President Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s administration failed in its attempts to fight alcohol abuse in the country.
Khama’s notable disdain for alcohol saw him introduce drastic measures including; a hefty fee as the alcohol levy, lately at 55%, in order to reduce its consumption. However it appears the punitive punishment for alcohol imbibers may be falling on deaf ears as more continue binge drinking alcohol and indulge in associated offences in the form of drunken driving, domestic violence, rape and murder.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) indicated through the Traffic Division statistics that alcohol consumption among Batswana especially with regard to drunken driving continue to swell. In fact the numbers have increased since 2008 when Khama took office and in the process introduced the levy.
During that year when Khama became president, 1118 number of cases was registered for motorists driving under the influence of alcohol. The number kept escalating in 2009 to 1538 and in 2010 they sat at 2464 while in 2011 the number ballooned to 2740. In 2012 more motorists were stopped for drunken driving at a whooping 3748, while 4495 were caught in 2013 and in 2014 the number again skyrocketed to 5187.
However there was a slight decrease in 2015 of the drunken drivers who were at 4882 and 4432 in 2016 while the number pierced through the sky again in 2017 when the Police registered the all time towering figure of 8218. Botswana Police also registered 255 fatal crashes in 2008 while in 2017 the number slightly increased to 366 in 2017. It also indicates that there were 455 people who died in 2008 due to accidents compared to 366 in 2017.
In terms of the accidents and casualties in which alcohol was a contributor, 14 people died in 2008 and the number also swelled to 23 lately in 2017. For the same period, 19 were detected as fatal crashes in 2017 from 10 in 2018. According to Khama, in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2017, road accidents particularly which are a result of alcohol continue to be an issue of concern. “During 2016, there were a total of 450 deaths, while we recorded 328 fatalities as of 30 September 2017,” he highlighted then.
Apart from the accidents, Khama also pointed out that alcohol in its form continues to be a serious concern to his administration: “an evaluation of the National Alcohol Campaign has also been completed which found that the share of expenditure on alcohol and tobacco has decreased at national level, albeit increased in rural areas. While 60% of Batswana have indicated reduced drinking, drinking levels nonetheless remain high with about 18% being binge drinkers.”
In terms of social impact Khama told the nation during SONA that the study further confirmed that alcohol abuse continues to have a negative health impact, as reflected, in part, in the high cost of treating associated injuries, which were estimated at P3, 580, 849 for the 2016/17 financial year. It is understood that the cost also prompted Khama to introduce the controversial health policy that denied medical coverage to people who got injured during alcohol related activities – although later rescinded.
In addition, Khama told the nation that alcohol abuse is associated with increased domestic violence, theft, assaults, road traffic accidents, rapes and murder. Alcohol abuse further contributes to teenage pregnancies and STIs including HIV/AIDS, as well as the failure of some to adhere to their ART and TB treatment, he added. He also added that additional findings included the need for a more comprehensive advertising ban on alcoholic beverages and the lowering of breath and blood alcohol content limits for drivers under the Road Traffic Act.
According to Khama the findings further confirmed that the alcohol levy has coincided with decrease in the household expenditure on tobacco as well as alcohol at the national level. Since its inception when Khama took office, he said the levy has raised just over 2.6 billion pula. Immaculate sources closer to the levy indicate that close to 12 million pula are channelled to Ministry of Health and Wellness, Department of Public Health under the Alcohol and Substance Abuse division. It is understood that the division gets around 1 million on monthly basis.
Apart from their Alcohol campaigns, the division also funds Botswana Police especially with regard to Mercedes Benz sprinter Booze buses, and also some Non Governmental Organisations like Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network (BOSASNet) who educate the public about dangers of alcohol.
The other larger chunk then goes to Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development to fund Youth businesses through Youth Development Fund (YDF). Department of Women’s Affairs also receives some to help fight gender violence. It is further understood that other unspecified funds then go to the government coffers.
Meanwhile part of the money accrued from the alcohol levy was to be channelled to the construction of rehabilitation centres to assist alcohol addicts and binge drinkers as well as educate them on responsible drinking. Indications however suggest that albeit billions accrued from the alcohol levy, there is still no structure of any rehabilitation centres across the country.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”