Botswana’s fuel woes to ease

The Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Affairs has given assurances that the situation will improve shortly. The ministry said in a statement the fuel supply situation in the country has been improving since March 13, but warned the public not to stockpile petrol and diesel as such action could pose serious danger to human health, as well as artificial shortages. “The Botswana oil industry has reported that some of the refineries in the Republic of South Africa that were out of service since February 2006 have now resumed production. “The Talton Depot in the Republic of South Africa, which is dedicated to Botswana supplies, is receiving supplies by pipeline connection from Durban,” the statement said. The country is not out of the woods yet as the ministry further indicated that some product shortage spells may still be experienced as a result of the backlog of orders accumulated during the period when four refineries were shut down. Meanwhile, the Works and Transport Minister Lesego Motsumi has vowed to bring “low-cost, no- frills” type of airline during her term. “These types of airlines make flying more accessible to the average citizen. It is my hope and wish to see flying becoming more accessible to the average Motswana and I hope to see this happening during my stay in the ministry of works and transport,” said Motsumi, speaking at the launch of the Botswana Civil Aviation Authority. The minister said it was important to introduce such kind of airlines “that are beginning to feature in the industry elsewhere in the world” in order to afford Batswana a wider choice when it comes to flying. Though Air Botswana has not been doing well of late, air travel industry has grown significantly from what it was three decades back. Motsumi said while in the 1970s, only a few hundreds travellers went through Botswana’s airports, the figure jumped to 549 319 in 2005. “This has been a key factor in the development of the country over the years, particularly in the tourism sector,” Motsumi said. The have been calls in the past for Air Botswana to introduce more domestic flights. One such call was made by former Gaborone North MP Michael Mzwinila who previously worked at the Sir Seretse Khama International airport as an airport manager. Despite her hopes and plans for civil aviation in the country, the minister noted concerns about safety and security at the country’s airports. Upon being made minister of works and transport in 2004, Motsumi said she had been led to believe that Botswana had one of the safest airspaces not only in Africa but in the whole world. She discovered the opposite. “I was therefore surprised and shocked to learn recently that some of the navigation aids have basically reached the end of their life span and are prone to malfunctioning particularly when it rains. Clearly, this is something that cannot be allowed to continue, hence the need to find a very quick solution to the problem,” she cautioned. With regard to security, the minister noted that having gone through Botswana’s airports on several occasions, she had found that there was serious need to tighten up security. “In today’s era of global terrorism, security personnel at airports cannot just be mere security guards. We need staff and equipment at all entry and exit points from Botswana with the capacity to deal with complex security problems,” Motsumi said. She also revealed that her ministry had received complaints from passengers about dirty toilet facilities, lack of resources such as toilet paper and lack of diligence on the part of air traffic controllers. In another development, Botswana’s benefits from the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation (CFTC) are inadequate in relation to the country’s contribution to the organisation and the socio-economic challenges being faced. The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Baledzi Gaolathe, told the CFTC Africa Regional Consultative meeting in Gaborone, that over the past six years Botswana had benefited from the 10 million pula worth of covering advisory services, provision of expertise, workshops and seminars. He said while Botswana may be classified as a middle-income country it was still a developing country with unique circumstances. Botswana development needs are in many respects similar to those of least developed countries, he said. These include diseases like HIV/Aids, shortage of skilled human resources, incidence of poverty and reliance on the export of few commodities. He urged the Commonwealth secretariat to consider special circumstances and develop special assistance packages in collaboration with other cooperating partners for middle-income countries such as Botswana. Gaolathe said the CFTC could provide the necessary support for governance, institutional capacity and policy reforms that were at the heart of development. Gaolathe said it was upon members of the Commonwealth to continue to make contributions in order to derive benefits from the fund for technical cooperation. The fund had demonstrated capacity to handle small projects more cost-effectively and in a more flexible manner, adding that it had been able to fill gaps left in the work of other international and regional organisations. He said unless member states scaled up the rate at which they were meeting the human development conditions or capabilities the African region was unlikely to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. In this regard, the assistance from the CFTC could be used to contribute to putting Africa right back onto the development path to achieve these goals, he said. The minister said while Africa appreciated that over 40 percent of CTFCs annual expenditure benefits the region, the region would like to urge Commonwealth and other donors to give Africa special attention because of its unique challenges. Eighteen countries including Botswana and a number of regional institutions attended the two-day meeting, whose purpose was to canvass the views of CFTC primary contact points on the development needs of their countries.

April 2006
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