Former Bank of Botswana Governor, Ms Linah Mohohlo who was recently appointed Coordinator of the Selibe Phikwe Revitalization Project has vowed that she has the acumen to indulge Bill Gates to inject hope back to Selibe Phikwe, should the need arise.
Mohohlo was unveiled during the African Industrialization Day commemorations on Tuesday in Selibe Phikwe by the Minister Investment Trade & Industry, Vincent Seretse. The Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry’s Phikwe Economic Revitalization Strategy (ERS) coordinated by former Bank of Botswana Governor, was also unveiled during the commemorations.
According to the strategy, precisely 6 856 jobs will be created in the next 24 months in Selibi Phikwe, WeekendPost has learnt. The jobs, it was revealed on Tuesday in the distressed town, will be a result of a P1.8 billion worth of 20 specific businesses that are to set up shop in eastern town.
SHOCK ABSORBING INTERVATIONS
The liquidation of BCL mine resulted in 4000 miners losing their jobs three weeks ago, and Government as a result has put in place short term remise to ease the effects of the job losses on the former miners. P11 million has been set aside for one full year to pay school fees for children of former BCL employees, Minister of Investment Trade & Industry (MITI) Vincent Seretse revealed on Tuesday.
According to Seretse, the Ministry of Basic Education (MBE) has been mandated with facilitating the undertaking, “Government has committed to continue paying school fees for children of former BCL employees for one year, that is 2017, The office of the Coordinator, District Commissioner and MBE are already working out details to implement this decision,’’ he said.
The Minister further noted that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has taken over medical expenses which were borne by BCL of which the estimated cost is about P15 million. “For Social Support and counselling services government will ensure availability of senior level officers in Selibe Phikwe to assist former BCL employees,” concluded Seretse.
For their part government investment arm, the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) told attendants that all BCL direct contractors who borrowed capital from the agency will be exempted from paying monthly instalments for a period until liquidation process is completed next year.
“In our efforts to keep our funded businesses which depended on BCL to keep surviving, we will give them a period of four months from now without compulsory payment of our agreed monthly instalments,’’ explained CEDA Chief Executive Officer, Thabo Thamane, who also conceded that this decision would negatively affect them.
According to the government subsidized lender, talks are at a final stage with Botswana’s largest private sector employer, Debswana to absorb some of the companies that are in line with its business. “Debswana has showed willingness to contract some of our funded companies who did business with BCL at their Jwaneng and Orapa mines. This will go a long way in ensuring their survival and consequently paying back the loaned capital in order for us (CEDA) to re-invest here in Phikwe,’’ he said.
THE REVITALISATION STRATEGY
Speaking to the Strategy, Minister Seretse said it will run for two years and it includes projects categorized into agricultural production and processing, tourism and related services as well as manufacturing. “At least 20 specific projects at an estimated cost of P1.8 billion pula will be implemented over a period of 24 months creating 6856 jobs,’’ he indicated.
Seretse further noted that to equip and resource that strategy and ease of doing business, government investment and trade experts, Botswana Investment & Trade Centre (BITC) has deployed Director –Export Promotion and has since arrived in Phikwe as of last week. For her part, the Permanent Secretary at MITI, Ms Peggy Serame said that projects that are to be used to bring Selibe Phikwe to economic life include, revival of the textile industry which is expected to hire over 2000 people during the first quarter of 2017; renewable power generation; assembling of components including vehicle parts; equipment and machinery manufacturing which are all expected to hire thousands of people.
“We are hoping there will be success this time around for the textile industry, we also expect a number of citizen owned ICT businesses to set up their assembly plants here,’’ she said. Serame hinted that citizen owned companies; Almaz (PTY) LTD and Ditec Mobile would be setting up assembly plants in Phikwe.
Ditec Founder and Chief Executive, Justice Williams told this publication that his team of technicians are already in Selibe Phikwe to conclude logistics prior to commencement of the process of relocating to the town. “We have already identified a warehouse and for a period from now until first quarter of 2017 we will be redesigning the warehouse into a world-class ICT lab that produces high technological devices,” he said.
“We are looking at employing about 200 people at the 1st phase of actually manufacturing and engineering the technology smart components and phase 2 which includes programming of the components which will probably require an extra 300 personnel.” Consequently, according to Williams, Ditec will employ at least 2000 people.
For their part, newly launched citizen owned Microsoft computer producer, Almaz told WeekendPost that they are still in talks with the government regarding issues of logistics and warehouse and tax incentives. “Our setup of business here depends on the outcome of our discussions with the Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry,’’ said Louis Sibanda, an Executive at Almaz.
Sibanda further said after finalization of talks with the government, setting up a plant in Selibe Phikwe would take 37 days and employing just over 100 employees at first production. “We will re-skill and retool our employees, that is to say former miners from BCL without or with little knowledge of computer and software engineering will be put to training to capacitate them hence they will be not left out as far as working for us is concerned.”
The Mayor of Selibe Phikwe, Amogelang Mojuta expressed delight at the developments and also revealed that his office is facilitating a multimillion pula investment which will create more jobs in Phikwe. “Just last week I was with some South African gentlemen who want to open an aviation school here. They also want to upgrade the airport to international standards and further venture into distribution of goods and services into other parts of the southern Africa region.’’
686 MILLION PULA FOR SPEDU
Of the P1.8 billion worth of business to be injected into Phikwe, Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU)’s treasury will account for over 600 million pula, courtesy of European Union’s re-employment fund, permanent secretary, Serame revealed.
This is in spite of commotion prevailing at the diversification vehicle, just last week; it lost its Communications & Corporate Affairs Manager Punah Molebatsi who resigned out of the blue. WeekendPost has it on good authority that the Human Resource manager has been suspended and will possibly be axed.
However the newly branded and revived SPEDU is not just about talk, Chief Executive Dr Mokubung Mokubung revealed to this publication. “Now we are no longer about economic diversification, we are transforming Selibe Phikwe into a major industrial city in Southern Africa, with value chain business opportunities and diverse nature of businesses , next week we will be groundbreaking the electrification of yet more farms in Bobonong,’’ he said.
Information gathered by this publication further suggests that SPEDU is working on a possible partnership with Barclays Bank of Botswana, who early this year loaned BCL 1 billion Pula on government guarantee. Sources present at a meeting between SPEDU executives and Barclays Bank Managing Director, Reinette Van de Merwe revealed that the multibillion pula private lender is committed to injecting more money into Selibe Phikwe as they are prepared to finance serious and viable projects.
“Yes we met Barclays Bank officials, but I’m not in a position to disclose anything as we are still doing paperwork to quantify how much partnership we are talking about and we will inform the public in due time,’’ said Mokubung.
THE OFFICE OF THE COORDINATOR
President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama’s recent appointee, former Governor Bank of Botswana Linah Mohohlo was finally introduced to the Selibe Phikwe residents and the business community on the same day by Minister Seretse. Seretse explained that Mhohlo will be overseeing the implementation of the SPEDU Revitalization Strategy and its communication plan. “I am certain in the coming month she will have specific engagements with the various stakeholders in the region.’’
For her part Mohohlo noted that her job will depend entirely on the cooperation and collective efforts from the Phikwe residents, business community and all stakeholders. According to Mohohlo, Selibe Phikwe has the potential to create more than 7000 jobs. “We can go as far as bringing world’s richest here. I have the acumen to indulge Bill Gates and his schedule permitting, he is very active on issues of injecting hope to lost parameters,’’ she said.
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 donâ€™tâ€™ 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. â€śThere 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 consumersâ€™ right to healthier lifestyle choices,â€ť 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.
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. â€śInnovative 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.
Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smokingâ€”the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. â€śNicotine 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,â€ť 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.
â€śThe 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,â€ť 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.
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 reachingÂ WeekendPostÂ 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 publicationâ€™s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, â€śas 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,â€ť 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.
â€śIt is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,â€ť he toldÂ WeekendPost, adding that â€śwhen a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolvedâ€ť.
Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.
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.