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Global tobacco use prevalence rates are declining – WHO

The third edition of the World Health Organization WHO report on trends in prevalence of tobacco use says tobacco kills and sickens millions of people every year. Around 8 million people died from a tobacco-related disease in 2017. According to the report, the number of annual deaths can be expected to keep growing even after rates of tobacco use start to decline, because tobacco-related diseases take time to become apparent.

A global commitment to reversing the tobacco epidemic was made in 2003 when member states of the World Health Organization adopted the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which lays out specific, evidence-based actions that all parties to the convention should take to effectively reduce demand for tobacco. World Health Organisation says in 2000, around a third, or 33.3% of the global population both sexes combined and aged 15 years and older, were current users of some form of tobacco.

By 2015, this rate had declined to about a quarter, or 24.9 per cent of the global population. Assuming that current efforts in tobacco control are maintained in all countries, the rate is projected to decline further to around a fifth (20.9%) of the global population by 2025. It was further shared that in the same year 2000, around half of men aged 15 years and older were current users of some form of tobacco. By 2015, the proportion of men using tobacco had declined to 40.3%.

By 2025, the rate is projected to decline to 35.1 per cent. Around one in six women or 16.7 per cent aged 15 years and older were current users of some form of tobacco. In 2015, the proportion of women using tobacco had declined to under one in ten. By 2025, the report says the rate will decline to 6.7%. In 2000, according to WHO report, the proportion of males using any form of tobacco was three times the proportion of users among women. By 2015 the rate for males was more than four times the rate of females.

By 2025, the rate for males is expected to be five times the rate of females. The 2025 target set under the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-2020 specified that countries should strive to achieve a 30 per cent reduction in tobacco use prevalence using 2010 level as baseline. This translates to a maximum total tobacco use prevalence rate of 19.1 per cent for the total population aged 15 years and older, 30.2 per cent for males and 8.0 per cent for females.

The trend analyses undertaken for this report indicate that the reduction target will not be met for males but will likely be met for females. The projected 2025 prevalence rate of 35.1 per cent for males would be short of the target by an absolute 4.9 per cent. The projected 2025 prevalence rate of 8.0 per cent for females would exceed the target by 1.3 per cent.

Overall, the report indicated that the global target for the total population will fall short of meeting the overall global target of 19.1 per cent by 1.8 per cent. Instead of achieving the 30% relative reduction globally called for in the NCD target, the relative reduction likely to be achieved based on current efforts is 23.4 per cent (18.8 per cent and 41.2 per cent for males and females respectively)

Further, the report noted that there has been a steady decline in any tobacco use for both males and females in each age group over the observed period 2000-2015. The age-specific rates are projected to continue declining to 2025 for both males and females. The age-specific rates peak at age group 45-54 for men and, for women, at age group 55-64 in some years and 65-74 in others. The report said the absolute prevalence levels have been consistently higher for males than those for females in each age group.

Among young people aged 15-24 globally; the average rate of tobacco use has declined from 22.6 per cent in the year 2000 to 17.0 per cent in 2015. The rate in 2025 is projected to be 14.2 per cent. Among men in the age group 15-24, the report stressed that tobacco use has declined from 35.3% in the year 2000 to 27.6 per cent in 2015. The rate in 2025 is projected to be 23.6%. Among women in this age group, the 2000 rate of 9.3% reduced to 5.6% by 2015, and is projected to continue downwards to 4.2% by 2025.

The age-standardized tobacco use prevalence rates are declining in all WHO regions, the report claims. In the year 2000, it is estimated that the South-East Asia region had total tobacco use rates at around 47%. This was the highest average rate of any WHO region. The lowest average rate was estimated to be 18.5% in the African region. These two regions have continued to be the regions with highest and lowest average rates respectively, but the gap between them have narrowed and are expected to keep narrowing to 2025. The South-East Asia region is tracking towards an average prevalence rate in 2025 of 25.1 per cent and the African region is tracking towards 11.2 per cent.

Focusing on the period 2010-2025- the period of interest for monitoring reduction targets under the WHO Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-2020- the only WHO region expected to achieve a 30 per cent relative reduction in prevalence of current tobacco use by 2025 is the Americas region.

The average rate of current tobacco use in Americas region is expected to fall from around 23% in 2010 to 15% in 2025, assuming tobacco control efforts in Americas region countries are maintained at current levels. Western Pacific is the region expected to experience the least decline in the average prevalence rate- a relative reduction of around 12% between 2010 and 2025. The other region with a relatively slow rate of decline is the European region, currently tracking towards an 18% relative reduction between 2010 and 2025.

According to this report, in 2000, the highest average prevalence rates among males were in the South-East Asian region (62.5%), followed by the Western Pacific region (55.6%). The trend in these two regions crossed over in 2014 and the Western Pacific region is now projected to have the highest rates among males in 2025, averaging 46.4%. The South-East Asian region average is projected to reach 42.9%.

The report said the Eastern Mediterranean and European regions are in the middle ground, with very similar prevalence levels and trends among men in all years, from 46-47% in 2000 to 30-31% in 2025. The African region is the region with the lowest average rates for males, and is projected to remain lower than other regions until 2025, when the rates for the Americas region to around the same level (20.4%).

Among males, only countries in the Americas region will collectively achieve a 30% relative reduction in the average prevalence by 2025, the report said. All other regions except the Western Pacific region are on track to reduce male prevalence rates between 19% and 22%. Western Pacific region countries are likely to achieve close to a 10% reduction between 2010 and 2025.

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Greef reports Madigele to Tsogwane

20th June 2022

Gaborone Bonnignton South Member of Parliament (MP) Christian Greef has submitted a letter of complaint to party chairman Slumber Tosogwane to take stern action against former minister Dr Alfred Madigele for causing chaos in the constituency.

There has been simmering tension between the two in Gaborone Bonnignton South, where former minister Dr. Madigele is said to be busy working the ground with the intention of contesting the constituency in 2024.  Greef is said to have fallen out of favour with the party top hierarchy due to his association with the beleaguered party secretary general Mpho Balopi, something which he says is “unfounded”.  Greef told this publication that “there are some with mischievous attempts here, but I will sort them out.”

Insiders, however, reveal that it is Madigele who has been causing unrest in the constituency as he plots his comeback to parliament in 2024. This is notwithstanding the fact that Madigele has also been promised the position of secretary general, should the party faithful ratify a proposal by the party politburo to reconfigure the position.

However, Madigele does not want to count on the SG position, hence the decision to to contest the Gaborone Bonnington South constituency. There are reports that there is a spirited campaign by some party members to reject a mulled plan to have the SG being a full-time employee of the party.  This has irked Greef and has since approached the party structures for redress. “We are writing this letter to issue a complaint regarding misconduct by certain members of the BDP in our constituency.

There are several incidents where these individuals have been causing uncalled-for disruptions during party activities in Gaborone Bonnington South,” a letter penned by Greef, addressed to the regional chairperson, reads. He further added, “The group of people who are causing all these unnecessary tension in our constituency is identified and allegedly known by Madigele’s teams who is said to be campaigning for 2023 primary elections.

As the branch we witnessed the same team with similar misconduct during Bophirima Ward by election which we believe caused the party to lose the ward and continue to bring the image of the party in disrepute.” Lately, Madigele has relocated to the same constituency and that has created anxiety to Greef who is a first-time MP. Greef is concerned about how his rival was accepted in his constituency without his knowledge. If he had his wish, he would kick out Madigele from the constituency.

Greef, in another letter copied to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and Chairman Slumber Tsogwane, says Madigele has brought the branch into disarray by campaigning for a parliamentary seat contrary to the party’s regulations for conduct of primary elections. “I therefore humbly appeal to you to call Dr Madigele, who is not a member of our branch, to order,” he said.  Party officials in the region are aware of the matter; some say the MP’s complaint is baseless. However, the MP, according to sources, will fight to the bitter end to ensure that his arch rival is purged out.

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Katlholo’s lawyers slap DCEC with bill in its row with DIS

20th June 2022
Tymon Katlholo

Monthe and Marumo Attorneys who are representing suspended Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo in a legal dispute pitting him against the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have said that they would submit a legal bill to the agency.

This was after DCEC’s acting Director General, Tshepo Pilane had written a letter to the law firm demanding that some files and documents belonging to the agency be returned.  “We refer to your letter dated 3rd June 2022 wherein you advised of termination of our mandate. In view thereof we have to file a notice of withdrawal as attorneys of record for and on behalf of the Organisation (DCEC),” Monthe Marumo Attorneys said in their letter.

The lawyers also indicated that, “the firm is in the process of finalizing your invoice and upon settlement of same, we will duly release the contents of the file, in so far as it relate to DCEC.”  Pilane had informed the law firm that, “Following the Directorate’s termination of any and/or mandate between the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and your law firm and/or attorney of an Associate law firm of Monthe Marumo and Company on the 3rd June 2022.”

He added that, “I do hereby request that all DCEC documents in custody be returned to the DCEC on or before 12hours today the 6th June 2022. You are also informed that none of this information shall be used by your office under any circumstances.”  Meanwhile Katlholo has told the High Court that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security was on the rampage as it continues to act with impunity.

He revealed this in an urgent application in which he seeks among others that Pilane, Deputy Director General of DCEC Priscilla Israel and the agency’s senior legal advisor Edwin Batsalwelang to be committed to jail for contempt of a court. The Court order had directed that a deputy sheriff should collect files and dockets from the DCEC office and place them into the custody of the Court.  “Consequent to the order of his Lordship, the DISS has continued on its rampage and has arrested two officers of the DCEC and detained them in a Hitler style arrangement,” said Katlholo.

He added that, quite clearly the “DISS with the assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents seeks to conceal all the evidence by obstructing Judicial process.”  He said his latest current application has been brought at the earliest opportunity following defiance and acts of obstruction at the instance of the respondents. Katlholo saidthe conduct of the Pilane, Israel, Batsalelwang and DIS are an aggression on the rule of law, the Constitution of Botswana and the Judiciary in general.

“The DISS clearly has every intention of continuing to defy my rights and with the due assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents (Pilane, Israel and Batsalelwang). To refuse an interdict, thereby allowing the perpetration of an ongoing wrong is an anathema to the principle of legality,” said Katlholo. He said, “The DISS cannot be allowed to continue acting in contravention of the law, and to fragrantly invade an act of Parliament.”

He reiterated that the files or documents or dockets remain vulnerable and there is need that they be removed from the office and placed in the custody of the Registrar. There can never be a safe place than Court, said Katlholo.  “Should the matter not be heard as urgent, the likelihood of the files concerned and the information therein dissipating or being interfered with is high and once the evidence of the concerned files has been compromised or contaminated there is no other relief in law that fix such, there is therefore no alternative remedy,” he said.

Katlholo added that, “Most importantly, any unwarranted access to the files may compromise the integrity of ongoing investigations and expose informants and whistleblowers. Once they have been compromised, no court action may restore such.”  He said it was necessary and extremely urgent that the Court steps in to protect the rule of law against the respondents, more particularly the DIS and its agents.

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US monitoring Thuso Tiego arrests

20th June 2022
Thuso Tiego

The United States through its State Department’s annual report on global religious freedoms is keeping tabs on Botswana’s decision to arrest of controversial pastor Thuso Tiego by the police.

The report was released a week ago.  Tiego was re-arrested this week by the police after he allegedly attempted to spearhead a campaign aimed at shutting down some shops that are run by foreigners. The US’ State Department report says Police arrested a pastor from the Bethel Transfiguration Church September 7 when he tried to deliver a petition to President Mokgweetsi Masisi demanding his resignation over what the pastor said was mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.

“The pastor, Thuso Tiego, also criticized the government for restricting religious gatherings at a time when he said that individuals turned to churches for counselling and support during the pandemic,” the report says.  It says Tiego was held overnight at a police station and released without charge.  The report cites media reports saying that several of his supporters were beaten by police when they gathered outside the station demanding Tiego’s release.

“The national police service did not announce any disciplinary action against the officers involved,” the report says adding that, “The constitution provides for freedom of religion, with certain exceptions, and protection against governmental discrimination based on creed.”
On other related issues, the report said the government continued to pursue court cases involving unregistered churches (sometimes called “fire churches”) coming into the country to “take advantage of” local citizens by demanding tithes and donations for routine services or special prayers.

“The government required pastors of some of those churches to apply for visas – even those from countries whose nationals were normally allowed visa-free entry.  The government said in June 2019 that it was reviewing the visa policy for these foreign pastors, but by year’s end had not released the results of this review or announced any changes,” the report says.   According to the report, former members of one of the most prominent unregistered churches forced to close in 2019, the Enlightened Christian Gathering, subsequently formed their own smaller, independent churches with local leadership that was ultimately registered by the government.

The report says, under the COVID-19 state of emergency that ended in September, the government limited attendance at religious services to no more than 50 persons at one time and limited services to twice a week.  The government also banned all religious gatherings during “extreme social distancing” periods.  Although the limits on religious gatherings lasted 18 months and prevented some individuals from fully practicing their faith, most religious groups did not say their freedom of religion was being restricted and stated that the extraordinary measures were necessary for public health

The report says the US Embassy officials engaged with Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, and other religious representatives to discuss religious freedom, interreligious relations, and community engagement. “Topics included government tolerance of minority religious groups, the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on religious expression, and interfaith cooperation to address community challenges,” the report says.

The report says under its broader protections of freedom of conscience, the constitution provides for freedom of thought and religion, the right to change religion or belief, and the right to manifest and propagate religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance.
It says the constitution’s provision of rights also prohibits discrimination based on creed.

The constitution permits the government to restrict these rights in the interest of protecting the rights of other persons, national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health when the restrictions are deemed “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.”   “The state of emergency imposed from March 2020 to September 2021 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which capped the size of regular religious gatherings and meetings, was the first time the government ever exercised this provision,” the report says.

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