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Gov’t coughs up P300 000 in negligence settlement

High Court Judge, Justice Leatile Dambe has ordered the Government of Botswana to pay out P300 000 as “compensation” for causing pain and suffering, disfigurement and permanent disability to a 7 month old girl.

It is understood that the minor Bokang Moso Annita Seleke from Mochudi who was represented by his mother Kenanao Seleke at court, lost the ring, middle and little fingers on the left hand caused by negligence of an anaesthetic nurse employed at Deborah Relief Memorial Hospital. The plaintiff’s cause of action was based on negligence on the part of the nurse who was at all material times an employee of government and was acting within the course and scope of his employment.

The child who was 7 months old at the time (2014) sustained harm as a result of breach on the part of the anaesthetic nurse. The nurse is said to have failed his duty to properly exercise or perform by observing ordinary degree of professional skill and diligence and therefore making solid ground for the mother of the child to successfully pursue the matter at court.

When delivering the settlement agreement at court this week, Justice Dambe ordered that “the first defendant (government) shall pay to the plaintiff an amount of P300 000.00 in lump sum as compensation as full and final payment in settlement of this legal suit.” The High Court Judge added that the payment as agreed shall be effected within a period of 30 calendar days from the date of the order.

She also highlighted that “the liability of all defendants to the plaintiff in respect of this legal suit shall be fully extinguished and discharged after payment is effected and that no further legal proceedings shall be open to the plaintiff with respect to the same cause of action constituting the subject of this suit.” The mother of the child had pointed out in court papers seen by Weekend Post that “she seeks on behalf of her minor child compensation for the pain and suffering, disfigurement and permanent disability of the child’s left hand and loss of earning capacity.”  

According to the affidavit of service seen by this reporter, on or about 14 March 2014 the mother took the child who was suffering from diarrhoea and had difficulty in breathing to the hospital. Upon arrival, it is understood that she was assisted by an anaesthetic nurse who in the course and scope of his employment inserted a cannula which is a small tube inserted into a vein as an entry point for medication or other fluids on the child’s left hand.

“The said nurse assistant struggled to locate the vein and made multiple attempts at inserting the cannula,” court papers point out. On the following morning it is said that the mother noticed that the child’s left hand had turned green and was swelling. The papers state that she then took the infant back to Deborah Retief Memorial Hospital for medical assistance, where the infant was sent on referral to Princess Marina Hospital where she was admitted on arrival.

“She was assisted by a doctor who made small incisions on the child’s hand to control the swelling, and further instructed that the child’s hand be held in a raised position to help with blood circulation.” It is understood that the child was subsequently released from Princess Marina Hospital on the 25th March 2014 as per client’s request. From the 26th March 2014 to the 23rd April 2014, she took the child back to Deborah Retief Memorial Hospital again for routine cleansing and dressing of the wound.

Later, on the 27th March 2014, having realized that the general condition of the hand was slowly deteriorating and that the little finger as well as the middle finger and the ring fingers had turned dry, the child was taken back to hospital. Court papers state that she then complained to the resident social worker at the hospital, about the general condition of the hand and inquired whether the hand would regain functionality. She was then referred to a physiotherapist and subsequently took the child for routine check-ups.

“As there was no sign of improvement on the condition of the hand, a recommendation was made for the child to undergo surgery to amputate the affected fingers. Following two consequent postponements of the surgery, the fingers fell off before the surgery could be performed on the set date.” According to an expert report, the child has now certain key deficits and limitations. “The child is unable to perform certain activities which require strength, being activities which should be lighter for her age group.”

The expert also mentioned that it can be expected that because of her physical challenges, the child may not be able to do certain jobs in future which will limit her career choices. “The child will need a proactive and preventive programme that includes professional child psychological assessment counselling. The need for these services will become greater in future when the child reaches her teenage years.”  

The plaintiff initially demanded 1.2 million as general damages for pain and suffering, loss of amenities of life and loss of earning capacity of a child. In addition the amount was also to increase so as to cater for special damages incurred as transport cost to Deborah Retief Memorial Hospital. The government was represented by the 1st defendant on behalf of the Attorney General Athaliah Molokomme with Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Shenaaz El-Halabi being the 2nd defendant and David Nthate, the nurse at Deborah Relief Memorial Hospital was the 3rd respondent.
The mother of the minor was represented by revered Gaborone based attorney Joram Matomela of JJ Matomela Attorneys.

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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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