Saleshando snubs Boko on SONA reaction
Incumbent Leader of Opposition (LOO) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando has not consulted with the party President Duma Gideon Boko on the opposition reaction to President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), Weekend Post has learned.
It is not clear whether Boko, as the then LOO engaged and consulted with his Vice President and President of Botswana Congress party (BCP), an affiliate of UDC – who was then not in Parliament – on the party reaction towards the SONA and other equally critical matters at Parliament. However some independent pundits believe that, Saleshando as Boko’s Vice President, should from time to time consult with him on matters of national interest, especially to solicit his comments on important national matters like SONA.
When approached by this publication, Saleshando only confirmed consulting with other party colleagues in Parliament and not Boko per se. “Yes, on Tuesday I met UDC Parliamentarians to solicit their comments on SONA. I met those I was seeking help from – meaning the resource persons inside the party. So, Tuesdays and Thursdays I was going through the script,” he told Weekend Post on Thursday. When pressed on UDC President, he continued: “there was limited time to prepare to respond. In fact there was no time at all. I made the script in a short period of time, and had to respond timely.”
However, Saleshando could not be drawn on specific discussion on why he snubbed Boko on his reaction, insisting that he is not at liberty to comment on it. “I have no comment on that one,” he insisted. In terms of his response nonetheless, the Leader of Opposition said to this publication that he believes he spoke contents, and spoke to realities in the country, issues and concerns in the build up to the elections, economics of Botswana and all the problems bedeviling the country including and most importantly unemployment.
He dismissed Masisi’s SONA address saying it lacked the aspect of human condition in Botswana. “Your SONA should in the first instance be about the human condition in Botswana, i.e. how Batswana are doing? Put a human face to development management by prioritising issues of unemployment, poverty and, inequality.” He therefore stressed that Masisi’s SONA was deficient of statistics that matter about the state of human well-being in Botswana, which could have taken the core of his address.
UDC to review DCEC, DISS Act; bring Freedom of Information Act
In the speech, Saleshando relayed to the nation, UDC Parliamentary Plan for the coming 12 Months. He stated: “high on our priority, will be to amend the DCEC Act, to make it more independent and efficient in its mandate to combat corruption. We will also be presenting the Freedom of Information Act, which is a critical tool in combating corruption. We will also propose changes to the DISS Act to allow for accountability. These will be done within the next 12 months.”
‘We have also,’ he added, ‘decided to prioritise 3 of our election pledges over the coming 12 months and these are job creation, a shift to a living wage of P 3,000.00 in the formal sector within 3 financial years as well as increasing the Old Age Pension to P 1,500.00.’’ According to Saleshando, the starting point with job creation will be to insist on an annual target for the number of jobs to be created. ‘We owe it to our people to make the bold commitments on job creation. We remain convinced that 100,000 in 12 months is possible. If you find this target unattainable, please come forward and state the BDP target.”
He told the BDP Government that they will support them in the target they set for themselves, but not having a target is not acceptable and demonstrates lack of commitment to job creation. In the UDC held constituencies, he promised that the Constituency Development Funds will be strategically used to focus on labour intensive projects.
The Maun West MP continued: “there is also a need to have an annual target of repatriating the jobs that Botswana has exported. Our raw materials have been used to create jobs in foreign countries whilst our people remain unemployed. We need to move up the value chain and process our raw materials.”
We will demonstrate through parliamentary questions and motions that a living wage of P 3,000.00 a month is possible within the coming 3 financial years, the former Gaborone Central law maker highlighted, adding that an upper middle-income country should not be anchored on an impoverished workforce. “Likewise, the Old Age Pension of P 1,500.00 will be fully justified to all within the coming 12 months. Failure to increase the Old Age Pension should not be understood to be due to lack of financial capacity.
We will be demanding for government expenditure to be refocused on assisting citizen owned small and medium sized businesses,’’ he also highlighted. The UDC Vice President also expressed their support for the decision to review the constitution and declaring that they will actively participate in the process. “Chief among our proposals will be a non- discriminatory constitution, a constitution that protects socio-economic rights and oversight institutions,” he pointed out in his response to SONA.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”