A generation of children who were born with HIV has now grown up. Although life could not spare them the pain of stigmatisation, the turbulent period of adolescence and an altogether complicated life of having to live through medication; a bulk of them now lead normal lives.
For many born with HIV, stigma and discrimination have always been among the battles to conquer. Bakang Itumeleng Garebatho is among the many in Botswana born with HIV, at 23 years old now, he has disclosed his status and has dedicated a chunk of his time to combating HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination. Garebatho first learnt of his positive HIV status in 2002 when he was only 7 years old.
“At first I thought it was a curse or witchcraft. I'd isolate myself from the community including school because I thought it was written all over my face. Every time when I hear people talking about the virus, it would bring sorrow to my soul, bringing back memories of when i had to bury my own father at the age of 4 and my mother at the age of 7,” he said.
He, like many who have the HIV virus, underwent a harsh period of denial, and generally a trail of emotions, from hatred, self pity and depression. Though a hard pill to swallow, he would eventually come around and accepted himself. He knew by taking that step, he would be embracing himself and all the facets of his life, whether negative or positive, including his HIV status.
“Not only was I mad at my parents but at the whole family. No one was comfortable talking to me about my status which brought anger and depression in my life until I gained better knowledge of different situations and even put myself in their shoes. As of today though, I have made peace with my late parents and I long decided to start on a clean slate,” he said.
He has since founded an organisation, Sentebale Organisation. Through the organisation, he intends to reach out to HIV positive children who may fail to reach their goals because of fear as well as put an end to stigma. “We are living in an era were Stigma and Discrimination should be extinct. I decided to stand up and voice out to put an end to this. I want the coming generation to find a world full of cushions everywhere they fall. I chose this path because it has always been my dream to be a role model and advocate for those without voices. It was an opportunity for me to become what is inspiring to others,” he highlighted.
As a role model, he gets to interact with children, who like him, were born with HIV and had to disclose his status to them so they do not think less of themselves. “During camp, a group of children came to me praising me for the energy I had and my effort then ended up saying "Ha re kitla re tshwana le wena kagore rona re a lwala (We will never be like you because we are sick)" That's when I took it upon myself to disclose to them and tell them about my HIV status because they were clueless,” he said.
But Bonolo Selaledi, also 23 lived a parallel life. To her, all that mattered was waking up to find out that she had been cleansed and was free from the virus. She tried it all, including church. “In 2005 I defaulted after being prayed for by one prophet from the US who told me I was healed and I should throw medication away and even stop going for checkups. My mum obliged and she took me off my meds.
Five years later in 2010, I got sick and was admitted at Marina Hospital where tests were done and we were told the HIV virus was still in my body system. I suffered from migraine headaches. It was all too much for me, I was angry at God. I wondered why God did not want to free me, I was angry the prophet had lied to me and I lost hope,” she said.
She has struggled with issues of stigma too, just like Garebatho it has not been a breeze in the park for her. She has failed to find love as each time she has to go through the whole process of disclosing her status to partners who eventually leave. “Relationship life is not good. At the moment I am not involved because every time I disclose to a guy they leave,” she said. From her school days, she has been unfortunate as to find herself among a group not willing to overlook her status. Students would not want to associate with her because she was HIV positive.
“In 2014 I started my form4 and it was not easy as students isolated themselves from me after hearing i was admitted at S’brana and that I have HIV. Teachers started calling me names gore ke sematla ke gaisiwa ke bonnake and that I will never pass!” she recalled. Today, she lives a totally different story.
She has turned around her life and lives to help end HIV stigma and discrimination. “I am proud as I have helped a few to accept their status. The other problem is discrimination, some people end up committing suicide because they feel unwanted. That is what made me to come out to share my story as a way to end stigma and discrimination,” she said.
The government has failed to implement some commitments and agreements that it had entered into with unions to improve conditions of public servants.
Three years after the government and public made commitments aimed at improving conditions of work and services it has emerged that the government has ignored and failed to implement all commitments on conditions of service emanating from the 2019 round of negotiations.
In its position paper that saw public service salaries being increased by 5%, the government the government has also signalled its intention to renege on some of the commitments it had made. “Government aspires to look into all outstanding issues contained in the Labour Agreement signed between the Employer and recognised Trade Union on the 27th August 2019 and that it be reviewed, revised and delinked by both Parties with a view to agree on those whose implementation that can be realistically executed during the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively,” the government said.
Furthermore, in addition to reviewing, revising and de-linking of the outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement alluded to above and taking on a progressive proposal, government desires to review revise, develop and implement human resource policies as listed below during the financial year 2022/23,2023/24,2024/25
They include selection and appointment policy, learning and development policy, transfer guidelines, conditions of service, permanent and pensionable, temporary and part time, Foreign Service, expatriate and disciplinary procedures.
In their proposal paper, the unions which had proposed an 11 percent salary increase but eventually settled for 5% percent indicated that the government has not, and without explanation, acted on some of the key commitments from the 2019/2020 and 2021/22 round of negotiations. The essential elements of these commitments include among others the remuneration Policy for the Public Service.
The paper states that a Remuneration Policy will be developed to inform decision making on remuneration in the Public Service. It is envisaged that consultations between the government and relevant key stakeholders on the policy was to start on 1st September 2019, and the development of the policy should be concluded by 30th June 2020.
The public sector unions said the Remuneration Policy is yet to be developed. The Cooperating Unions suggested that the process should commence without delay and that it should be as participatory as it was originally conceived. Another agreement relate to Medical Aid Contribution for employees on salary Grades A and B.
The employer contribution towards medical aid for employees on salary Grades A and B will be increased from 50% to 80% for the Standard Option of the Botswana Public “Officers’ Medical Aid Scheme effective 1st October 2019; the cooperating unions insist that, in fulfilling this commitment, there should be no discrimination between those on the high benefit and those on the medium benefit plan,” the unions proposal paper says.
Another agreement involves the standardisation of gratuities across the Public Service. “Gratuities for all employees on fixed term contracts of 12 months but not exceeding 5 years, including former Industrial class employees be standardized at 30% across the Public Service in order to remove the existing inequalities and secure long-term financial security for Public Service Employees at lower grades with immediate effect,” the paper states.
The other agreement signed by the public sector unions and the government was the development of fan-shaped Salary Structure. The paper says the Public Service will adopt a best practice fan-shaped and overlapping structure, with modification to suit the Botswana context. The Parties (government and unions) to this agreement will jointly agree on the ranges of salary grades to allow for employees’ progression without a promotion to the available position on the next management level.
“The fan-shaped structure is envisaged to be in place by 1st June 2020, to enable factoring into the budgetary cycle for the financial year 2021/22,” the unions’ proposal paper states. It says the following steps are critical, capacity building of key stakeholders (September – December 2019), commission remuneration market survey (3 months from September to November 2019), design of the fan-shaped structure (2 to 3 months from January to March2020) and consultations with all key stakeholders (March to April 2020).
The unions and government had also signed an agreement on performance management and development: A rigorous performance management and reward system based on a 5-point rating system will be adopted as an integral part of the operationalization of the new Remuneration System.
Performance Management and Development (PMD) will be used to reward workers based on performance. The review of the Performance Management System was to be undertaken in order to close the gaps identified by PEMANDU and other previous reports on PMS between 1st September 2019 and 30th June 2020 as follows; internal process to update and revise the current Performance Management System by January 2020.
A job evaluation exercise in the Public Service will also be undertaken to among others establish internal equity, and will also cover the grading of all supervisory positions within the Public Service. Another agreement included overtime Management. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was to facilitate the conclusion of consultations on management of overtime, including consideration of the Overtime Management Task Team’s report on the same by 30th November 2019.
A public health expert, Dr Edward Maganu who is also the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has said that unlike many who are expressing shock at the population census growth decline results, he is not, because the 2022 results represents his expectations.
He rushed to dismiss the position by Statistics Botswana in which thy partly attributes the low growth rates to mortality rates for the past ten years. “I don’t think there is any undercounting. I also don’t think death rates have much to do with it since the excessive deaths from HIV/AIDS have been controlled by ARVs and our life expectancy isn’t lower than it was in the 1990s,” he said in an interview with this publication post the release of the results.
Preliminary results released by Statistics Botswana this week indicated that Botswana’s population is now estimated to be 2,346,179 – a figure that the state owned data agency expressed worry over saying it’s below their projected growth. The general decline in the population growth rate is attributed to ‘fertility’ and ‘mortality’ rates that the country registered on the past ten years since the last census in 2011.
Maganu explained that with an enlightened or educated society and the country’s total fertility rate, there was no way the country’s population census was going to match the previous growth rates. “The results of the census make sense and is exactly what I expected. Our Total Fertility Rate ( the average number of children born to a woman) is now around 2.
This is what happens as society develops and educates its women. The enlightened women don’t want to bear many children, they want to work and earn a living, have free time, and give their few children good care. So, there is no under- counting. Census procedures are standard so that results are comparable between countries.
That is why the UN is involved through UNFPA, the UN Agency responsible for population matters,” said Maganu who is also the former adviser to the World Health Organisation. Maganu ruled out undercounting concerns, “I see a lot of Batswana are worried about the census results. Above is what I have always stated.”
Given the disadvantages that accompany low population for countries, some have suggested that perhaps a time has come for the government to consider population growth policies or incentives, suggestions Maganu deems ineffective.
“It has never worked anywhere. The number of children born to a woman are a very private decision of the woman and the husband in an enlightened society. And as I indicated, the more the women of a society get educated, the higher the tendency to have fewer children. All developed countries have a problem of zero population growth or even negative growth.
The replacement level is regarded as 2 children per woman; once the fertility level falls below that, then the population stops growing. That’s why developed countries are depending so much on immigration,” he said.
According to him, a lot of developing countries that are educating their women are heading there, including ourselves-Botswana. “Countries that have had a policy of encouraging women to have more children have failed dismally. A good example is some countries of Eastern Europe (Romania is a good example) that wanted to grow their populations by rewarding women who had more children. It didn’t work. The number of children is a very private matter,” said Maganu
For those who may be worried about the impact of problems associated with low growth rate, Maganu said: “The challenge is to develop society so that it can take care of its dependency ratio, the children and the aged. In developed countries the ratio of people over 60 years is now more than 20%, ours is still less than 10%.”
The preliminary results show that Mogoditshane with (88,098) is now the biggest village in the country with Maun coming second (85,293) and Molepolole at third position with 74,719. Population growth is associated with many economic advantages because more people leads to greater human capital, higher economic growth, economies of scale, the efficiency of higher population density and the improved demographic structure of society, among many others.
Gabane-Mmankgodi Member of Parliament Kagiso Mmusi, who is also the Minister of Justice looks set to retain his place as ruling party, Botswana democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary candidate for the constituency after his team triumphed at the party’s branch congress held recently.
Mmusi’s team, as expected sailed through by claiming all executive positions of chairperson, secretary, treasurer, vice chairman, and vice treasurer.
Despite reports doing rounds that Mmusi’s team was defeated, the victorious chairperson of the Women Wing branch, Pinkie Mmusi confirmed that they stand with the area Member of Parliament.
For the position of branch chairperson, Baby Chalengwa defeated Tshepo Thobega with 51 votes to 44 votes. On the other hand the branch chairperson, Chalegwa also confirmed their solidarity with the area Member of Parliament.
The anti-Mmusi’s camp has been working hard to prepare for his dethronement in the run-up to the 2024 general election, but it appears the Minister of Justice is holding his ground and will be a tough opponent to dispose at the party primary elections.
Since Minister Mmusi’s name is regularly linked with the Vice Presidency for the future, some within the party use this against him to label him as a power hungry politician. However, Mmusi’s supporters have pointed out that the MP has never spoken on the subject and is only focused on delivering as a legislator and Minister.