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MP blasts hopeless SONA

Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse has dismissed President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) saying the president should have instead acknowledged that the closure of BCL mine was a mistake on government’s part. According to Keorapetse, SONA was just hopeless arrangement of words and pronouncement of questionable figures.


“SONA offers no hope for the unemployed former BCL workers and people of Phikwe, Khama should have acknowledged that liquidating BCL was a mistake,” he said, citing that its impact on the people and economy is huge.


Keorapetse observed that the government was ill-advised by the Mineral Development Corporation and called for reopening of BCL Mine.


“Government has to accelerate diversification of the town’s economy yes, but  in the mean time, P2 billion in  recapitalization and restructuring including non core activities and good management, BCL is a profitable venture for the next 7 years or so,’’ he explained.


When delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) before legislators in Parliament this past Monday, President Khama had, contrary to expert views and specialists’ analysis, said that the closure of BCL mine will not cease billions of national economic activities, saying that the mine closure will in fact have less negative impacts on the country’s economy.


However, Keorapetse, who is also BCP spokesperson, said President Khama did not provide assurance for the people of Phikwe following the trauma of having their lives turned upside down by government’s ill advised decision to shut down the mine.


“Khama doesn’t say what he plans to do with the jobless former workers, people are leaving Phikwe empty handed with banks and other lenders taking a big share of their small terminal benefits, the pitiable benefits are so depressing that some are committing suicide,” he said.


According to Keorapetse, Khama‘s failure to acknowledge the socio-economic impacts of the mine closure proves beyond reasonable doubt how insensitive and his government is. “The President says BCL demise will have no impact on fundamentals of the economy but fails to acknowledge the enormity of the problem, he just glosses over the issue and understates the problem.”


Keorapetse told WeekendPost that it is unclear how Khama intends to create jobs in Phikwe, noting that the President is just ambiguous about revitalizing the economy and has no clear targets and set timeframes and easily assessable progress tracking mechanism.


In his SONA, President Khama also said that government treasury will be less affected by the decision to put the eastern bloc economic nucleus on provisional liquidation.


“We anticipate an overall domestic growth rate of 3.5% for this year and 4.1% in 2017. In this respect, while the liquidation of the BCL Group of companies will continue to have economic and social implications, particularly in the area of employment, it is anticipated that it will have limited direct impact in terms of our exports, Government revenues and overall growth,” President Khama said.


Khama however noted that they shall continue keeping a closer eye on the situation surrounding the dissolution of the former copper nickel giant, “Government shall, nonetheless, continue to closely monitor developments with respect to the BCL liquidation process with the view of updating our macro-economic projections as may be necessary.’’


He however acknowledged that a harsh liquidation aftermath may arise in due time. “The negative effects of the liquidation of the BCL Group may reduce this figures ,its medium to long term impacts on the economic growth , export and government revenue should be manageable,’’ he noted.President Khama further said that Phikwe would not be left to relegate into a ghost town.


“Madam Speaker, a Board for the Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZA) has been appointed and is already engaging a Technical Advisor for the rollout of the zones. Priority is now being given to the development of the mixed use Special Economic Zone at Selibe Phikwe.”


Further emphasizing on the Phikwe revitalization strategy unveiled two weeks back under the coordination of Linah Mhohlo, Khama added that the Phikwe localized diversification vehicle SPEDU has engaged with communities in the Region to resuscitate and support development projects in such areas as piggery, fish farming through co-operatives and development trusts.


“SPEDU is also facilitating the establishment of a Regional Chamber of Commerce and the development of the strategy to incorporate the SMME’s into the mainstream economy in partnership with Business Botswana,” he said.


Khama further revealed that SPEDU is facilitating the allocation of land for the establishment of an air separation plants and an aloe Vera farm and plant. “These businesses are expected to be fully operational before the end of the 2016/17 financial year, while plans to facilitate dam tourism are also underway.”


For his part, Policy Specialist at Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Cultural Development, Lawrence Ookeditse cautioned against implementation failure.

Ookeditse who continues to gain respect in policy crafting and impactful undertakings after pioneering the Job Summit and Youth Business Expo observed that the President should have stated how the issue of poor project implementation and monitoring was going to be different with Phikwe recovery. When responding to the SONA Ookeditse observes, “A chunk of money is allocated to SPEDU, the revitalization strategy is encored on SPEDU undertakings, and the same SPEDU has been there for almost 10 years and they failed dismally,” he said.

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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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