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GUS Matlhabaphiri: His final days

Gus Matlhapbaphiri certainly left without saying goodbye. It has been a dreadful week for the man in-charge of ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s election machinery.  With the much anticipated Bulela Ditswe in the vicinity, Matlhabaphiri’s schedule could not have been busier. Staff Writer ALFRED MASOKOLA traces the last moments of the BDP stalwart. 

The Political Educations and Elections Committee (PEEC) is definitely one of the ruling party’s most important sub-committees. It handles the thin-skinned duty of running the party primary elections, known commonly as Bulela Ditswe. Due assiduousness is prerequisite in every stage, lest things go wrong and the party is thrown into turmoil.

Since 2015, subsequent to Mmadinare Congress, Matlhabaphiri had been mandated with leading the PEEC sub-committee by the party decision making organ, the Central Committee. Matlhabaphiri was a befitting candidate, having been part and parcel of the BDP furniture for over five decades; his presence in the committee was immeasurable.    

Not only did Gus know the BDP machinery, he also knew the culture and the values of the party. Gus had been retained as PEEC chairperson, following the 2017 Tonota Congress. His schedule had been busy. Almost every morning and afternoon, Gus commuted to Gaborone from his village of Molepolole for committee meetings and elections preparations.

Gus could have easily stayed in Gaborone for convenience, but he was also running for a parliamentary seat back home, hence he had to divide his time to serve the party and as well as his constituents. Having lost the constituency to Mohammed Khan of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in 2014, keeping in touch with constituents was of paramount importance.

Ever his people’s servant, the week he met his untimely demise, a family belonging to the constituency he was eyeing had been befallen by tragedy. In a shocking incident, three of the family members, the father, mother and youngest son were killed by unknown assailants. Gus ran helter-skelter to organise resources for the family; from food hampers to anything that would be of help. 

Thursday 28 June was an ordinary day. There was no reason to suspect that it was not―, Gus, as routine, left Molepolole for Gaborone the same way he always did. But this time, he was not to return home to Molepolole alive. This was probably one of his busiest days of the week. His first stop was the African Mall, where he was going for a business meeting, in preparation for an application of Botswana Qualification Authority (BQA) accreditation process for one of burgeoning schools, where he happened to be a shareholder.

Next, he would be at a PEEC meeting scheduled for 11:00 am at Tsholetsa House. This would be followed by collection of donations from different charitable individuals who had pledged. His last stop at Gaborone would be at the party Treasurer, Satar Dada’s office at Fairgrounds Mall. Later at 15:00, he was to meet the Molepolole family, together with party secretary general, Mpho Balopi, who was to stand in for President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

All the above followed the script to the letter, except the Molepolole setting. A few minutes after parting ways with Dada, Gus’s health condition changed, all within the blink of an eye. As they prepared to leave Fairgrounds Mall to depart for Molepolole, GUS orders his aide, Joseph Kgarebe, known mostly as ‘Satara’ to democrats, to refuel their vehicle.

He further orders ‘Satara’ to purchase mineral water as well as tissue paper; since the previous day, Gus had been complaining of flu. He had visited a pharmacy at African Mall the previous day to try arrest the problem but it seemed the medication had not been effective. This time around, Gus’ opted for different medication in hopes that it would do better. As ‘Satara’ leaves for Choppies, to purchase water, Matlhabaphiri headed to the pharmacy in the Fairgorunds Mall. The two men had agreed to meet at the pharmacy after ‘Satara’ had completed all errands.  

‘Satara’ has been Gus’ aide for some time now. He accompanied him almost everywhere and helps Gus in discharging his duties as chair of the PEEC. ‘Satara’ was essentially, GUS’ new protégé. On his return from Choppies, to meet Gus at the Pharmacy, ‘Satara’ finds his mentor not yet done.  GUS sends him back to Choppies, this time around to buy a lemon, which he initially forgot to include on the earlier list.

As ‘Satara’ approaches the pharmacy from Choppies, this time around he is met by a desperate plea from the pharmacy assistant, who had just veered  off the door, urging him to hurry, as Gus was not well. From a distance, ‘Satara’ sees a picture of his mentor, heavily leaning against the counter. He rushed and calls with desperation … “MP…MP… MP…what’s wrong?” Gus explains in low voice the pain he is going through. He guides him to a seat, but Gus is experiencing extreme pain.

Immediately, Satara calls 997, informing them that ‘a former minister has just collapsed’. ‘Satara’ who has experience working with medics, tried to apply the little knowledge he had to try save his mentor, but nothing he tried worked. Within a short period of time, Gus’ voice began to fade, so did his breath. Within a short period of time, he was quiet, unable to explain what he was experiencing any longer.

By the time the ambulance arrived, only some minutes after ‘Satara’ had called, it was too late. The medics tried to resuscitate him hoping their last ditch would work. As the ambulance left the Fairground Mall, ‘Satara’ exercised another option, calling Gus’ doctor based at Marina, informing him to rush to the emergency section, and to be the one assessing him.

This particular doctor had known Gus’ medical history, a heart problem to be precise. Shortly after the doctor had assessed Gus, the doctor delivered the worst news. Gus did not make it. Receiving the bad news was ‘Satara’ in the presence of of Balopi as well as Dada, who had been called in during the commotion. Gus had left without warning, not even a goodbye!

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Fighting vulture poisoning in KAZA region.

3rd February 2023
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,’

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Giant in the making: Everton Mlalazi

3rd February 2023

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.

In the music business it’s about talent and positioning. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people around you to propel you forward.
Against all odds, Everton Mlalazi has managed to takeover the gospel scene effortlessly.
To him, it’s more than just a breakthrough to stardom, but a passion as well as mission directly appointed by the Lord.

Within a short space of 2 years after having decided to persue a solo career, Mlalazi has already made it into international music scene, with his music receiving considerable play on several gospel television and radio stations in Botswana including other regional stations like Trace Africa, One Gospel, Metro FM in South Africa, Hope FM in Kenya and literally all broadcast stations in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t only stop there, as the musician has already been nominated 2 times and 2 awards which are Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) best Male artists 2022, StarFM listerners Choice Award, Best Newcomer 2021 and ZIMA Best Contemporary Gospel 2022, MLA awards Best Male artist & Best Gospel Artist 2022.

Everton’s inspiration stems from his ultimate passion and desire to lead people into Godly ways and it seems it’s only getting started.
The man is a gospel artist to put on your radar.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

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.”

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