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Khama re-organises Ministries

President Lt. Gen. Dr. Ian Khama has shaped and re-designed ministerial responsibilities of his government as well as raising them from from 16 to 18.

The changes which effects after Botswana celebrates her 50th independence – on October 1, 2016 is a consequence of a law passed by parliament on Ministerial Offices (Maximum Number) Act (No.4) of 2016 which commenced on the 16th September, 2016, and increased the number of offices of Minister and Assistant Minister to 18 and 10 respectively.

“Consequently, His Excellency the President has reorganized and re-designated Government Portfolio Ministries,” said the Permanent Secretary to the President and Secretary to Cabinet Carter Morupisi in a statement.

Ministry of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration has been re-named to Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration.

Morupisi said that the ministry will coordinate Government affairs and public administration adding that good governance ensures that corruption and maladministration are not tolerated in all sectors of the economy.

“Furthermore, it enhances democracy and the rule of law. All stakeholders, Government institutions, private sector, civil society organisations and citizens must be accountable to the public. They should be timeously responsive and put in place effective and efficient processes that meet the demands of society, while making the best use of resources at their disposal,” Morupisi stated.

He said Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security will replace the existing Ministry of Agriculture.

When justifying the need for altering the ministry, the Secretary to Cabinet explained that food security emphasizes that as a nation we need to increase the production of food locally, reduce the food import bill, create sustainable long term productive employment in the sector, diversify the agricultural sector through high – value added manufacturing of local foods as well as building a culture of consuming local foods, as a first choice.

In addition Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development has replaced that of Infrastructure, Science and Technology.  According to the PSP, Infrastructure relates to construction and maintenance of Government buildings. “Housing Development focuses on ensuring that citizens have access to affordable housing or shelter and promotes home ownership through affordable Housing Schemes.”

The contemporary Ministry of Education Skills Development has been split to represent Ministry of Basic Education which will focus on strengthening early childhood development and learning, pre-primary up to Senior Secondary Education.

The other one formulated will be Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology which will be responsible for policy on student financing, tertiary institutions and coordinating research science and technology development to transform to a knowledge based economy.

The PSP emphasised that the tertiary education will make sure that it focuses on producing graduates that are relevant to industry requirements.

Additional Ministry which has also been altered is that of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism as it has been re-named to that of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism. It is said that it will coordinate environmental issues and tourism development.

Morupisi stressed: “natural resources conservation involves conservation and development of forests, wetlands, fisheries, game reserves, wildlife and scenic sites management as well as conservation of protected and ecological areas.”

He said the current Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has been re-organised to newly Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.

The new Ministry he added that it shall be responsible for coordination of national development planning, monitoring implementation, mobilizing and managing financial and economic resources for achievement of inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development and overall national prosperity.

Ministry of International Affairs and Co-operation has been formed from that of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Its primary function it is said that it will be to manage international relations and promoting Botswana’s interests abroad as well as safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Ministry of Health has been extended to imply both Health and Wellness. “Apart from preventing diseases, the Ministry shall promote wellness through healthy living which entails nutrition, physical fitness, mental health and self-care by citizens,” Morupisi continued to submit.

The other new Ministry created is that of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development. The Permanent Secretary to the President said it will deal with employer – employee relations, work place safety, health and environment, productivity across sectors and in the work place (work ethics) and vocational and skills development.

Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services have also been designed to carry the functions of proper land administration and management to facilitate socio economic development through land servicing. Furthermore, he added that the sector would ensure delivery of water and reuse of grey water for both domestic and agricultural development.

According to the ministry re-organisation, Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security has also been produced.

Morupisi asserted that it shall “coordinate Mineral Development and regulation of mining activities. Green technology relates to, among others, the use of renewable energy (solar and solid waste for energy generation) to minimize environmental pollution. The combination of alternative energy sources would ensure energy sustainability and security.”

The current Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture has been re-named to Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development. It shall be responsible for Youth empowerment initiatives are meant to empower young people to become active participants in the socio-economic development of the country. The PSP noted: “development of Sport and Culture has the potential to diversify the economy, build character and promote our culture,”

Another Ministry created that will perform the duties of safeguarding national identity, facilitating movement across borders, regulate residence and work permits, registration of societies and coordinating gender mainstreaming, by promoting equality is that of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs which is currently named that of Labour and Home Affairs.

There will be no changes of responsibility to both Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry as well as Ministry of Transport and Communications. This extends also to the functions of the current Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security. Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development would also not be affected in the changes of functions.

The PSP emphasised that the expansion and re-designation of the Ministerial portfolios is intended to ensure enhanced delivery and commitment by Government of its key priority areas, being the achievement of sustained economic development, diversification through citizen empowerment and accelerated job creation, especially among the youth, to ensure dignified livelihoods for all Batswana.

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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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