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Khama tells Masisi not to contest – reports

In a potentially telling twist, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is abuzz with reports that President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama has requested his Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi not to contest for the ruling party’s chairman position at the party’s elective congress expected next year July.


Masisi had made it clear to his inner circle that he intends to defend his position next year. His reasoning oscillated around cementing his stature as the future president, a need to put to bed doubts over his influence in the party, and plain need to demonstrate his character and strength to his detractors. The Vice President continues to be very active within the BDP structures, recruiting hordes of disgruntled opposition figures and is at the forefront of a campaign to paint a resurgent ruling party after the grueling 2014 general election.

 
But word that Khama has asked him not to defend his position of chairman could throw the spanner into the works, with Masisi’s backers scratching their heads beyond normal, what could be up Khama’s sleeves – if these reports are true? Officially, Masisi’s supporters learn that the Vice President has been asked to focus ‘on the bigger picture’, push more of official government business, and prepare for the transition. Masisi has been tasked with the task of job creation among his many assignments within government. The country is currently experiencing exponential job losses in parastatals and the private sector.


What irks those who are already discussing the latest development is the suggestion that President Khama has indicated that his younger brother, Tshekedi Khama could run for chairmanship instead. There is confusion within the Masisi camp, with some who are determined to block Tshekedi already working around the clock to find a ‘confident and robust’ opponent to stand in the way of the potential candidature of the younger Khama.


BDP insiders say Vice President Masisi finds himself without many options; he is at the mercy of President Khama at the moment. “He has no choice but to step aside and focus on government business. He has a job to do, regardless of the unofficial or postulated reasons as to why he should make way for Tshekedi or any other candidate,” said a BDP senior figure.


NKATE RETURNS END OF THIS MONTH


Those who want to block Tshekedi are running short of options, but their most attractive route could be Jacob Nkate who is returning from his ambassadorial role in Japan at the end of this month. Nkate has made it clear that he will return to stake a claim in the party presidency, launching his bid with a quest for chairmanship.

But with the latest turn of events, insiders say Nkate will have to ask himself a few questions before taking the bait – is he ready to take on a candidate who has the backing of President Khama? What is in it for him if he wins or loses the chairmanship race? Will he ever ascend to the Presidency or the Vice Presidency? And what would be Vice President Masisi’s attitude and or role in his (Nkate)’s campaign for chairmanship? Insiders continue to point out that the road will be bumpy for Nkate because most of his lobbyists could decide to be hidden because they are not ready to oppose an influential President Khama.


Indications are that President Khama still commands a very strong influence within the BDP. Compared to his predecessor, Dr Festus Mogae, at the same stage towards his retirement in 2007, the latter was a ‘lame duck’ President with little influence. It is well known that Khama was already influential at this point. BDP MPs who spoke to this publication concede that the President Khama addressed BDP caucuses are the most attended and definitive; when compared to those addressed by Vice President Masisi. “Who would dare not toe the line?” one MP asked rhetorically.


Hypothetical suggestions are already on the table on how Khama could have already moved to neutralize Nkate. The elevation of Thato Kwerepe to the position of Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Basic Education is seen as a strategy to gloss Kwerepe and insulate him against an anticipated onslaught from Nkate in the forthcoming BDP primary elections in preparation for the 2019 general election. The former Minister of Education has made it clear to his supporters back at the constituency (Ngami) that he is coming back to claim a constituency he once represented before he was outdone by his political nemesis in the 2013 primary elections.


Before Khama’s reported intervention in the BDP congress puzzle, Nkate was being coerced to take on Botsalo Ntuane for the position of secretary general. However Nkate was not keen because the position of secretary general spells out nothing for him in terms of his bigger picture of eyeing the high office. The 2017 BDP elective congress is potentially seen as a platform that will make and break kings and queens – and the succession issue within the ruling party could be settled for good in July next year.


The anti-Tshekedi battalion has reportedly rushed to Nkate because of their view that another potential person of interest, Minister Nonofo Molefhi does not appear to be willing to publicly express his interest. They also fear that his family ties with the Khamas will dissuade him against contesting. Those who question Molefhi’s confidence to take on Tshekedi also point out that he is a man who believes too much in the ‘order of things’, “he believes that if something is destined to be his, it will come to him. He does not want to fight for anything hence it will be a risk to bank on him,” said one of the BDP seniors.


While Molefhi is seen as having the goodwill within the BDP and across the party divide, those who doubt his readiness question his fighting spirit and his grasp and presence at party structures. They believe that he cannot be compared to Masisi, who they believe will put up a good fight against Tshekedi. While Tshekedi himself is not a strong party person, they believe Khama’s clout could carry him through and help him cross the bridge.  Molefhi, who has been likened to South Africa and African National Congress (ANC)’s Kgalema Motantlhe, is expected to throw his weight behind Tshekedi if the reports on Masisi’s position come out to be true. Motantlhe’s loss to President Jacob Zuma in the race for ANC presidency was put squarely on the former’s indecisiveness and late declaration of interest.


The recent nomination of two extra Specially Elected Members of Parliament (SEMPs) has also pushed some BDP activists over the edge hence realigning allegiances in the process. Some felt that they have been overlooked for new comers into the party. It is expected that Nkate’s return this month could mark the beginning of a spirited campaign within the party – a journey that will leave hind causalities because of the ongoing succession talk.


Tshekedi Khama has made it publicly known that he wants to be BDP chairman and President and should an opportunity arise he will gladly take it. Those around Masisi are asking themselves plenty of questions such as – what could Tshekedi aspire next should he win the chairmanship next year?


They speculate that for Tshekedi to become President at least in the foreseeable future under the current automatic succession plan, he must hope that Masisi makes him Vice President when he takes over as President in April 2018. But there are no guarantees in politics, BDP insiders say. They point out that there will be nothing compelling Masisi to make Tshekedi his Vice President. Further, they speculate that there is nothing incentivizing Tshekedi not to go for the jugular and this could force him (Tshekedi) to act on his affinity early by challenging Masisi for the party presidency.


CAN THE KHAMAS WAIT ANOTHER 18 YEARS?


There is also a school of thought that questions the prospect of Tshekedi waiting until 2019 congress to challenge Masisi for the party presidency. They point out that it will be risky for the party to change the leadership four months before the general elections in 2019. Some BDP insiders believe that the succession issue will be concluded by next year after congress. The Khamas have had to wait for 18 years to come back into power after the death founding President Sir Seretse Khama.


Lt Gen Ian Khama was Commander of the BDF during the time at the goodwill of former President Sir Ketumile Masire. Another former President, Dr Festus Mogae had to use his influence and goodwill to make President Khama his Vice President. “I am of the view that they are tired of being at the mercy of other people, they may decide to control their destiny this time around, with Tshekedi challenging for positions at party level,” reasoned a seasoned BDP politician. He points out that he does not see Tshekedi waiting on the wings and hoping for another Good Samaritan to bring them back into the thick of things. “There is so much at stake, interests and political control,” says a BDP insider.


KHAMA MAGIC STAYS ON


Meanwhile President Khama has indicated that he is retiring from the Presidency but he will not be retiring from the party. He has made his next move very clear at three platforms of the BDP. At a regional meeting in Tutume in the north east, President Khama told his listeners that he will lead the BDP campaign in the 2019 general election. He also communicated that he has raised a lot of funds for the elections and the figures have already surpassed those of the 2014 general election.

He repeated the same message at a meeting of the BDP held in Kanye last month. At a recent BDP Members of Parliament caucus President Khama made the same proclamation, something which party insiders say points only in one direction – President Khama is not going anyway far, and he is interested in the next course or direction the party takes.


(Note that we have spoken to four BDP MPs, two ministers, six senior party figures who all indicated that they are aware of this development. It remains as we reported it, reports and a debate within the BDP.)

 

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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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