Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has expressed concern that community testing which was to start on Monday this week has been replaced with contact tracing. The COVID-19 Task Team revealed on Sunday during a press conference that the targeted community testing based on a random sample of 20,000 has been postponed and focus shifted to contact tracing. According to the team all resources will be channeled towards contact tracing after it was realised that the number of local transmission is increasing.
UDC has however argued that this is yet another example of failure of planning. "The nation cannot afford this. Community testing and contact tracing are both absolutely critical for informing the COVID- 19 containment strategy and should run concurrently rather than sequentially. The delay in community testing means that locating the geographical footprint of the pandemic will be delayed, at a high cost to the nation in terms of both the spread of the disease and the economic costs," UDC Head of Communications Moeti Mohwasa said.
He stated that the whole world prioritises testing because it is the only way of understanding the trajectory of the pandemic and identifying the hotspots. All efforts should be made for community testing to commence without further unnecessary delay and to scale-up testing beyond the original sample of 20,000, pointed out the UDC spokesperson. He lamented that it is important that the nation should be informed about the reasons for postponing so important a critical part of the response to the pandemic. Testing according to Mohwasa is not for academic/research purposes.
"It is about informing containment measures and saving lives. We advise that priority testing must go to all health workers and social workers, national and local leaders dealing with permits, including the police and the army, those going back to work and teachers. It is also vital that the tests are efficient/accurate and that they return results timely," said Mohwasa adding that the country should thus be on the lookout for new and more efficient testing kits.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only led to the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but also led to suspension of all sporting codes fundraising activities. The local Olympic body, Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) has had its robust fundraising plan thrown asunder, at least for the short term.
Just before the virus was declared a global pandemic, the BNOC held a high level press conference addressed by Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC) minister Tumiso Rakgare, President of Business Botswana (BB) Gobusamang Keebine, Miles Nan of the Chinese Business Chamber, BNOC President and CEO, Colonel Botsang Tshenyego and Tuelo Serufho respectively.
At that conference it was announced that BB and the Chinese Community in Botswana would help BNOC raise funds towards the Tokyo 2020 Games, initially through a golf event penciled for May 2020. At this rate, with the country on lockdown until at the very least, end of April as well as being on a State of Emergency until October, it is highly doubtful that the golf event will fall on the original date.
Still in May, the BNOC was set to receive a part of the proceeds from the 2020 Diacore Marathon, towards the BNOC’s Tokyo 2020 efforts. Minister Rakgare, his Permanent Secretary Kago Ramokate, Diacore CEO, BNOC President and CEO, among others, were expected to participate in a sponsored run during the event.
This would help to increase the amount of money that would flow through to that Organisation. The marathon has now been postponed indefinitely thereby causing anxiety as to how this will affect the BNOC. This publication has it on good authority that BNOC was preparing to launch the uniform for Team Botswana to the Games, with replicas set to go on sale soon thereafter.
It was also to raise funds for Team Botswana athletes. The postponement of the Games to 2021 and the current state of affairs has no doubt affected such plans. Another known initiative to have also been affected is the fundraising gala dinner that was postponed from earlier in the year.
Speaking to this publication, BNOC chief executive Serufho stated that just like many other organisations across the world, they are being adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“First and foremost, we must state that as a responsible corporate citizen, the BNOC is fully behind the efforts to fight the COVID-19 scourge across the world, and while inconvenienced by effects thereof, we fully support the measures that have been put in place to fight it,” Serufho said.
He expressed their view that all would not be lost in the end. “It is our firm belief that all the opportunities the BNOC had are not lost forever. Rather the activities will be rescheduled and Botswana athletes will still benefit as was originally intended”.
Serufho said the postponement of Tokyo Olympic Games to 2021 means more money will be required to prepare the team than initially budgeted. This, he said, necessitates the participation of the private sector and the public at large.
Serufho thanked Batswana and companies that have supported them for their good deeds and indeed patience. "We would like to assure them of our best efforts to ensure a historic performance by Team Botswana in Tokyo next year,” he said.
While the Olympic Games will now be held in 2021, the International Olympic Committee has announced the Games will retain the name Tokyo 2020 and the new dates are 23 July to 8th August 2021.
Serufho said Botswana will be making her 11th appearance at the summer edition of the Games and it is largely expected that the country will beat her historic performance at the 2012 London Games.
The giant diamond company Debswana has invoked the Force Majeure clause under the contract with all its contractors in the country and asked them to clear the site. The diamond giant attributed the Force Marjeure to the COVID-19 pandemic, the resultant public health and financial results, and the declaration of the State of Emergency by President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi on 31 March as well as the regulations promulgated in consequence of the pandemic and the emerging global financial crisis, which it is said has affected Debswana acutely.
In a letter dated 1st April 2020 co-authored by Mokwadi Koloka a Senior Commercial Manager and Ignatius Nfana who is a Lead Supply Chain the company warned all Contractors with active contracts with it that operations at the various Debswana facilities or locations will have to be either "shutdown or severely curtailed”.
The letter is titled “GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENT: POSSIBLE FORCE MAJEURE NOTICE”, and was directed Contractors to (“the Contract”) entered into Debswana Diamond Company (Pty) Limited (“Debswana”). As the largest private employer in Botswana, Debswana said it has an obligation to its workforce, its contractors and their sub-contractors and the nation as a whole to "endeavour to ensure that there are no further infections in Botswana" and, or to prevent or limit the spread of infections in Botswana.’’
Given the above, the letter said operations at the various Debswana facilities or locations will have to be either shutdown or severely curtailed. Debswana held that COVID-19 and the extreme social distancing announced by Masisi are without doubt an "exceptional event or circumstance" which accords with the definition of an event of Force Majeure.
In Law Force Majeure refers to unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract. Debswana told contractors that Senior Contracts Administrator, Debswana Contracts Managers on Site and any other persons responsible for administering "Your Contract will engage you in due course" regarding the ramifications of this event on the "specific contract you have entered into with Debswana" .
“You are further, notified to leave site (*as applicable) by end of business on Thursday 02 April 2020”.
The Contractor shall liaise with the Engineer or Project Manager to ensure that the process of leaving the site is smooth, including that of your subcontractors. "You are to use your best efforts to comply immediately with any reasonable instructions included in this notice and any instruction issued by the Engineer or Project Manager regarding adherence to safety protocols, protection of life and any materials, plant and the works".
On a good note Debswana states that its decision does not affect Contractors not based on site. Contractors providing essential services will be required to leave skeletal staff behind for Care & Maintenance (numbers to be agreed with Debswana).
Proparco, the French Development Agency’s private sector financing arm, has concluded a US$10 million Tier II long-term debt financing with African Banking Corporation Botswana (“BancABC Botswana”) to accelerate the bank’s activity towards supporting the growth of SMEs and commercial enterprises. With the current global economic challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, this facility reaffirms Proparco’s long-term commitment to financial institutions and MSMEs, both key contributors to economic resilience on the continent.
Despite their crucial role in most African economies, MSMEs often lack the funds necessary to support their activity and grow their businesses. Supporting MSMEs’ ability to create jobs and provide essential goods and services is core to Proparco’s development mandate, particularly in times of economic downturn. BancABC Botswana is a subsidiary of the Pan African banking group, Atlas Mara Ltd, a financial services company listed on the London Stock Exchange and operating in seven Sub-Saharan African countries. This new Partnership is Proparco’s 2nd collaboration with the Atlas Mara Group and its first ever operation in Botswana.
It is estimated that the Partnership will help support over 4,500 direct and indirect jobs in the coming years, which will contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 8 (Economic Growth and decent jobs). This Partnership also contributes to the French initiative Choose Africa, launched by the AFD Group in 2019, which ambitions to dedicate €2.5Bn to accelerate the growth of MSMEs in Africa by 2022. As of December 2019, more than €1Bn had already been deployed on the continent through this initiative.