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UDC is broken, needs to be fixed – Saleshando

The President of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Dumelang Saleshando has declared that the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is broken and there is need to fix it, if it can be fixed, or reconfigure it, if it cannot be fixed.

What is coming out clear from the BCP President is his view that the Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) should take the initiative and acknowledge that there is no time for denialism. “After the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) split the UDC failed to react to the reality that such a split will reduce the strength of the party. A split is always followed by poor electoral performance. This has happened with the BNF, it has happened with the ANC in South Africa, as well as the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP),” observed Saleshando.

Speaking in an interview with this publication on Friday, Saleshando said after the split the BMD lost a lot of organisers and key people, “but it is unfortunate that the BMD does not want to accept that. We cannot close our eyes and claim that it is business as usual when we know that in some areas the BMD does not have people on the ground in constituencies they are holding onto.”

In Saleshando’s view, there was need for a serious assessment after the BMD split to see if they still have the strength or numbers in the constituencies. “It does not make sense for one party to have 500 members and the other to have 100 and you expect the former’s members to vote the latter’s candidate just because they are in a coalition.”

What is irritating Saleshando the most is the BMD’s decision to recruit known BDP sympathizers to come and contest in constituencies where they do not even have the numbers. He gave the example of the Mogoditshane and Gaborone Central constituencies and indicated that they are members find it difficult to celebrate such mediocrity.

Therefore Saleshando is steadfast that the BNF and the BCP must rise up and save the UDC before it is too late. “We should correct the anomaly where we claim that UDC is made up of equal partners. It is not true, the BCP and the BNF have the largest pool of voters and my honest estimation is that the other two partners, (BMD, BPP) do not even contribute 5% of votes to the pool,” he stressed.

He said it is frustrating that the UDC National Executive Committee has not met in five months, “the one time we tried to meet the meeting was adjourned and retreat was proposed and it never materialized. The problem is that decisions cannot be taken because we are all equal. We need to reconfigure the UDC because opposition cooperation is desirable but we should be realist,” he stated.

According to Saleshando if the UDC is to be fixed, this should be soon, “there is still time to reconfigure and even look at the issue of constituencies. We can even come up with alternative models of pushing the agenda of opposition cooperation led by the BCP and the BNF,” he said. Saleshando indicated that the UDC should be held at ransom by people who are punching above their weight. “The national leaders should stand up and provide direction.

Any cooperation should ensure that the BNF and the BCP votes are held together in one pot.” The BCP leader further indicated that he has met Alliance for Progressives leader, Ndaba Gaolathe and he is embracing the idea of working together with other opposition parties, “but we are still talking.”  He indicated that he is aware that Gaolathe has also met leader of the BNF, Duma Boko. On other issues, Saleshando said the BCP is going for its conference in Bobonong where they will reflect on the party’s contribution to politics in the last 20 years.

He said his party has always added a good voice to Parliament regardless of the numbers they had in the august house. He said they have also performed well in extra parliamentary activities such as being active in the courts to challenge matters that could have been passed in Parliament by a simple majority but not being beneficial to Batswana. He said the BCP has brought value to the discourse by bringing issues such as the Living wage debate, Constitutional reforms, debate on second generation rights and many other issues.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

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.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

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.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

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.”

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