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Khama was a constitutional delinquent Boko

The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader, Advocate Duma Boko was not so kind in his response to President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s valedictory State of Nation Address (SONA) as he indicated that the outgoing President was not a faithful servant of the constitution.

Boko, who is the leader of opposition in parliament said, Khama’s decision to leave office at the end of mandatory 10 year presidential tenure limit is probably the only time the president will be willing to bend to the demands of the country’s constitution. “It remains for me to thank President Khama that he has himself assured us that he will leave the office of President at the expiration of his term. He undertakes to respect and uphold the dictates of our Constitution,” Boko said.

“If he does, it will certainly be the most important act of fidelity to the Constitution of his entire tenure as President. Otherwise he has had to be kept under restraint by the Courts on many of his attempts to subvert the Constitution.” Khama’s administration has had unpopular court wars, most importantly with the trade unions following the historic 2011 public strive. The most recent, and perhaps most controversially was the decision to challenge the parliamentary standing orders with regard to the election of the Speaker of National Assembly and endorsement of vice president in parliament.

Khama had sought to compel Members of Parliament (MPs) to raise their hands, as opposed to secret ballot, to elect and endorse his choice for Vice President. The High Court and later Court of Appeal ruled against him. Another controversial constitutional battle was the appointment of judges to serve in the judiciary. Khama had initially ignored the recommendation by Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to appoint Omphemetse Motumise to the bench. The High Court and later Court of Appeal ruled against him, forcing him to reluctantly appoint Motumise after a bout of frustration.

Boko said, Masisi, who takes over the reins at the beginning of April next year will inherit an economy whose growth is slow, jobless, pro-rich and fragile due in part to slow progress on the diversification of both the economy and markets, and weak external competitiveness.
“You are handing over an economy in worse shape than you found it in 2008. Whilst we appreciate the positive sovereign credit rating, this macro level indicator should not take our focus from the economy’s dismal performance at the microeconomic level, where firms and households are facing difficult odds,” said the Botswana National Front (BNF) leader.

“Business closures have become all too common, household incomes are depressed, real wages are declining, household debt is rising, the ranks of the unemployed are swelling, vulnerability to poverty is growing, and a growing share of our population has become dependent on the safety net and Ipelegeng. We catalogue these because they provide an unanswerable reproach to the contrived reality the President sought to present.”

Boko also urged the government to challenge the country’s economists – in government, academia and the private sector – to develop an alternative model for this economy, re-examine our economic policies and strategies, and inject a measure of creativity into policy design.
“The current dispensation, in which we muddle along seeking to spend our way to success, and we throw money at problems, is neither working nor sustainable, because the days of rich mineral revenue yields belong to our past,” he said.

“Yet, this is exactly what successive BDP governments have been doing, all the while mouthing platitudes about economic diversification and transformation.” Boko said these indicators suggest that the economy is not working for the average person, hence Botswana is the third most unequal society in the world. “This government has failed on job creation, poverty eradication, economic inclusion and the expansion of opportunity for our burgeoning youth population,” he observed. “Whereas vision 2016 envisaged full employment and zero statistical poverty by 2016, nearly one in five Batswana are unemployed, and an almost equivalent number subsists below the poverty line.”

Boko observed that during the tenure of Khama’s government, formal employment grew at a slouchy 1.5 per cent per annum, with the highest annual job growth rates registered by public enterprises (4.6%) and Ipelegeng (3.4%). From 2011 to 2015, enrolment in Ipelegeng rose by 28 percent! In the private sector, which accounts for 56 per cent of formal employment, the rate of job growth averaged 1.2 per cent per annum between 2011 and 2015.

“Yet, over this period, the labour force grew at an annual rate of 3.5%. Juxtapose labour force growth and the rate of job growth and you arrive at the terrifying conclusion that we have an annual job growth deficit of two percentage points,” he said. “The message behind these figures is unambiguous. There are no jobs for the unemployed and the youth who leave colleges with diplomas and degrees hoping for a job. Workers cannot expect wage growth. Our collective wellbeing is eroding.”

The most recent rate estimates put unemployment at 17.7% of the labour force in 2015/16. That amounts to 149,300 unemployed active Batswana job seekers out of a total labour force of 844,050. Add discouraged job seekers and the rate of unemployment rises to about 30 per cent. Remove Ipelegeng from the employment figures and the gravity of Botswana’s joblessness and exclusion becomes more apparent.

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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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