𝐌𝐈𝐍𝐈𝐒𝐓𝐑𝐘 𝐎𝐅 𝐈𝐍𝐕𝐄𝐒𝐓𝐌𝐄𝐍𝐓, 𝐓𝐑𝐀𝐃𝐄 𝐀𝐍𝐃 𝐈𝐍𝐃𝐔𝐒𝐓𝐑𝐘
𝐀𝐃𝐃𝐑𝐄𝐒𝐒 𝐎𝐍 𝐒𝐓𝐀𝐓𝐄 𝐎𝐅 𝐏𝐔𝐁𝐋𝐈𝐂 𝐄𝐌𝐄𝐑𝐆𝐄𝐍𝐂𝐘 (𝐒𝐨𝐄) 𝐄𝐗𝐈𝐓 𝐏𝐋𝐀𝐍
𝐁𝐘 𝐇𝐎𝐍𝐎𝐔𝐑𝐀𝐁𝐋𝐄 𝐌𝐌𝐔𝐒𝐈 𝐊𝐆𝐀𝐅𝐄𝐋𝐀
DATE: 21st SEPTEMBER 2021
1. In April 2020, Botswana declared the State of Public Emergency and the Statutory Instrument No. 61 of 2020 under the Emergency Powers Act (Cap. 22:04), Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020 (published on 2nd April, 2020) and subsequent Regulations were put in place as the situation evolved. The Statutory Instruments outlined a number of Regulations which were meant to help in the containment of the corona virus as well as minimize effects of COVID-19 on the economy. Therefore, the Ministry was responsible for overseeing implementation of the Regulations to regulate the Trade and Industry Sector. The Ministry worked closely with relevant stakeholders in monitoring the situation and proposing mitigating measures with a view to balance business continuity, job preservation and disease containment. As the State of Public Emergency expires on the 30th September 2021, the Ministry is grateful to have the opportunity today to share with the public and relevant stakeholders what to expect in the Trade and Industry Sector post SOE, in terms of the Regulations that were put in place during SOE.
2. To facilitate the business community and relevant stakeholders including the public, as the economy opens up and returns to normality, the Ministry has reviewed the SoE protocols and regulations. The measures outlined below list the Regulations that were put in place during the SOE, followed by measures that will guide the business community and members of the public as the country exists the SoE:
i. Regulation 19: Limitation of Hours of Trade
(a) the following shall only operate as a take-away service for essential service providers between the hours of 1000hours and 2000hours (i) a restaurant, and (ii) a takeaway, and
(b) the following shall operate between the hours of 0800 hours and 2000 hours —
(ii) funeral parlour,
(iii) general dealer,
(v) maintenance and hardware services,
(vi) tuckshop, (vii) health facility,
(viii) medical aid services,
(x) fuel filling station,
(xi) pharmacy or chemist,
(xii) agricultural shop, or
(xiii) designated place for the collection of social protection packages.
3. From 1st October 2021, these businesses will resume their normal operating hours and when the need arises to restrict days and hours of operation, this will be regulated through the Shop and Restaurant Hours Act, 1942. The resumption of operating hours might result in congestion in trading places and to mitigate against this which has potential to spread the virus, businesses should continue to exercise caution in their operations.
ii. Regulation 21: Closure of Liquor Stores
(1) A liquor licence issued in terms of the Liquor Act is hereby suspended until further notice, all liquor stores shall remain closed and no liquor shall be sold.
(2) For purposes of this regulation, “liquor” includes all traditional beers
For avoidance of doubt, liquor licence means;
a) Bar liquor licence;
b) Bottle store liquor license;
c) Liquor depot licence;
d) Discotheque/nightclub license
e) Distributor liquor licence;
f) Wholesale liquor licence;
g) Club liquor licence;
h) Temporary liquor licence;
i) Restaurant bar licence; and
j) Traditional beer liquor licence.
4. As a result of this Regulation, liquor trade was affected during the SoE, due to restricted times of operations or complete closure of the liquor outlets. It was observed that during that period, some liquor licensees such as Bars and Bottle Stores, converted to Restaurants (issued under the Trade Act) because there were considered to be having advantage in selling liquor despite restrictions.
5. To address this challenge post SOE, the Liquor Amendment Act, 2021 was passed by Parliament in August 2021 and is awaiting to be assented to Law. The following amendments have been made:
• A new Section 39A (1) has been inserted to state that, “where the Minister responsible for health and wellness, determines that carrying on a trade in liquor or business in liquor poses a danger to public health or that a danger to public health is likely to occur, the Minister may prescribe such measures as may be necessary ”.
• A new Section 29A has been included to indicate that, a Distributor Liquor and Wholesale Liquor shall sell liquor to a liquor licensee only. Therefore, traders should produce Liquor Licences (liquor traders) upon purchase of liquor. This will curb sale of liquor by unlicensed members of the public including in homesteads.
6. Throughout the SoE, Nightclub/Discotheque were not allowed to operate during SoE. As part of its efforts to support these establishments, Government took a decision to exempt Nightclub/Discotheque licence holders from applying for licences renewal, payment of licence fees and penalties for a period of two (2) years effective 1st April 2020 to 31st March 2022. Therefore, as these establishments open for business, they will not be liable to pay any outstanding fees and penalties. The Ministry in collaboration with Licensing Authorities across the country will be ready to facilitate them as may be necessary.
7. In terms of liquor outlets which contravene the Liquor Act, Liquor Control Authorities will be continuously engaged and advised to effectively exercise their functions as laid down in the Liquor Act, such as Section 23 that empowers Authorities to revoke licenses for non-compliance.
iii. Regulation 22 – Suspension of applicable penalties
(1) Any licence, permit, identity card or authorisation issued to any person under any Act which expires during the duration of the state of public emergency shall be deemed to be valid for the duration of the emergency proclamation.
(2) Subregulation (1) shall not apply to any licence, permit or authorisation which expired before the declaration of the state of public emergency.
(3) Any penalty applicable for failure to renew any licence, permit, identity card or authorisation is hereby suspended for the duration of the emergency proclamation
8. During SoE, penalties on licenses(trade and manufacturing) and permits (imports) were suspended. Therefore, in line with the above, upon exit from SoE, the following will apply:
• All penalties that accrued during SoE, from April 2020 to 30th September 2021 will not be paid and penalties paid during SOE will be used to offset applicable annual fees; and
• All import permits which could not be fully utilised due to the SOE will be validated for a period of six (6) months or until the exhaustion of the Pula value of the items listed in the permit. This will however, be subject to import restrictions.
iv. Regulation 24 – Import of essential supplies
(1) During the state of public emergency essential supplies shall be imported and supplied by licensed suppliers only.
(2) Any person who contravenes the provisions of subregulation (1) commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding P100 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to both.
9. Businesses were facilitated to import essential supplies for the fight against COVID-19 through rebate item 412.11 under schedule No. 4 of the Customs Act that makes provision for importation for relief of distress of persons in cases of famine or natural disaster; under any technical assistance agreement or in terms of an obligation under any multilateral international agreement. The Rebate Facility covered among others, medical and pharmaceutical supplies, veterinary medicines and food items. The Rebate Facility will continue beyond SoE and will be reviewed as and when necessary.
v. Regulation 25 – Pricing of sale of essential supplies
During the state of public emergency —
(a) Where there is an increase in the cost of procurement or production of essential supplies, a trader shall not increase the price of procurement or production of essential supplies by more than the additional cost of procurement or production of such essential supplies; and
(b) a trader who sells essential supplies shall not sell any other goods which are not essential supplies.
(2) A trader who contravenes the provisions of subregulation (1) commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding P100 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to both.
10. Post the State of Emergency (SoE), there is a likelihood that prices of basic goods will increase substantially given that in April 2021 there were price increases for Value Added Tax (VAT), Fuel, Electricity and Botswana Housing Corporation rentals. Since Botswana is a free market economy and has abolished price control, the market will continue to carry out the following measures to reach the consumers.
• Education – to continuously educate consumers and businesses through print media, TV and radio on the need to ensure that they uphold their responsibilities;
• Business monitoring and compliance – to ensure that standards for local and imported products for essential and basic goods and services are adhered to;
• Anti-Competitive Behaviour – all anti-competitive behavior’s reported will be investigated accordingly; and
• Stakeholders Collaboration – strengthen stakeholder’s collaboration and engagement.
vi. Regulation 26 – Standards specifications for hand sanitisers
(1) Standard BOS 844:2020 is hereby declared the hand sanitiser specification with immediate effect. (2) Any person who contravenes this regulation commits an offence and shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to a fine not exceeding P5 000, or to both.
11. Beyond SOE, BOS 844 will be gazetted under the Standards Act for it to remain mandatory.
12. As the SOE comes to an end, COVID-19 still remains a challenge and this requires concerted efforts by all stakeholders to contain the virus. Therefore, all businesses will be expected to continue to comply to good hygiene practices including use of disposable, individually wrapped plastic utensils/dishes/packages for serving of food and liquor, cleaning of surfaces (tables, chairs, counters) after each customer’s use, sanitising working equipment/tools regularly and maintaining social distancing at all times to avoid congestion. These measures will be undertaken in consultation with relevant stakeholders, including the Director of Health Services.
13. In conclusion, I wish to pass my gratitude to all stakeholders including Development Partners (UNDP, EU) and the business community (Business Botswana, Botswana Alcohol Industry Association, BEMA) for their engagement with the Ministry and support rendered during the Covid-19 pandemic. The war is not over and the Ministry will continue this engagement with a view to resuscitating the economy, while minimizing the spread of the virus.