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BIUST launches ambitious strategy

Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST)’s newly launched strategic plan envisages that the university will be in par with the world’s top universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Oxford University and Harvard University among others by the year 2022.  

The university’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Otlogetswe Totolo has revealed that key strategies including substantial investment on research and development, human resource capability and collaboration with the industry will see the university living its dream beyond the year 2022.

BIUST was conjured up by the 9th parliament in 2005, and came into operation in 2012, where it was initially housed at the Oodi College of Arts facilities, before moving to its own in 2014. The institution has never found inner peace since then after reports of political interference led to the departure of the university’s previous Vice Chancellors; Prof. Hillary Inyang and Prof.Kweku Bentil.

Professor Totolo comes aboard amid new hopes that the institution will live up to its true expectation, with the Strategic Plan 2016-2022 seen as the blue print to transforming the Palapye based science and technology institution.

Prof Totolo, who took office in March this year, has unveiled his strategy, which is now in effect, and will be valid until 2022 and paints a picture of changed landscape in Botswana, should the strategy enjoy the support of every stakeholder.

The Professor also wants his institution to set itself apart from other state owned institutions. He said BIUST should take a different path of not being heavily reliant on government for funding, but to explore other means of raising the funds.

Prof Totolo is optimistic that, like other internationally recognised universities in the world, BIUST can forge formidable partnerships with the industry players and other philanthropic individuals to source out funds for the institution.

“There are many people, whom I have met and interacted with who can be willing to give portions of their money to BIUST. But first we have to build relationships with them,” he said.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which has been consistently ranked as a top technology university in the world has fostered a problem-solving approach that encourages researchers to work together across departments, fields, and institutional boundaries. The resulting collaborations have included thousands of fruitful partnerships with industry and other leading research institutions.

Research sponsored directly by industry, according to the institution’s website totalled $134 million (about P1.4 billion) in fiscal year 2015, or 19 percent of all MIT research funding.

 According to the National Science Foundation, MIT ranks first in industry-financed research and development expenditures among all universities and colleges without a medical school. MIT has partnership with over 700 companies.

Furthermore, Totolo views the fact that universities now fall under the new Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, as an opportunity for BIUST to prosper. He said the development means that BIUST will form a close relationship with other quasi-government research institutions such as National Food Technology Research Centre (NFTRC) and Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) among others.

It has been noted by BIUST itself that for it to claim the position of being considered the “engine of development” and flagship for science, engineering and technology university of reputable standing” will depend on it being able to embark on researches which can transform into tangible applications and products of importance to the society.

Prof Totolo affirmed that during the five year strategy, the university will strive to build strong linkages with the industry, look for research funding from various sources and have adequate and sustainable research staff and infrastructure.

The world over, governments fund research and development in universities a trend which means the success of BIUST ambitions will rely on government’s will to disburse substantial amounts for the purpose of research and development alone.

Botswana is currently spending a mere 0.2 percent of its GDP on research related activities, and has not had its universities make it in the prestigious Time Higher Education Ranking. The neighbouring South Africa, on the other hand, spends about 4 percent of its GDP on research and development and has had two of its universities; University of Cape Town and University of the Witwatersrand being ranked consistently as top universities.

BIUST currently has 1700 students in its ranks, with 242 of them pursuing postgraduate programmes. All academic staff at the university hold doctorate (PhD) qualifications, a strong intent for quality assurance in Prof Totolo’s assertion.

By the 2022/23 academic year, BIUST plans to enrol 100 percent of the country’s top students, with 15 percent of its enrolment being international students. The institution will have 6000 students of which between 4500-5000 should be in undergraduate programmes, and 1000-1500 in post graduate programmes.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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