they are working on producing the same video messages in Setswana, although this is proving to be a bigger challenge. So far topics that they have covered include the importance of positive relationships (the need for physical distancing vs. social distancing); the negative effects that stress and anxiety have on our physical health, coping strategies, and resilience.
"We will be covering many other topics and activities, all of which are evidence-based interventions, that are designed to boost levels of happiness and well-being - from random acts of kindness and gratitude, to physical activity, to mindfulness and meditation, to growth mindset, and hope and optimism," she said. They hope their audiences will gain an increased sense of hope, a greater feeling of agency, and lower levels of stress. They are also hoping that the videos and other resources that they will share will trigger conversations, and inspire sharing of testimonies on how they have boosted users’ levels of well-being during this time.
"I am hoping that it increases the sense of community, and care, and that we can all learn skills from each other, that will be useful to us, even after this is all over," she noted. Positive Performance Botswana was founded two years ago, by a group of positive psychologists, coaching psychologists, and HR consultants.
Public sector unions' decision to reject government proposal for deferment of 6 and 10 percent salary increase for public servants could be in vain as the decision has already been taken. Government through the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) this week Thursday gathered the unions at Mass Media Complex to discuss the deferment of the 6 and 10 percent increment that was agreed upon in Lobatse last year. The decision is also contained in the Collective Labour Agreement.
The six unions are BOPEU, BTU, MANUAL WORKERS UNION, BOSETU, BONU and BLAHWU. The employer revealed that there had to be deferment of the payment of the agreed 6 percent and 10 percent increment owing to the COVID-19 pandemic implications. The unions expressed their discomfort with this development arguing that it was communicated late.
The six public sector unions indicated that taking into consideration that the 6 and 10 percent agreement and its implementation date was agreed upon in a negotiation process which they had got mandate from their constituents, it would only be fair that they be given an opportunity to consult their structures, and as such, they “would NOT accede to the government proposal prior to the consultation process," said Tobokani Rari.
Rari is the Coordinator of the six unions. He added that they need time to engage their respective members which will also be a challenge because of extreme social distancing. However documents seen by this publication have revealed that ahead of the meeting with the unions, implementation of the decision had already been communicated with various ministries and departments.
"Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 the government has raised flag regarding its inability to afford increases for 2020/21 as previously negotiated with public sector unions in 2019 and locked in for two years, financial years of 2019/20 and 2020/21. “Officers are informed that government has directed that processing of salary adjustments be in abeyance until further notice," reads a Savingram dated April 16th 2020. Late last month DPSM Director Goitseone Mosalakatane issued a Directive that there would be an increase with effect from April 1st 2020.
The German Development Cooperation (GIZ) in collaboration with Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association are identifying companies to assist in upscaling their production. “GIZ CESARE has shown interest in supporting companies in the SADC region that produce relevant medical equipment such as sanitisers, gloves, gowns, masks, oxygen flasks and ventilators to increase the local production with the hope that this will help address the worldwide shortage of said medical supplies and facilitate access for the SADC region,” said BEMA Chief Executive Officer, Mmantlha Sankoloba.
BEMA has submitted over 40 local manufacturing companies, mostly SMMEs to GIZ for consideration. “But it has been noted that we do not have companies that locally produce surgical masks and ventilators,” said Sankoloba, whose association is faced with a mammoth task of ensuring businesses survive and grow during and post the pandemic.
She said the Association is lobbying government to have holistic consultations with the private sector before strategies are implemented at national level. “It is time to take a different approach, there is no other alternative but to have both the public and private sector coalesce and synergise their efforts to ensure the sector does not suffer a decline,” said Sankoloba.
She said the sector has been faced with numerous issues, even before the pandemic, however, over the past weeks there has been a record on new cases arising from the effects of the COVID-19. For example, manufacturers have recorded a decline in turnover and revenue due to increase in expenditure, according to Sankoloba.
“At this juncture it is important for both the private (all sectors represented) and public sector to work together, establish common ground and come up with sound solutions. It is important to consider offering much-needed support to businesses that will be largely affected by the pandemic, either from a financing perspective or ease of operations through provision of incentives that will ensure adequate working capital availability,” said Sankoloba. She emphasised that it is lucrative to ensure the survival of manufacturing entities, as they have created job opportunities.
A legal battle between the Ministry of Health and Wellness and Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU) is looming after the ministry rejected demands by the union to have its members - who are COVID19 frontliners - given Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), food and transport.
BLLAHWU wrote a letter through its attorneys this week Tuesday to the Attorney General indicating that as at present and following engagements with DPSM Director, there has been no positive response to the demand that frontline health workers be provided with the necessary PPEs and hand sanitisers.The union mentioned that the deployment of Social Workers into households without any
PPEs expose both the households that the Social Workers will assess and the Social Workers themselves.
"The client represents more than two thirds (2/3) of all Health Workers and Local Government employees, the specific cadres inclusive. To that end, there is a collective labour agreement which has to be honoured by both parties. In addition to this, the Employer has conditions of service for the respective cadres of employment”. There are further World Health Organisation Guidelines which require PPEs for such frontline persons. The WHO Guidelines are part of “our law by reason of them being recognised by the Regulations in Statutory Instrument No. 61 of 2020," said Motswagole and Company law firm in a demand letter dated April 14th 2020.
The attorneys added that there is a further risk of transmission between Social Workers and their
Counselling clients, especially given the private and closed environment in which counselling services are ordinarily provided. "We are under instruction from the client to demand as a matter of urgency that within 3 days of this letter all the relevant Ministries, who have been copied herein, provide all of the deployed staff with PPEs, hand sanitisers, food and transport in their respective shifts.
“Take notice that should the above not happen, the undersigned shall approach the High Court on an urgent basis to compel to provide all the deployed staff with PPEs as per their respective shifts." In response the Attorney General representing the health ministry indicated that the employees are engaged on their day-to-day work and the ministry is not in a position to provide food. It is further stated in the response letter dated April 16th 2020 that there are no records of transport challenges.
According to the ministry BLLAHWU members being social workers perform in-person interviews in a community setting and their subjects are community members who are presumably asymptomatic. The ministry posited that guidelines dictate that interviewers exercise social distancing of one (1) metre from subject therefore PPE is not a requirement. The ministry has however admitted that there has been shortage of PPEs in the central district a challenge it said will be rectified.