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Poverty Eradication initiatives have failed MPs

The Chairman for the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Governance and Social Welfare, Honest Buti Billy and his committee of four Members of Parliament (MPs) have ruled that the Government’s poverty eradication initiatives have failed.

The committee points out to the clashing of laws and policies as one of the reasons that led to the initiatives failing to transform the lives of the beneficiaries as intended. The committee which is made up of MPs who had previously served at Local Government as councillors was addressing social workers, Community Development Officers, Home Economists, Ward Development Committee members and other stakeholders in Selebi Phikwe on Wednesday morning.

The committee is made up of former mayors of the City of Francistown, Buti Billy and Ignatius Moswaane, who are now MPs for Francistown east and west respectively as well as former mayor of Gaborone, Haskins Nkaigwa, and now MP for Gaborone North. The only member of the committee who is not a former mayor is Bagalatia Aarone, the Member of Parliament for Okavango. The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee is currently on tour around the county to hold consultative meetings with relevant Local Government authorities and departments to have interaction with service providers to determine challenges in the delivery of Social services and to look into issues of governance as wells as to appreciate some of the successes.

The committee is mandated to exercise oversight over Departments under the portfolio of the Ministry of Local Government and Social Welfare. The Chairperson of the committee, Billy noted that the feedback that they get from the people at the face of the challenges will help inform the reviewing of policies and guidelines in the framework for the delivery of social services. Billy pointed out that that while the reports on the delivery of poverty eradication initiatives are very impressive on paper, the same initiatives have not transformed the lives of the beneficiaries hence the need to consult with relevant stakeholders to find out what makes the projects fail.

The chairman gave example of failed projects such as Backyard Garden, noting that the backyard garden is good but is not a project that can transform the people’s lives. He also noted that the policy that stipulates provision of allowances for Village and Ward Development Committees must be changed to introduce salaries as opposed to allowances. He emphasized the important work done by the VDC’s in the delivery of social services, saying they work 24 hours and that calls for proper remuneration.

He added that there is need to openly critique and speak the truth about the barriers that hinder the successful delivery of social services to the people. He mentioned restrictions on the guidelines used by social workers to identify the needy as well as centralisation of services as one of the bottlenecks that frustrates the service standards. Billy said that many of Government policies and laws are conflicting, rendering service delivery stagnant. The Francistown East MP remarked that some of policies do not help in empowering the people to be able to self-sustain themselves.

He described the Children’s Act as a blind act and one of the laws that needs to be revised as it seems to recognise only the mother as the parent to the child. He pointed out that there are many children who have been registered as orphans to access social services even though their fathers are alive and can take good care of them. He said such loopholes only serves to create more mouths for the Government to feed hence the Government is creating poverty. “Government is creating poverty and then spend more money on fighting poverty,” he said.

Gaborone North Member of Parliament, Haskins Nkaigwa revealed that the Public Health Act which does not allow cooking and sale of food in open public spaces collides with the Presidential directive that allows for such activities. For his part Francistown West Member of Parliament, Ignatius Moswaane added that the presidential directive also allows small businesses to sell food at all Government Departments yet this is in conflict with the Public Health Act and the bye-law regulations.
Billy however also criticised the dependency syndrome prevailing among Batswana. “Dependency syndrome is a disease worse than HIV/AIDS. If we depend on Government so much, our children will also grow up with their minds conditioned to accept the ideology of being dependents,” he said.

Recommendations from the people

The social workers and the VDC/WDC’s present at the meeting shared the challenges they encounter in the delivery of the social services in Selebi Phikwe. One of the recommendations was that beneficiaries of the poverty eradication initiatives must be allowed to present their own business ideas and be assessed instead of having to only accept the already identified initiatives on which they do not have sense of ownership.

Street Vendors were stated as the rightful people to uplift and develop as entrepreneurs as they have already showed interest in doing business. Educating more efficiently destitute first before giving them business projects have been noted as critical. It was argued that the elderly people who has never had prior training on basics of running a business is counter-productive as the projects fail to take off or fail shortly after having been established.

Monitoring and evaluation of the projects is also one of the critical aspects that was identified as tool ensure the projects grow and to unleash the intended value and purpose. It was also recommended that Government must re-look at the now ignored Sustainable Livelihoods Community Development initiative which sought to look at what the community can use within their community to create livelihoods for themselves as opposed to the current poverty eradication initiatives which seems to promote dependency on Government. Social and Community Development (S&CD) tenders for the school uniform and other clothing for needy children must be awarded to Selebi Phikwe based business for accessibility by the children to be able to fit and choose the clothes they want.

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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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