By Kwanele Sibanda, CORC, South Africa
BACKGROUND OF BOTSWANA
The Republic of Botswana is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. It is bordered by South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. It is a mid-sized country of just over two million people. Environmentally, Botswana faces two major problems: drought and desertification. Despite its middle-income status, Botswana continues to grapple with significant social challenges including unequal distribution of wealth, high levels of poverty, unemployment and HIV/AIDS prevalence. On health issues, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS was estimated at 24% for adults in 2006. In the fight against the disease the government of Botswana solicited outside help in fighting HIV/AIDS and received early support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
BACKGROUND OF THE BOTSWANA FEDERATION AND THE SUPPORT NGO
The federation of Botswana was mobilized by the Zimbabwean federation and established in 2011 in Francistown and it has since expanded to Gaborone, Selibe, Maun and Phikwe. The NGO; Trust for Community Initiatives (TFCI) was registered on the 31st of May 2012 as a trust. There are currently 3 board members and two staff members working for the NGO.
HOW THE EXCHANGE CHANGE ABOUT
In June 2014 the federation of Botswana was selected by the Francistown City Council as a community based organization that has one of the best practices in fighting poverty. The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development (Peter L. Siele) therefore made a proposal of visiting the federation in Francistown on the 17th of October 2014. Since the Botswana federation is still at its early stages of development, it therefore requested the support of the Zimbabwean and the South African federations.
A four day schedule was set for the exchange and that was between the 16th and 19th of October 2014. The 16th and 19th were set as days of arrival and departure respectively. On the morning of the 17th, prior to the commencement of the meeting with the Honourable Minister, a brief planning session was held with the hosts to look into the program and also strategize on key objectives intended to be achieved from the exchange. During the planning session the Zimbabwean and South African delegates were encouraged to focus their presentation more on savings, partnerships and projects. The 17th was scheduled as following:
- Presentation to the Minister by the Botswana local federation
- Zimbabwean presentation that covered where and what the SDI alliance does and then a more focused presentation on the Zimbabwean federation.
- South African presentation.
- Response from the Minister
- Site visits with the Minister
- End of day one
On day two of the exchange, there were no government officials and the federations had the chance to engage around internal alliance issues of interest. The Botswana federation felt that they needed a lot of support around understanding what the Urban Poor Fund is all about. The programme was set for a full day discussion around UPF and then ending with an evaluation of the exchange. The day was therefore structured as indicated below:
- Botswana federation members – individual expression of UPF understanding.
- Formation of three groups (Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa). For group discussions Zimbabwe and South Africa were requested to write key points that relate to UPF in their respective countries. Botswana was on the other hand requested to list what they have so far been using as principles around UPF.
- Presentation per country followed by questions and answers
- Advise for Botswana on guidelines that they should agree upon as principles around UPF.
- Exchange evaluation
DAY ONE OF EXCHANGE
Federation of Botswana – Francistown, Maun, Gaborone, Selibe and Phikwe
Trust for Community Initiatives (Botswana support NGO) – Goitsemang B. Maano and Mark
Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation- Sekai Catherine Chiremba, Sazini Ndlovu, R. Ncube.
Dialogue on Shelter (Zimbabwe support NGO) - Beth Chitekwe and Givemore Nyamaponda
South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) - Maureen, Sophy and Sarah
CORC (South African support NGO) - Kwanele Sibanda
Officials: Minister of Local Government and Rural Development – Peter L. Siele, Town Clerk – L. Israel, Office of the District Commissioner – Opelo, Head of Community Development – Mrs Phama, Deputy Mayor of Francistown – Mrs Phama
The meeting was chaired by Dambe, a representative of the Botswana federation. A welcome note was made. While introductions were made individually for the officials, South African and Zimbabwean delegates; the Botswana federation was introduced according to saving schemes. The programme was announced as indicated above.
KEY NOTES FROM THE BOTSWANA PRESENTATION TO THE MINISTER
- Due to challenges they face on a daily basis, they established savings groups to support one another.
- The federation started in April 2011 in Francistown and has since expanded to Selibe, Phikwe, Gaborone and Maun.
- Key focus has been on mobilization since they have just started and savings as well.
- The groups practice daily savings and they have a good recording system for accountability.
- They hold weekly meeting were they share knowledge, account for savings, recruit new members, discuss projects, and show each other love and unity.
- There are 42 saving schemes and the total number of active members is 1126 (1036 females and 90 males)
- Their total daily savings to date is P257 807.91 and their Urban Poor Fund is P20 834.85.
- Women are at the forefront of the process because they are the most affected by the day to day challenges.
- As opposed to being beggars, they are resourceful members who have united to assist one another in using resources at their disposal.
- The health component is one of their priorities.
- They have conducted development projects such as installation of water taps, electricity and flush toilets.
- They also have income generating projects such as poultry and catering.
- Indicated that councillors and chiefs in their respective places of residence understand what they are doing and give them support were they can.
- To scale up the work that they have started, they requested a formal working relationship with the government starting with the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development.
- They acknowledged support that they have been receiving from the Francistown City Council especially around transport to undertake their activities.
KEY NOTES PRESENTED BY THE ZIMBABWEAN FEDERATION TO THE MINISTER
- SDI breakdown – 8 countries in the Southern African HUB
- Active in 34 countries
- Showed a lot of appreciation of the Minister’s act of coming closer to the people.
- They have organized themselves, saved and conducted enumerations so that they engage their government with facts.
- They approached their government, proved to them that they have good poverty alleviation tools, agreed on a partnership and established a City Fund in five cities.
- Emphasized that it is crucial for the Minister to consider working closely with such organized groups who do not approach the government empty handed.
- Spoke about the Urban Poor Fund and indicated how they had used it to undertake projects of their interest.
- Went on to request the Minister to give a pledge that will support that will add onto and support the Urban Poor Fund of the Botswana federation.
- Elaborated that they use their Urban Poor Fund in a sustainable way that enables many people to benefit and that is done by making it a revolving fund that is replaced once used.
- Concluded by inviting the Minister to an SDI exchange which he shall be informed of in the near future.
KEY NOTES MADE BY THE FEDERATION OF SOUTH AFRICA TO THE MINISTER
- When we mobilize community members our main aim is to change the mind-set of the people from dependency to self-sustenance.
- Savings and enumerations are a priority for us. When we engage with the officials we present information that reflects high level of commitment for a better life.
- To enhance our work so as to support more communities, we create partnerships with government at different level for example we have an MOU with the Department of Human Settlement and with that; we have been able to build over 30 000 quality houses by ourselves for ourselves as poor people of South Africa. In working with the government we always emphasize that the Batho Pele (People First) principle must be applied.
- The processed that we undertake ensure that we empower each other.
- We work closely with our NGOs that act as finance administrators and also offer technical assistance in the various projects.
- We believe and practise a continuous process of learning and sharing knowledge. Our presence as South African and Zimbabwean federation in Botswana is one of our ways of sharing knowledge as experience with the local federation and government officials.
- The South African federation is in eight regions, has a membership of 26 490 members, R2 424 376.25 and R245 512.09.
RESPONSE FROM THE MINISTER
- The Minister described the Zimbabwean and the South African federation members as real neighbours that are concerned about the well-being of others.
- He likes the concept of Batho Pele (People First) as described by South African federation and furthermore indicated that the government of Botswana also has a television and radio program that enhances the dissemination of community initiatives and government programs and it is called Batho Pele.
- What the federation of Botswana is working on is actually fulfilling what the President of Botswana said about strategies of poverty eradication.
- Communities should strive for partnerships in line with what they are doing.
- The minister assisted the Botswana federation by outlining some of the programs that different government departments are offering in line with what the federation is doing.
- He furthermore encouraged them to take advantage of funds such as those offered by the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs (MLHA). The Women’s Affairs Department is mandated to facilitate mainstreaming of Gender Issues in the development process. As a way of empowering women’s CBOs, the Government of Botswana allocates funds to the Women’s Affairs Department annually in order to assist the organisations.
SITE VISITS WITH THE MINISTER
- The Minister witnessed three projects that the federation members do: traditional attires and baskets, poultry and a cool drink making business. The minister and his team were taken around while the project leaders explained how the businesses are conducted.
DAY TWO OF EXCHANGE 18/10/2014
Attendees: Botswana, Zimbabwean and South African federations as well as their support NGOs
The focus on day two was that of discussion UPF related issues. The programme started off with Botswana federation members being given the opportunity to express their knowledge and how they have been dealing with UPF issues. Points made were noted as indicated below:
- We are savings for land, to build houses as well as other projects.
- We are contributing UPF so that we can give each other loans
- We had an incident were some group members contributed towards UPF, but the treasure did not deposit the money.
- It is difficult for me to distinguish between daily savings and UPF
- We started the UPF contributions after an exchange to Gwanda in Zimbabwe; however after report back and starting not many members understood the concept.
After the individual contributions it became apparent that there is need for continuous support around UPF.
Three groups were formed according to countries. For group discussions Zimbabwe and South Africa were requested to write key points that relate to UPF in their respective countries. Botswana was on the other hand requested to list what they have so far been using as principles around UPF.
UPF PRESENTATION BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN FEDERATION
- Each member is required to make a contribution of R750 and it is contributed at a pace based on each member’s ability.
- The contribution is regarded as a membership fee that gives the respective member the privileges offered by the alliance.
- R5 contribution per month or R60 per year is required from each member as a way of sustaining their main fund.
- We pre-finance some of our housing projects using our UPF
- We give loans for income generating projects.
- Our fund is managed by our local NGO (Utshani Fund); however our daily savings are kept in our respective saving scheme accounts.
- For accountability purposes, recording books are used during collections at a saving scheme level and Utshani Fund is required to produce a bank statement on a monthly basis.
- UPF has its own structure. (Saving scheme, regional and national representative).
- We also use our UPF to attract other funds.
UPF PRESENTATION BY THE ZIMBABWEAN FEDERATION
The Zimbabwean UPF is called Gungano
- Federating saving schemes in the country.
- Demonstrates federation capacity and capabilities to the government, donors and other partners.
- Leverage financial resources as well as other in kind contribution from Government and donors.
- Give out loans for big projects to federation saving schemes.
- One dollar per month in perpetuity.
Type of loans:
- Land purchase
- Infrastructure/water, sanitation, plumbing
- Housing/building material/labour/drawing of plans
- Business projects
Terms and conditions
- Loans are given to saving schemes and not individuals
- Saving scheme should be in good standing
- Currently the interest is at 12% p a
- Time frame depends on type of loan (Business: 6 months; Housing infrastructure: 2 years)
The agreement made was that individuals can access loan from their respective saving schemes while the savings schemes access loans from Gungano.
UPF DISCUSSION FOR BOTSWANA TO CONSIDER
- Beth from Dialogue on Shelter mentioned that what is being presented are ways in which the two named countries are using their UPF. She further emphasized that principles around Botswana UPF have to be tailor made for the needs of the Botswana UPF beneficiaries. She concluded by saying that “if you have your own resources and manage them well, it becomes easy to be assisted”.
- As a way forward it was agreed that a final decision of principles around UPF cannot be taken in the particular meeting because consultation first has to be made from a savings scheme level; however an agreement was reached on what the respective saving schemes have to input towards a final national UPF policy.
- Below are the guidelines:
- Name to be given to the UPF
- What is the purpose of the fund?
- How much should be the monthly contribution per member towards the total amount?
- How much should be the total amount?
- How manages the fund?
- How much should we have before giving out loans or making any other form of use of the fund?
- How much interest should be charged in the event of a decision of giving out loans?
- What recording system should be put in place?
- How often should saving schemes have access to the bank statement?
EVALUATION OF THE EXCHANGE
- The evaluation of the exchange took two forms.
- Open platform for federation members to express their views.
- NGO group evaluation
- Below are points made by the various federation members:
- I am so grateful for the exchange has enlightened me on many federation issues especially the Urban Poor Fund.
- We feel motivated by the presentations made by the federations that have been doing the work for many years and we are inspired to grow our federation the same way.
- We are proud of what we are doing and for the fact that our Minister has come to us makes us even happier.
- What we are doing is well recognised and that it why day one of our activity was broadcast on national radio.
- As South African this is so important for us and that is why we say ‘Funduzufe’ (Learn until you die).
- We as Zimbabweans see a bright future ahead of you and this is based on the cooperation we have noticed from your Minister, Chiefs and Local Municipality. It is now up to you to continue with the good work.
- Below are various points made as an evaluation and support for the local NGO:
- Need to follow-up on processes for example the UPF task left with the communities.
- Consider setting up a website and update work done for more publicity.
- Identification of government programmes that are in line with federation activities and find means of taping into local resources.
- Establish community documentation teams to write stories about their activities.
- Follow up on issues put forward by the Minister. Write a letter thanking the Minister and also outlining what the federation requests are.