The P10 billion foreign aid from the United States government is coming to end, leaving local marginalised populations including female sex workers, homosexuals, and refugees as US government pull a plug on President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
PEPFAR is the U.S. Government’s initiative to support partner nations around the world in responding to HIV and AIDS. It is the largest commitment by any nation in history to combat a single disease internationally. Since PEPFAR’s inception in 2004, Botswana has received more than $954,838,751 million (about P10billion) in health assistance from the U.S. government in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
This publication has however learnt that the program which focused its services in select sites for key populations, including female sex workers, men who have sex with men, and non-citizens will as of March next year be history. Botswana was the first country in southern Africa to roll out an antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programme, which now has almost universal coverage.
However it is the only country in the region that explicitly bars refugees from its national treatment programme. South Africa, Zambia and, most recently, Namibia have all extended ARV access to their refugee populations, while other countries in the region provide access on an unofficial basis.It is not clear as to why the US has pulled a plug in a country which is hard hit by the epidemic. Sources however say the relief program was abused by the coordinators. “Poor corporate governance is the main reason the aid stops,” said an informant close to the action this week.
This now mean the government will have to foot the bills that were taken care of by the PEPFAR. Since 2004 up to date PEPFAR has invested $954,838,751 (about P10.2billion), with a total sum of $70,239,250 (about P755 million) budgeted for this year alone. Among a number of services the relief program offered are; Antiretroviral treatment for 317,378 people. Voluntary medical male circumcision for 57,471 men. HIV testing services for 708,102 people. Care and support for 35,805 orphans, vulnerable children, and their caregivers.
Ministry of Defense, Justice and Security Permanent Secretary, Segakweng Tsiane has also confirmed before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)that as of March 2019, PEPFAR would no longer provide finance for the treatment of refugees, leaving the ministry in limbo. “We have a problem; we are faced with sourcing out funds for the ARV’s. Next year there will be no funding from our main source. We are working on a budget,” she said.
Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Executive Director Cindy Kelemi has also registered her disappointment. “Our point has always been this was a short term thing and the government should have long integrated refugees in their mainstream program as it would be more long term,” she said. Kelemi revealed they have written to the relevant authorities as to why they stop assistance and what are the interventions in place. “But we were never replied nor consulted prior to this,” she emphasised.
BONELA which is a human rights advocacy group is concerned with the way the government handles refugees. “We are planning to work with human rights watch, the way we [Botswana] treat our foreigners’ leaves a lot to be desired,” Kelemi highlighted.
GOVT FINALLY ABSORBS ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
Meanwhile the government has finally succumbed to pressure from human rights advocacy giant United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to absorb the unwanted illegal immigrants that have been incarcerated at the Francistown centre. The 164 migrants who petitioned the government in 2015 will not be provided with food rations or medical assistance. UNHCR will have to take responsibility on that regard, sources told this paper. Botswana has been blamed for not observing international treaties especially dealing with the refugees which has put them under the spotlight on numerous occasion.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.