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Food insecurity increased rapidly in Southern African region in 2019

Food and nutrition security is an outcome of developmental factors such as access to land, credit, education and employment, as well as access to affordable agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, water and seeds. Gender inequalities, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, natural disasters and climate change all contribute in compounding ways.

According to Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability in Southern Africa 2019, about 41.2 million people in 13 countries are estimated to have been food insecure in the 2019 consumption year. When comparing the 11 Member States that provided data in 2018 and 2019, food security increased by 28%. It is also 7.4% higher than it was during the severe El Nino-induced drought of 2016 and 2017.

The report says significant increases in the number of people food insecure from 2018 have been recorded in Zambia at 144 per cent, Zimbabwe 128%, Eswatini 90%, and Mozambique 85% as well as DRC at 80%. This increase, the report says, indicates a cumulative effect of persistent drought conditions compounded by floods, pests, conflict in DRC and northern Mozambique, economic challenges and chronic structural issues. These drivers are exacerbated by climate change.

It was shared in the report that many people in the region suffer micronutrient deficiencies despite diets given that are mainly cereal-based, even where food is available. This result in high numbers of children and other vulnerable populations suffering from malnutrition, the report said. With the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters such as floods and droughts in the region, the risk of malnutrition is higher and the impact borne disproportionately by the most vulnerable.

The report further stressed that addressing malnutrition is a sustainable way and in all its forms- including stunting, wasting, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight- requires an understanding of the underlying causes at the level of the individual, household and community and region. Available 2019 data shows that the prevalence of global acute malnutrition, wasting- being too thin for your height among children under the age of 5 was above 5% in 7 Member States. There are also pockets of high wasting rates that are above 10% in the DRC, Mozambique and Southern Angola as well as Southern Madagascar.

Further, the report added that the stunting prevalence or being too short for your age was above 30%- classified as very high- in 10 of the 16 SADC Member States. It said reduction in stunting is occurring too slowly to meet the World Health Assembly 2025 or the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 targets. The ‘double burden’ of malnutrition- the concurrence of under nutrition and overweight and obesity is also a growing challenge in the region. The prevalence of overweight in four Member States (Botswana 11.2%, Comoros 10.6%, Seychelles 10.2% and South Africa 13.3%) revealed an emerging problem, the report said.

The Synthesis report added that appropriate feeding in the region is multi-dimensional and influenced by factors such as food quality, mothers’ time, level of education and cultural norms. It highlighted that the minimum acceptable diet- a measure of the quality of young children’s diets, is very low, with most Member States having it at less than 15%. This is due to the consumption of monotonous diets and lack of knowledge on appropriate feeding practices; uninformed behavioural patterns which are often influenced by culture; and caregivers’ limited access to health and nutrition services.

On contributing factors, the report stressed that Southern Africa is heavily affected by climate change and variability, and projections suggest that the impact of climate change will become more severe over the next decades. It indicated that the most pronounced manifestation of climate change will be an increase in temperatures, leading to increased heat stress and reduced crop yields. The region’s staple crop maize is particularly prone to the effects of climate change. Changes in rainfall patterns; increasingly erratic rainfall events of high intensity, leading to floods and more frequent droughts and dry spells; as well as a delayed onset of the rainfall season and an early tailing off, thus reducing the growing period for crops.

Current variability and extreme events across the region are increasingly evident. The report observed trends in weather patterns that provided evidence of climate change effects over the region in the last 15 years. Still on this report, it was reported that most cropping is practised during the November to April rainfall season, with the rest of the year being dry. The report shared insight that a strong drought affected central and western parts of the region during the 2018/19 rainfall season.

It said large parts of Southern Angola, Northern and Southern Botswana, Northern Namibia, Northern South Africa and Zimbabwe received their lowest seasonal rainfall totals since at least 1981, when regional, comparable records began. Rains were delayed and erratic, resulting in reduced area planted poor germination and wilting of crops. Angola, Botswana and Namibia declared national drought emergencies. Other countries affected by localized dry spells and drought included Eswatini, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania.

The report said that the drought affected water supplies for domestic, industrial and agricultural use, fodder and pasture continued to decline as the dry season progressed. Over 30 thousand drought related cattle deaths were recorded in Namibia between October 2018 and April 2019- the normal rainfall season. Still on contributing factors, the report indicated that in the first half of the year several countries experienced flooding caused by extreme weather events: heavy rains, hailstorms, strong winds and tropical cyclones.

In February, Madagascar recorded landslides and floods- worsened by Tropical Storm Eketsang- that affected 9.400 people; Malawi reported 135 thousand people flood affected and tropical storm Desmond in Mozambique resulted in the displacement of over 7 thousand people. The situation worsened dramatically when two tropical cyclones- Idai and Kenneth hit Comoros, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, pushing the number of people flood-affected to 3.8 million in these four countries. The report noted that the cyclones destroyed schools and clinics, disrupting access to basic services and causing widespread displacement. They also hit during the harvest. Idai alone destroyed close to 780 thousand ha of standing crops in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

It was reported that cereal production also decreased in Member States countries. Maize accounts for 80% cereal production in the region. Other important cereals are wheat, sorghum, millet and rice. Only 7% of cultivated land is irrigated. It was shared that most farmers in the region are small holders who cultivate less than 5 ha. Furthermore, the report underlined those countries that typically account for most of the regional grain supplies- Zambia and South Africa- also recorded below- average harvest, which have reduced exportable regional surplus from 7.5 million tons to 1.4 million tons. Only South Africa and Tanzania had cereal surpluses in the previous marketing year.

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State forged Kgosi’s arrest warrant

22nd July 2021
FORMER DIS BOSS: ISAAC KGOSI

In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).

The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.

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UDC parties discuss by-elections

22nd July 2021
UDC

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.

Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.

The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.

This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).

The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.

The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.

In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.

Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.

Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.

“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.

Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.

“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.

The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.

UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.

Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.

Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.

Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”

Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.

FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS  

With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.

BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.

BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.

It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.

Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”

It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.

At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.

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DIS infiltrates Police fingerprint system

22nd July 2021
Makgope

Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.

Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.

BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.

The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.

By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.

In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.

“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.

“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.

The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.

All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.

“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.

Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.

Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.

COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE

As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.

“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.

The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.

“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.

The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.

“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.

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