SA Alliance in Botswana: Building a strong urban poor Federation

By Kwanele Sibanda (on behalf of CORC)

For the Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network, horizontal exchanges between savings groups and communities present an opportunity for bottom-up learning and mutual support. While each SDI affiliate shares the same tools and practices for community organisation and people-centred development, the use of these tools is shaped by local socio-economic and political contexts. Exchanges, therefore, also explore how new-found insights can be adapted to realities “back home”.

As an SDI learning centre, the SA SDI Alliance and FEDUP in particular have supported the growth of the Botswana SDI Alliance, the Botswana Homeless and Poor People’s Federation and support NGO. This blog reflects the workings of an international exchange, strategies for partnership building, and the necessities of rooting the strength of a Federation in daily saving, strong trust and cohesiveness on the ground.

Gointse (Trust for Community Initiatives) explains partnership with Stanbic

Gointse (Trust for Community Initiatives) explains partnership with Stanbic

Background of the Exchange

The SDI exchange to Botswana by the South African delegates was originally aimed at supporting the federation of Botswana in making a presentation to the new Minister of Local Government and Rural Affairs. In spite of efforts made by the Minister to meet the federation, the set meeting coincided with an emergency that he described as critical and could not be postponed.

From the previous visit of the South African delegates dated 16 – 19 October 2014, the Botswana federation has shown growth and determination to work with resources at their disposal. The federation of Francistown has been very influential in the growth of the federation, nationally. The Francistown Federation started off by influencing their local City Council especially the Town Clerk who in turn is now taking a lead in introducing the federation to officials in other cities as well as different government departments. The attempt to meet the Minister was through the efforts of the Francistown Town Clerk and the local supporting NGO (Trust for Community Initiatives).

As the meeting with the Minister was postponed at the 11th hour, the federation members from Francistown and the SA SDI Alliance used the opportunity to visit a fairly new local saving scheme (Boiteko Saving Scheme).

BOITEKO SAVING SCHEME MEETING.

Boiteko saving scheme meeting took place in Gaborone . A message of appreciation was given to the saving scheme members for attending the meeting even though it was scheduled within a short period of time. Amongst the issues discussed, the following was the most pressing for the saving scheme in Botswana as a whole.

  • Botswana has a law that disregards the nature/circumstances under which a group is established and wishes to have financial transactions that it be registered as a company. This act poses a challenge to the federation because of tax related burdens, registration process and other financial burdens that may be required by the law.
  • The groups have since resorted to opening bank accounts using one member of the group under conditions that include a letter to the bank stipulating that he is termed account holder and merely represents the group and can only undertake financial transactions authorised by two named signatories of the group’s choice. Boiteko Saving Scheme is no exception to the challenge.
Group photo after meeting with Boiteko Saving Scheme members

Group photo after meeting with Boiteko Saving Scheme members

  • The saving scheme was established in February 2015 with 27 members at its highest. Without seeking information internally, new members went to various government departments to find out if the poor people’s movement was registered. Upon realization of the other, word spread, dispute ensued, and sixteen members shunned the group leaving unity of the remaining on the canvas. The group currently stands at 11 members  and has a total of  P2 000 in savings up to date.
  •  In July 2015 the federation allegedly made a presentation at a Public Service Event where different Ministers were present. The presentation was broadcast on national television (BTV) and was seen by members that had forsaken the group. It is believed that the publication of the presentation somehow proved the authenticity of the organization as opposed to unfounded, simmering rumors.
  • The groups are being supported by the local NGO in opening bank accounts. The members of the new group expressed their need for support as they are not yet well versed of the other components in the alliance other than savings.
  • Savings Report
Total Number of saving schemes 55
Women 1 191
Men 122
Total Savings P276, 136.23
Total UPF P31, 473.94
Funds used to start income generating projects P260, 926.66
      Inputs made by the SA SDI alliance and Francistown delegates
  • Within groups, it is always ideal to have manageable numbers; however it is wise to be aware that numbers matter in influencing policies such as that currently affecting them on opening of bank accounts.
  • In making presentations, follow all levels of influential structures starting with the local chiefs so that your process is well understood and no one feels undermined.
  • Make daily collections a norm so as to bond as savings members and generally improve your savings.
  • Use the small projects  you are already doing to demonstrate to  government and other institutions your interest and how you wish to scale it up.Make use of  government resources like the ‘Poverty eradication programme’.
  • Start programmes for supporting other savings schemes because you tend to learn more when you share more.
  •  Choose honest people  to handle your finances to avoid jeopardizing the organisations name
  • Avoid making long meetings that will discourage attendance.
  • Members need to understand the power of working collectively.
  • Save with a goal and make good use of the savings . It is normally pointless to be endowed with savings that remain untapped when challenges prevail or opportunities present themselves.
Far Right - Sarah Mulaudzi (FEDUP) sharing her savings experience

Far Right – Sarah Mulaudzi (FEDUP) sharing her savings experience

WAY FORWARD

  • The federation of Botswana has to draft a programme were it will be supported in areas that include mobilization, savings recording system and explaining the different components in the alliance.
  • Once the meeting is confirmed with the Minister, leaders should prepare themselves for a presentation and should include in the agenda the policy requiring them to register in order to open bank accounts.
  • Each region has to start writing stories about the different projects and activities that they are doing.

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