Masisi, Khama feud reaches Parliament
The ongoing stand-off between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama reached the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) this week. The Permanent Secretary from Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Thuso Ramodimoosi was having a difficult time trying to defend the actions of his superiors.
Ramodimoosi who indicated that he is new at the Office of the President, had to be rescued by his support team on several occasions in answering piercing questions from a seven member panel. PAC is a parliamentary committee that studies public audits, invites ministry officials for questioning, and issues a report of their findings subsequent to a government budget audit.
The committee, currently chaired by Abraham Kesupile wanted to find out the reasons why the Office of the President issued a directive on government media blackout against former President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama. “There is nothing that says we should not cover former president, however, there have been concerns regarding the statement he made especially in Bobonong, and we were told to use our editorial discretion when covering him,” said deputy permanent secretary for broadcasting and information services, Bonnie Matshaba.
It has however emerged from the PAC sitting that President Masisi never issued the directive but rather it was his permanent secretary, Carter Morupisi who did. “It was not a directive from the President, the PSP raised the concerns,” added Matshaba. “There has never been a blackout as you put it, resources permitting we will cover him. We will use our editorial judgement and of course blackout is still an option,” a seemingly nervous Matshaba highlighted.
The message to cut-off Khama in the government owned mediums was delivered to Mass Media top echelons last month. The directive which came from the Permanent Secretary to the President asked the gate keepers to throw away any material from independent content providers that has the former president. It was argued that Khama will gain ‘political and undeserved mileage’ through production houses which normally cover his ‘charitable’ initiatives.
“We are focused on delivering government material to Batswana. We give priority to those who push government initiatives like President, his vice, and ministers. We are not going to give him (Khama) airtime because both BTV and Radio Botswana are pushing government initiatives, and what is he pushing?” Morupisi said in an interview with this publication. In response Khama has turned to private media which he hated with a passion during his reign. Most of his activities are covered by independent media houses with the entire government mediums including print shunning him.
THE AIRCRAFT DEBATE
The accounting officer, Ramodimoosi could not clearly respond to another directive that blocked Khama from getting air transport. “I am not aware of any directive, but I have heard about that,” he said before adding, “I don’t know if he can ask for a lift from other organisations if he needs air transport,” he responded to a PAC member, Dithapelo Keorapetse’s question before the committee ordered him to go and inform himself before re-appearing.
The Office of the President (OP) has rejected Khama’s request to use a chopper two times before ordering Debswana, BDF and other organizations not to lend Khama any or give him a lift. The Former President’s Pensions and Retirement Benefits Act which was amended prior to the stepping down of Khama from the presidency, gives provision for either boat or air transport by state as and when need arises.
It has been explained that for any mode of transport to be extended to former presidents other than road transport (the three vehicles) as per the amended Act, a formal request must be made but the release of such transport is dependent on the approval of the sitting president and only the president can authorize such a request. There are reports that spanners are at work to procure a helicopter for Khama.
KHAMA YET TO SUE MASISI
The accounting officer, Ramodimoosi has told PAC that Office of the President is yet to receive statutory notice from Khama. “As far as I know, we have not received anything about that. But I have heard about it,” he said. Khama has last month declared that he will sue the state for refusal to appoint his ally and close friend, the former Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) Isaac Kgosi as his private secretary (PS).
Khama’s argument emanated from the fact that Kgosi is free, and he is not working for government. “Presidents, Vice Presidents, Ministers, all choose their Private Secretaries because they are people you have to be able to work closely with. Even a member of parliament, his constituency administrator is chosen by the MP that is the practice, so I too have the same right,” Khama was quoted saying.
Khama on the matter is expected to be represented by once bitter rival advocate Duma Boko who is also the President of the main opposition party Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). Kgosi, who is the founding Director General of the DIS was fired by Masisi at the beginning of May earlier this year. Kgosi was replaced by Khama’s nemesis, Brigadier Peter Magosi, a decision that has infuriated the former president.
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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.”