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Kenewendo has softened up

It has been hardly three months in office for Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo, but already critics are calling her out, accusing her of deviating from her bold stances. The 31 year old Specially Elected Member of Parliament (SEMP), detractors say she has turned ‘soft’.

It would appear, her last week interaction with members of the media, where she outlined her new ministry roadmap has attracted scrutiny, particularly from Alliance of Progressives Youth League President, Jacob Kelebeng who is of the view that the minister is either misinformed or deliberately feeding the public with wrong information.

 Minister Kenewendo told a press conference last week that her ministry had worked out a strategy to robustly combat hindrances in trade and impediments to ease of doing business, and in turn promote industrialization from both domestic and foreign investment. The bottom line was outlined as delivery of the much needed economic diversification and employment opportunities.

Further, Kenewendo had given a report on the Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) saying that since the infamous BCL mine closure, government had through the Phikwe Revitalization Strategy created over 750 jobs so far. Kelebeng told WeekendPost this week that Kenewendo’s statements on Selibe Phikwe were just her misleading the nation for political gain. “Our people in Phikwe are still jobless, so it is very difficult to appreciate which jobs the Minister was referring to,” noted Kelebeng.

The AP Youth Leader further told this publication that Kenewendo has since softened up compared to when she was still a back bencher in parliament and a member of the Public Accounts Committee. “She has now adopted a low note approach to addressing the very problems she was highlighting before becoming a minister, she is in the very ministry she has been scrutinizing, now we expect solutions as a matter of urgency,” asserted the AP leader. 

Kelebeng also underscored that it was imperative for Kenewendo to move swiftly to address what he termed incompetency and duplication of mandates between SPEDU and Former Bank of Botswana Governor Linah Mhohlo’s Phikwe Revitalization Strategy. “These are amongst other issues that Kenewendo raised when she arrived in parliament, we are not expecting her to quickly make changes but we need to appreciate consistency and the same seriousness in her tone and approach, but she has now began praising the same SPEDU and accommodating Linah Mhohlo whereas she is on record grilling MITI Permanent Secretary Peggy Serame about Linah Mhohlo’s role,” submitted Kelebeng.

Meanwhile, in Kenewendo’s defence Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) National Youth Executive Committee Vice Chairperson, Vuyo Yane told WeekendPost that the 31 year old Minister should be given time. “Apart from the fact that she is only a few months in office, she cannot be scaled the same. She is a minister now, she no longer just identifies problems she has to solve them and solving problems is a process,” said the BDP NYEC deputy leader.  Yane, who is a Specially Elected Councilor at Sowa Township Council submitted that in due time Kenewendo would crack the whip. “The key issue would be the implementation of this roadmap, and we can only hope for the best and support her, she will deliver,” he said.

Another issue that arose was the Minister’s stance on foreign retailer’s uptake of locally produced goods, the SEMP spoke robustly against what she termed exploitation of the local market by foreign companies. When answering a question at the recent Press Conference, Kenewendo highlighted that talks were ongoing with retailers, traders, products and service dealers to make them appreciate government’s intention on citizen economic empowerment.  It was noted that for instance some music products dealers at local malls were not retailing any locally produced music from Botswana artists.

However Kenewendo noted that her ministry would formulate a policy to engage all retailers across board into ways they can better appreciate Botswana products. “This is not the position she held prior a cabinet post, she was clear government wasn’t doing enough on several occasions when taking the former Trade Minister to Task,” a local Business columnist. “This matter cannot be addressed by policy, we need laws that can bind this retailer so Kenewendo needs to crack the whip and put things into legislative frameworks because she was talking about these things before being appointed to cabinet,” he said.

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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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