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Nkate wants to be next President

Former cabinet Minister, Jacob Nkate, has said he still have presidential ambitions ahead of 2019 general election despite chickening out of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) July Congress chairmanship race.


Nkate who had initially declared that he will contest the chairmanship in Tonota has resorted to the secretary general position where he will face the incumbent, Botsalo Ntuane and Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness, Phillip Makgalemele. In his own view, the secretary general position is more prestigious as compared to the chairmanship since the former will put him at the helm of the party and its structures.


“I decided after getting here than I can make better contribution to party in the position of secretary general as opposed to the chairman,” he told this publication in an exclusive interview this week. “It is because the secretary general is the melting pot of all issues in the BDP; you get to travel around the country to help the structures, form the structures and supervise them. I think that is something I am good at. I have done it before.”


Nkate who served as party secretary general from 2007-2009 remark that the position of the secretary general is a much more challenging position in terms of making the party a success, as compared to that of chairman. He said although he support Masisi for the chairmanship at the upcoming congress, the two of them did not reach any deal to offer Masisi free passage to the top in exchange for the vice president position in 2019.


“The idea that I have a deal with Masisi and that he will make me vice president is not true. No deal like that exists,’ he denied and added that, “Upon arriving in a country from Japan, I thought let me hear what the situation is on the ground and my conclusion was that maybe I should support him so that I do not cause too much disruptions in my party. And then we can take it from there. If between now and 2019, me and Masisi do not agree, my rights are on the table. All the options are on the table.”


Nkate stated that he decide not to challenge Masisi because his priority is 2019 but between now and 2019 he will look at the situation if the need arises for him to compete, he will compete. He said although he had made a decision not to challenge Masisi for the chairmanship, it is a good thing that they are others who have expressed interest in contesting for the chairmanship.


“It is their constitutional right, it is a good thing and it is always a good thing when an organisation of the size of the BDP goes to congress for people to express their views. The fact that I am not standing against Masisi is a personal choice and I am not going to criticise anyone for standing,” he stated. Nkate said it is impossible for a party of BDP’s size to have people agreeing all the time, noting that it is a normal thing for people to hold different views and such should be embraced.


“The BDP has 580 000 registered members in the whole country. You want all 580 000 members to agree? We will never agree. If Botsalo [Ntuane] happens to be on the other side and I am on the other side, I think it is a healthy conversation. He is a very intelligent man and I am happy to engage him,” he said confidently.


“People who say they do not want factions, they themselves are a faction. People make look bad if I disagree with others, they say I should follow blindly. It’s not going to happen. The idea that someone like me should be quiet is wrong. I am a voice and this voice must be heard,” Nkate further stated.


  ON BDP DECLINING POPULARITY


The former Minister of Education is of the view that the BDP has detached itself from the citizens, something he attributes to the declining popularity of the party. The 2014 general elections dealt BDP a blow, losing unprecedented 20 seats to opposition parties and gaining a popular vote below 50 percent for the first time since independence.


‘I think the BDP needs to reconnect with the people; to have a message that resonates with the people. I do not think people are hearing us, we need to re-message and recalibrate. We need to understand what the biggest concern of the people is. We need to hear the people and people should hear us,” he noted.


“Unemployment: huge problem, we must be able to say to people what we are doing. Health; in a lot of hospitals in Botswana, people are sleeping on the floor and in passages. I am not criticising my party. I am saying let us talk about these issues.” Nkate said the entire government machinery is engulfed with problems which people are not happy about, something which he said BDP should swiftly move to address if it is to endear itself to the voters again.


“35 percent pass rate at secondary junior level is bad, people are not happy about these. We are not a corrupt country, we do not believe in corruption but there is a perception that people can do whatever they like without anything done to them. These are the issues I want my party to engage with the people about,” he remarked.


The former A-Team faction leader insists that BDP has to find its connection with the people, and for them to do that they have to allow the people to talk to them, and to believe that they are being heard: “You do that by opening your ears, opening your eyes, opening your heart. It’s all about running an effective government.”


ON GOVERNMENT RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WORKERS


Nkate opined that the government have got it wrong; the manner in which it has been handling issues regarding workers and their unions. Since the infamous 2011 public servants strike, government have had an acrimonious relationship with the unions. Botswana Federation of Public Servant Union (BOFEPUSU) resolved in 2014 for the first time to endorse opposition in the general elections. BOFEPUSU itself was instrumental in the formation of the opposition coalition, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) which now encompasses all opposition parties with representation in parliament.


“The workers of these countries are the creators of the wealth. They are the creators of the wealth that drives the country forward,” he observed. “A government that sits and sulks for five years against the workers of the country is not going to succeed, because if the workers themselves sulk the same way, then the government is not going to go forward.” The onetime BDP Youth Wing leader said that the workers are in fact the driver of the vehicle that is Botswana.

 

“I want a good honest conversation to take place between the government and the workers,” he said. He said during his absence from active politics as an ambassador, he was not able to advise the party because he made a point of separating himself from politics.


ON FORMATION OF BMD


Despite being at the helm of faction in the run up to Kanye, Nkate never imagined that such would lead to a sad ending. The victory of Barataphathi at Kanye Congress in 2009 set in motion a chain of events which led to the splitting of the party, resulting in the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which forms part of the UDC coalition.


“Any split, whether is in the family, in a political party, in a company, is not a good thing. Yes it hurt us,” he admitted. “I did say when Rammidi left us in Mahalapye: bad thing, I say today that was a bad thing, the formation of BMD: bad thing. One of my most important goals should I succeed as secretary general of the BDP is to bring our people back. Because I know that their philosophy is the same as mine. You cannot take that away.”Nkate admits that BDP should have handled the matter differently to avoid the split.


CRITICISM OF BCL SALE


Nkate has expressed his displeasure with the way BCL liquidation and sale was handled. “I have a criticism on the way BCL liquidation process and the alleged purchase by Arab group is being handled. I am saying, where is the information? I am also aware that government cannot negotiate on the radio or newspapers but I think the government should give us information that will let us know that there is good and honest process,” he said. “That good process should lead to positive results. I support privatisation in some circumstances and I am not suggesting that BCL deal is a bad deal because I do not know. That is the problem.”

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Media have a Role in Accelerating Harm Reduction Adoption

8th December 2022

African Scientists and Experts Call for the adoption of a Harm Reduction in approach in Public Health Strategies and Tobacco Control. Media have a critical role to play in accelerating Harm Reduction efforts by informing and sensitizing cigarette smokers on the availability and benefits of alternative, potentially lower risk products to cigarretes. Traditional cessation and smoking prevention norms are not the only ways that smokers who cannot or don’t’ want to quit can make healthier choices that cause less harm to themselves and those around them.

This was said during the 2nd Harm Reduction Exchange conference for African journalists held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 1st of December 2022. Speaking at the Harm Reduction Exchange Conference, Integra Africa Principal Dr. Tendai Mhizha emphasized the role that journalists and media houses should play in handling misinformation and disinformation in tobacco harm reduction discourse that is actually perpetuating the death and disease caused by people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes. “There has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects that e-cigarettes have on public health.

This has led to policies that disfavour risk reduces products and narratives that completely deny their benefits. The media have the difficult responsibility to curb the scourge of disinformation and misinformation on harm reduction just like on other socio-political stances that are prescriptive and do not uphold consumers’ right to healthier lifestyle choices,” Dr Mhizha said.

The Harm Reduction Exchange cast a spotlight on alternative ways to reduce harm among tobacco smokers. Held under the theme Harm Reduction: Making a difference in Africa, the conference focused on the progress being made through harm reduction strategies in all fields related to public health such as drug and alcohol abuse, excessive sugar consumption, skin lightening and other addictive and behavioral practices. A wide array of harm reduction strategies and initiatives that are deployed towards reducing unnecessary deaths through non-communicable diseases were presented and discussed.

On his part, Prof. Abdoul Kassé, a world renowned and awarded Oncologist and a Professor of Surgery at the Cancer Institute in Senegal, said that Harm Reduction is a powerful public A Summary of the HR Exchange 30th November  1st December 2022 health tool that has the potential to reduce cancer by 30% and should be at the centre of all public health development strategies. Harm reduction, he said, has already benefited many people in public health and is the most viable alternative in tobacco control.

It applies to areas where there is a need to reduce the harm associated with a practice or consumption of a substance that is overused in society leading to increased morbidity and mortality. “Innovative Harm Reduction initiatives will help to keep more Africans alive. Tobacco Harm Reduction initiatives, including the use of popular e-cigarettes, nicotine patches and chewing gums, have continued to generate a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and in the media. However, there is evidence that the use of potentially less harmful alternatives than cigarettes for those who are not willing or cannot give up smoking with currently approved methods may be a solution, not necessarily the best for everyone but by far better than continuous smoking.

Where cessation repeatedly fails, switching to less harmful products is expected to result in benefits for many smokers,” Prof. Abdoul Kassé said. Similarly, views were expressed by Kenya’s Dr. Vivian Manyeki who said tobacco Harm Reduction has a solid scientific and medical basis, and it has a lot of promise as a public health measure to assist millions of smokers. “Many smokers are unable, or at least unwilling, to achieve cessation through complete nicotine and tobacco abstinence. They continue smoking despite the very real and obvious adverse health consequences and against the multiple public health campaigns. Conventional smoking cessation proposals should be complemented with alternative but more realistic options through Harm Reduction,” Dr. Manyeki said.

Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smoking—the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “Nicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Across the world, there is growing interest among experts in novel approaches towards tobacco control and there is an ongoing discussion that reducing the negative effects of smoking can be also achieved by tobacco harm reduction,” Dr. Kgosi Letlape, an ophthalmologist and President of Africa Medical Association and the president of the Association of Medical Councils of Africa, said.

Tobacco cessation is a key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Abstinence from tobacco smoking is one of the primary goals for health promotion and management globally but it is unachievable in a huge amount of cases. This task remains unaccomplished despite extensive public campaigns on the health dangers of tobacco smoking. Thus, the development of novel strategies to reduce smoking is imperative. Moreover, the use of innovations in smoking products has been currently adopted by several smokers to reduce the health risks of smoking.

“The Harm Reduction approach prevents drug-related deaths and overdose fatalities and is the only way out for addicts. In the same way these alternative technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world as they reduce exposure to toxicants,” Bernice Apondi, A Policy Manager at Voices of Community Action and Leadership Kenya (VOCAL-Kenya), said.

During the Harm Reduction Exchange, journalists drawn from Southern, West and East African countries, including: Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe debated and set forth several resolutions in regards to the present and future as well as the challenges and progress made in Harm Reduction,and science-led regulation.

The Harm Reduction Exchange brought together high-level policy makers, physicians, scientists and health policy experts with media stakeholders from Africa in a lively mix of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. The key note speakers included Prof Abdoul Aziz Kasse, Ms Bernice Opondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma, Clive Bates, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Dr. Vivian Manyeki and Dr. Tendai Mhizha.

 

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Over 2 000 civil servants interdicted

6th December 2022

Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.

According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reaching WeekendPost shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.

In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.

This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publication’s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, “as you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,” she said.

She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.

Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.

Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.

Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.

“It is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,” he told WeekendPost, adding that “when a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolved”.

Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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