Botswana and South Africa on Thursday extended their bilateral relations by signing a cross boarder water agreement, aimed at improving the living standards of the people of the two southern African states.
“Our people have been more kind to each other and diplomatic to each other than we have been doing and now we are only legalizing what they have been doing,” Minerals and Water Affairs minister, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, said during the signing ceremony in Gaborone on Friday.
The two countries, which share a long border, are signatories to two shared river basin institutions for the Limpopo and Orange-Senqu.
He added: “Not only do our countries subscribe to the notion of good bilateral cause, but also do encourage that such efforts and initiatives of the management and utilization of shared water resources are strengthened to the benefit of our citizens”.
Vulnerable to sporadic intermittent droughts the countries take cognizance of the fact there is not enough water in both countries with sometimes water available in one of the countries.
This led to ordinary people, especially farmers to help each other promoting illegal cross boarder water supply.
Road contractors, building the road from Bokspits, needed water and requested the government of Botswana to facilitate on their behalf for water from South Africa.
“Our historical and cultural ties which extend beyond the shared watercourses between the two countries partly inform our signing an Agreement this morning,” the minister said, adding, “Our people along the border share more than just water resources. They do share common language and traditional leadership.
This signing ceremony is, therefore, a further endorsement of our existing relationships that not only ensure access to water but also provides mechanism that facilitate that process.
Botswana’s vision 2016 on water states that “Botswana must develop a national water development and distribution strategy that will make water affordable and accessible to all, including those who live in small and remote settlements.”
This Agreement enables us to achieve the said goal, he maintained.
“The establishment of the Joint Permanent Technical Committee (JPTC) on water by our predecessors is a feat of visionary leadership”, Kedikilwe added.
Signed formally in 1983, JPTC ensured the countries manage and use water resources in a sustainable manner.
Kedikilwe said it is through the work of the JPTC that the countries were signing a Cross Border Water Supply Agreement which will facilitate the process for improving the quality of life of citizens, particularly those who are far from sources in their respective countries, but close to a source in a neighbouring country.