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BUAN should extend to Selibe Phikwe

REARABILWE RAMAPHANE

 

Following the demise of BCL limited which prior to that formed the economic nucleus of Selibe Phikwe, the former mining town future remains uncertain.

 

Former Government Legislature and cabinet Minister, now a property magnet and shrewd business tycoon, David Magang observes in his ‘’View from Mana House’’ CAN PHIKWE BE REDEEMED eloquent piece weeks ago in this publication that the concept of special economic zones, roping in the Chinese investment acumen would go a long way into saving the otherwise soon to become a ghost town.

 

The Selibe Phikwe Economic Revitalization strategy unveiled just 2 weeks ago during the African Industrialization Day commemoration which was lamented by President Khama’s SONA last week also suggests a big turnaround for Phikwe, commendable craft and of course well presented, however implementation still remains to be witnessed if it will be any different from other countless mega national projects and economic undertakings which chewed billions to waste.

 

The strategy seeks to unearth  thousands jobs in textile industry ,the same industry which axed over 2000 jobs in 2008 when investors pocketed   proceeds from tax holidays and vacated the country leaving the town more  dependent on BCL mine.

 

Agricultural sector and food processing which forms part of the revitalization strategy can also receive accolades for contributing to undiversified Phikwe we see today, just to name a few ,the crush of Talana Farms, collapse of Satmos dairy farms when death robbed the town one of its builders, Samuel Sono .

 

Now notably the deterrence of Phikwe from housing Botswana’s second university by the decision maker’s years ago evidently haunts Phikwe and government diversification efforts today. However it is not too late for such development, which undoubtedly would make a significant economic boost and complementation to the revitalization strategy.

 

Making an in-depth look into the revitalization strategy under the stewardship of former Bank of Botswana governor Linah Mhohlo, the strategy is encored on projects which should any little fallout on implementation occur, we are back to square one!!

 

The strategy also doesn’t explain how retooling and rescaling  thousands of former miners to fit into the new key sectors now being farming, manufactured parts  assembling , travel and tours businesses  just to name a few will be done. Lets asses Agriculture and food processing as well an over view on the tourism industry ignoring Manufacturing for now.

 

You now already beginning to locate how my heading came about, lets visit Botswana‘s premier agricultural academic institution and see if we can’t bring it into this conversation. It’s been almost a year since the Botswana College of Agriculture fully upgraded to the status of a university and attained the nomenclature of Botswana University of Agriculture& Natural Resources (BUANR).

 

Having gained autonomy from the University of Botswana, now that enables BUANR to independently carry out its specific mandate of becoming a world class innovation and research agricultural academic institution. The expectation is that the university should take its relevant position in providing solutions to exiting agricultural challenges.

 

BUANR has an obligation to provide academic research and innovative consultancy to decision makers and other stake holders towards closing up local food insecurity loophole which sends billions abroad in import bill.

 

We expect BUARN now that it’s no longer a faculty but a fully fleshed entity with its own budget ,to develop frameworks and carry out researches that unleashes and unlocks Botswana’s potential in Horticultural production, milk produce, Beef product diversity , leather processing and products manufacturing ,and other agricultural industries  that are currently untapped locally.

 

However I doubt with the current infrastructure and institutional space BUANR can rightfully carry out its mandate. I want to believe infrastructural development and institutional facilities upgrade to fully equip the agricultural institution are in the pipeline.

 

Building campuses or special academia centers separately from the main administration space has proven not to negatively affect the running of an academic institution in anyhow. University of Botswana does it with its research center in Maun. International academic institutions like University of Johannesburg continue to successfully make it into top 10 African universities with such campus model in place.

 

Considering the current institutional parameter which the university is situated, any infrastructural development in the same place would either be squeezed up or consume the practical’s area spared for farming and other practical academic undertakings.

 

The university will need an innovation and research center employed with expects and professional academics to facilitate robust solution seeking and also act as university link with other science, research and technology stakeholders like Botswana Innovation Hub, BITRI and other academic institutions.

 

Should the decision makers think along the same lines, Selebi Phikwe comes out as more qualified to host such a development ,proposing a model similar to the University of Botswana‘s Okavango Research institute in Maun or a full separate campus housing 2 or 3 relevant faculties to avoid congestion at the main campus.

 

Being born and bred in Phikwe my ordinary self, perhaps it is paramount that before breaking down my reasons attached to this opinion, i lay forth a disclaimer that this position is not in anyhow influenced by my sense of belonging to copper and nickel town, nor any political endeavor but solely influenced by the economic potential in the Phikwe area as well as a goodwill lame man analysis on the future outlook of our town.

 

WHY SELIBE PHIKWE?

 

Now I believe we beginning to comprehend where BUANR could fit in the revitalization equation. Setting up an academic institution in Selibe Phikwe, let alone an innovation and research center will go a long way in complementing the efforts of other stakeholders in turning the Phikwe area into Botswana‘s major industrial city and transforming the region into a premier sight for innovative and technology companies, SPEDU would surely approve of this sentiment, at least from what I gathered at their new brand launch months ago.

 

Basically complementing the revitalization strategy with capacity building and skills development. Automatically a development such as an institution comes with infrastructural erection thus  temporary employment creation, that on its own brings about the diversity in jobs availability, which Selibe Phikwe currently desperately needs credit to the obvious reasons of Nigel Dixon Warren-the terminator.

 

AGRICULTURAL POTENTIAL IN SELIBE PHIKWE REGION

 

Putting up BUANR campus in Phikwe would not only benefit the Selibe Phikwe region and its people, but would also bring about great efficiency in the service delivery and well resourced execution of mandate for the Agricultural academy itself.

 

The region sits comfortably at the centre of well positioned dams availing abundant water for agricultural practical’s. From the far south sits the newly opened Lotsane Dam in Maunatla, sailing through the Thune dam in the east south of Selibe Phikwe , the Dikgathong Dam in the North eastern side right on the Motloutse basin and off course the traditional Letsibogo on the northwestern top of the SPEDU region.

 

These resources together with the fertile soil around the region gives the BUANR a great environment to carry out their agricultural research , experiments ,studies and academic capacity building that is substantiated with practicals and actual physical undertakings , thus turning it into a world class agricultural university that produces readymade and industrial graduates.

 

As we expect BUANR to promote commercial and techno-based methods of agricultural practice , I think there is no better region to provide such environment ,taking into consideration the existing facilities like NAFTRC’s National Agro-Processing Plant , renewed and re-motivated SPEDU , and the Linah Mhohlo uphill task ,BUANR would complement this efforts with research , innovative and academic techno based expertise turning the Phikwe region into Botswana’s bread basket and eventually reducing the national import bill brought by food insecurity, and ofcource saving our town from turning into Botswana’s Detroit as David Magang would put it.

 

THE INDIGENOUS NATURAL RESOURCES

 

Furthermore Selibe Phikwe is engulfed in a naturally resourced parameter rich in environmental diversity. The Limpopo River, Motloutse, Thuli Block and Platjan brings about an interesting ecosystem with indigenous tree spices, undisturbed forestry and variety of wildlife, aquatic plants and animals ,something which also translate to great tourism potential aswell.

 

With the little information I have about the thresh hold of BUANR areas of academia, great environment in Bobirwa constituency, Tsetsebjwe natural forests, Lentswe le Moriti vegetations and Sheerwood Ranges is more than enough for the execution of BUANR mandates as far as student science and research practical’s are concerned ,at least for the Natural Resources nomenclature .

 

Generally Selibe Phikwe and the whole SPEDU region is rich in agricultural potential and natural resources that could be unleashed to cultivate wealth and economic transformation and diversification which  eventually comes with thousands jobs for the people living in the area hence maintaining Mhohlo’s reputation of successful national assignment record!!!

 

Arguably one would question my silence about livestock and animal husbandry potential of the region, well that can be blamed on the FMD outbreak that hit our zone years back, but sipping from the BMC records of few years back, one would learn that before Foot N Mouth outbreak, the zone 7 which enclaves Selibe Phikwe was one of the highest producers of good quality cattle’s, at least from communal farms.

 

And my sources at the Ministry of Agriculture revealed to my knowledge hungry person that the authorities are in a processes of reviewing the zone, giving hope that soon the region will be open for European Market intake as matter of fact President Khama confirmed it on Monday(SONA).

 

Perhaps the placing of a research institution here in Phikwe would extent an expert help to resurrecting the region’s cattle supply to BMC,so is the Botswana Vaccine Institute ,I would like to invite them to prospect extending their services here in Phikwe more so that reports suggests they are planning to expand commercially and factory wise, Minister  Ralotsia’s visit to France earlier this year informs that.

 

Now getting into Conclusion, esteemed readers of the this ‘Insightful publication’ let me note that The Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resource now has a role to play as an academic and research think tank for environmental policies to “”Ministry of Natural Resources & Wildlife-’’’ as well as agricultural policy crafting to its mother ministry which now has a direct task of improving Botswana’s food security.

 

With the Southern side of Botswana housing the main campuses of both the BUANR , University of Botswana and other research institutions like NAFTRC, already Okavango Research Center(Maun) covering the far northern side ,and Palapye enjoying the housing of BUIST, Selibe Phikwe is now better placed to host an extension of the agricultural academy , should funds and developmental plans permit. I rest my case.

 

Rearabilwe Ramaphane is 2015 Alumni of Fredrich Ebert Stiftung Leadership program. Chairman of Innovative Youth Organization, Selibe Phikwe based researcher and freelance publisher .He writes here in his own personal capacity

rearabilwe.ramaphane@yahoo.com – 75525191

 

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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