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DISS, FIA to be guarantors of whistle blowing

DISS Boss; Isaac Kgosi

The Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA) will be among a host of state security organs that will act as guarantors to the mooted Whistle blowers Act, whose bill is presently being debated in parliament.

Other bodies that will act as guarantors of the Act are The Auditor General (AG), Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Ombudsman, and Botswana Police. They will be expected to appoint persons to receive the disclosures.

The bill was tabled by Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Phillip Makgalemele on Wednesday.

Its draft states that, “the object of the bill is to provide for the manner in which a person may, in the public interest, disclose information adverse to the public interest; to provide for the manner of reporting and investigation of disclosures of impropriety and the protection against victimisation of persons who make the disclosures.”

Clause 3 of the bill states that a whistleblower may make a disclosure of information where he or she has reasonable cause to believe that; a criminal or other unlawful act has been committed or is likely being committed; another person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any obligation to which that person is subject.

It further states that, information which its disclosure is protected, encompasses, where a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or likely to occur and where the health and safety of any person has been, is being or is likely to be endangered or the environment has been, is being or is likely to be endangered.

Furthermore, according to it where the conduct of a person, whether or not a public officer, adversely affects, or could adversely affect, either directly or indirectly, the honest or impartial performance of official functions by the person, public officer or public body.

The bill which was published in November 2015, also says that, a disclosure can be made where the conduct of a public officer amounts to the performance of any of the public officer’s functions dishonestly or with partiality; the conduct of the person whether or not a public officer, a former public officer or a public body, amounts to a breach of public trust.

Its goes on to say that, instances where the conduct of a person, whether or not a public officer amounts to maladministration, which is action or inaction of a serious nature that is; contrary to any law, unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or discriminatory or based wholly or partly on improper motives or the conduct of the person or public officer would, if proven, constitute a criminal offence, a disciplinary offence, serious or substantial public wastage or abuse of financial or other public resources, would be covered for protected disclosure.

However the draft states that, protection of disclosures will only be effected if the disclosure is made in good faith, the whistleblower reasonably believes that the disclosure and an allegation of impropriety contained in the disclosure is substantially true and when the disclosure is made to an authorized person.

It also says that an authorized person may decline to investigate or discontinue investigations if the disclosures are made in bad faith, for illegal purposes, frivolously and maliciously.

The Act, if it succeeds, will not protect disclosures of impropriety by public officers against the merits of government policy, including policies of local authorities as well as disclosures made solely or substantially with the motive of avoiding dismissal or other disciplinary action.

It will criminalise actions such as making false disclosures, disclosing the identity of a whistleblower, disclosure of information to third party, victimisation of whistleblowers and failure to take action by an authorised person.

The absence of the whistle blowing Act and its reporting channels had made it a criminal offence to make disclosures about impropriety.

Recently, an attempted disclosure of alleged impropriety through the media landed presidency records officer Abueng Sebola in jail, charged with stealing a file.

Sebola is said to have passed a file to a local Freelance journalist who was himself, charged with receiving stolen property. The secret file was said to have contained a letter written on an official Botswana Coat of Arms, guaranteeing open ended medical fees to one Tsaone Nkarabang, after he was injured in a private rendezvous. It was alleged that a litany of medical bills was billed to government by medical facilities that the latter had attended.

Still, in 2015 a public officer based in Central District was charged with misconduct and accessing confidential information after she had revealed alleged acts of corruption and mismanagement.

The officer has said that she was being forced to go on a transfer as an attempt to silence her. She revealed that she had been required to directly appoint a company to clear the District Commissioner’s (DC) residence contrary to financial instruction.

The then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Khumo Matlhare is said to have instructed the Police and Criminal Investigation Department(CID) to confiscate her memory stick, CPU, laptops and other gadgets.

Matlhare is said to have effectively availed the letter written by the officer, to minister Slumber Tsogwane, about the actions of the DC, to the same DC. His gripe was that, he was allegedly incensed that the officer had not routed the letter through the same officer she was complaining about.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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