The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has governed this country since independence has retained power under the leadership of Mokgweetsi Masisi, following a bout of rigorous campaign.
However, this time stakes are high and a snooping civil society will watch to see if Masisi can deliver a new dawn as promised prior to the polls. Challenges besieging Botswana have continued to rise over the past ten years, but Masisi has assured the citizenry that he will clean the mess if given fresh mandate. The civil society prior to his inauguration yesterday, advanced a number of issues the President will have to prioritise if he is to take this country to the same level as the Asian Tigers.
There is a lot of optimism from various quarters which mostly emanates from the remarks made by the President in his 18 months in office. Political scientist Professor Teedzani Mpaphi, has told this publication that there will be nothing extra-ordinary, but the country will cut its coat looking at the available cloth.
“It will take time before we can see radical changes, but from Masisi what we expect is a major policy shift that should address a number of issues he was campaigning about prior to elections. There is also a need for the President to draw a road map that will show his priority areas in a chronological order.”
Workers representatives are also watching with keen interest as to what Masisi will dish for them. For the last ten years under Lt Gen Ian Khama’s presidency, the relationship between unions and government was acrimonious. There was a glimpse of hope when Masisi ascended to the top seat last year as he started engaging them, however, the unions are still not convinced and want to see a plan on how things will improve for the better.
“We are looking for an improved relations with government. It has been better yes, but we are saying we shouldn’t be at the mercy of the President, such that when he wants to see us it’s possible but it is not the same when we want to meet him. There are some ministries which are anti-labour movement and we expect a directive from President for them to engage us as and when [necessary],” BOFEPUSU President Johannes Tshukudu shared some of their expectations from Masisi in the coming five years.
A recent savingram by the government to freeze any recruitment of vacant positions from October to March 31st next year, due to financial difficulties has left the unions with more questions than answers. “This is a non-starter,” an annoyed Tshukudu quipped and continued; “We should have been consulted. We had an agreement when we made increments and it did not include freezing of filling vacant positions. And like I said, there should be a good relations where we are consulted in most matters and that we believe will happen in the next five years.”
The Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC), which Masisi promised to resuscitate but never did, is another issue that irks the union and to a further extent portray Masisi as dishonest and want it to be running very soon. “But this can only happen when we have capacitated and made serious reforms within the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM),” advised Tshukudu.
LAWYERS ON CORRUPTION
Masisi, a man who portrayed himself as having zero tolerance for corruption, is also challenged to walk the talk and show seriousness in curbing corruption scourge. “It was his campaign catch phrase and it is there in their manifesto. But to accomplish this you need to have political will. Firstly, the agencies dealing with corruption should have teeth by being granted autonomy. It has long been talked but now Masisi should act,” a private attorney, Mabengano Makgetho posited.
The issue of corruption has become a hot potato of late, this following the P250 million scandal of NPF, with the latest being P4.2 billion found in a personal account of DIS agent, a matter which is currently under court consideration. “These P4 billion issues are proceeds of crime and for Masisi administration to recover these he should be willing to spend to get the best lawyers across the world and investigate these matters thoroughly because it will take many years since the monies are syphoned to other countries,” Makgetho says.
It is believe that there is selective justice in the way corruption is being tackled, as lawyer Kgosi Ngakaagae bluntly put it; “The government is behaving like a typical mafia state where you hurt the other side by shooting its children. No right thinking citizen should allow the pattern of impunity and scapegoating to continue. Let all people mentioned in any case be in handcuffs,” he said referring to the ‘untouchables’ in these cases. “The main thing that hinders progress is corruption and you are going to be fighters in elimination of corruption”, Masisi said this to his past cabinet ministers.
“If anyone among us is corrupt we will deal with them. If you have done something that was not deemed corrupt in the past, now it is, stop it because we will deal with it. Right now there are no drugs at hospitals all these are attributed to corruption. It is not about money only, but rather inefficiency, claiming overtime that you didn’t work, lying that you dispatched tablets to hospital while you did not. The executive is supposed to direct all these and they should be sophisticated in dealing with this. If you are ministers don’t try to be a Permanent Secretary (PS), le nna I mustn’t want to be Permanent Secretary to the President,” Masisi warned passionately.
ON CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW
The attorneys and political scientist agree that before the end of this year Masisi should have assembled a law reform commission that will be tasked with revision of the constitution. “It has been long overdue and this time around there is no need for peace-meal approach, but rather the whole of the constitution should be overhauled to cater for a number of developments including the direct election of the President,” Professor Mpaphi explained.
On the other hand, lawyer Makgetho is of the view that the revision of the constitution should be priority for Masisi but says it should be accorded time it deservers including conducting referendum. “There should be a plan on how it will be carried out but all stakeholders should be included and play a big role. There is no need to have some tribes claiming to be bigger and better than others. This is hazardous and it is highly likely to divide the nation.”
Masisi prior to the elections, has repeated the need to revise the constitution. “Manifesto is linked to the constitution and we will have a comprehensive constitutional review, that’s the promise you should tell people. But it will be done when given new mandate so that we can argue at length and all the stuff. The review should be orderly and purposeful and from all Batswana.”
DIKGOSI WANT BETTER PACKAGES
With Masisi now on a full mandate, there is an air of optimism within traditional leaders that at long last their lament to have better packages could be nearing the end. This, according to Kgosi Maruje III, should they have improved conditions of services there will be no time for Dikgosi to leave their traditional roles for greener pastures which include occupying political office.
“Our welfare should be improved,” he narrated. “There have been views that we should approach the Office of President on this matter so that we can have improved conditions of services and our powers be improved too. If we have addressed these you won’t see Dikgosi going to politics, because even the parliamentary privileges are better than that of Ntlo Ya Dikgosi. We should equate Dikgosi to other three arms of government.”
Traditional leaders also demand security equivalent to those given to judges as they do the same toil of solving disputes. Private and personal secretaries must also be availed to the leaders to do their job diligently. “We also need diplomatic passports, if you can avail to athletes and MPs why don’t you give Dikgosi the same.” They also say Ministers should not supervise them but the government should establish the Royal council. Not only this but Dikgosi also want all tribes to be recognized and be included in Ntlo Ya Dikgosi to avoid marginalization of some tribes. However, this will only materialize if the constitution has been thoroughly reviewed.
EMPLOYMENT AND LAND
Youth and graduates unemployment is one challenge that Botswana is grappling with and Masisi has been urged and has agreed that he will give it the seriousness it deserves. “Government should be clear as to what sustainable ideas they have for these group to maintain themselves, not these manna from heaven programs, they need to be reviewed too. Remember unemployment is a threat to national stability and tranquillity and it should be prioritized,” Tshukudu believes. The latest statistics show that Botswana has 17.9 percent unemployment rate.
“I know that you have appetite on the number of jobs we would have created in five years. We shied away from doing that, deliberately so. And that doesn’t make our creation of job any lesser. There are lots of variables that come with job creation or committing to such,” Masisi has told his party members. Allocation of land is another area that Masisi is lobbied to push, especially servicing of land and pushing waiting lists.
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.
The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.
He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison. In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned. Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.
Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated
He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated
He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted
Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.
‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it. ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated
He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added
He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.
Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’
The music industry is at a point where artists are jostling for space because there are so many aspirants trying to get their big break, thus creating stiff competition.
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Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.
“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”
The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.
“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”
According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”