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Boko, Saleshando begin talks in April

UDC cum BNF president Duma Boko and BCP president Dumelang Saleshando

Opposition parties, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) this week stated that the official opposition cooperation talks will commence in April this year.  

The consultations come after both parties have in the past committed to cooperation towards the decisive 2019 General Elections – which is expected to be more competitive.

Towards 2014, the umbrella talks which were inclusive of all opposition parties then, Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) collapsed although BNF, BMD and BPP forged ahead and contested under UDC banner.

Excluding the BCP in the cooperation, UDC went on to garner 17 seats against BCP’s paltry 3 which reinforced the conspiracy theories that the nation may be yearning for one opposition block that will make the buoyant ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which has been in power since independence, run for its money.

In his preface statement the BCP president Dumelang Saleshando set the tone to allude that there are divisions in the BDP and indeed even on opposition. “Of course we have a divided opposition and on this one we have to take responsibility as opposition parties, to try and heal the society and come up with something to make them closer to each other,” he told a fully packed press conference on Thursday afternoon in Gaborone.

The former Gaborone Central legislator highlighted that indeed opposition division creates room for BDP’s misrule and mischief.

“And so we are here today not to sign any agreement yet, but to inform you that we have agreed on the document that will regulate the bye elections from now going forward, which documents will be signed on the 13th of this month in Sekoma where the UDC candidate will be launched for the coming bye election.”

According to Saleshando, the signing of the agreement will be the first step towards building the unity that the nation desire and possibly building a consensus of Botswana we all want to build and that it’s a very important milestone that they plan to celebrate when they actually get to it.

“It sends a strong message that the plan is to succeed. But I must also admit that its insignificant compared to trials that are ahead for us as BCP and UDC.”

Ofcourse the prophets of doom, he said will say ‘we have seen this before, they have done this before, but they ultimately failed.’ “Yes we have not succeeded in the past, but you know if life it’s not how many times you fail that matters, is what you do after failing whether you are able to stand up and dust yourself from the failures and say I will do a better job next time. So we are ready to do a better job,” the calm and collected Saleshando highlighted.

He also said that their members need to come closer to each other, as it is not only about the leadership of the parties coming together. In any case, he continued, “contrary to what many people have always suspected, there has never been any acrimony whether intense or mild between myself and UDC leader Duma Boko.”

Past failures he said were not on account of personal differences but was because they represented separate organisations that held separate positions and therefore it must never be construed that the 2 of them had not get along well.

“But ofcourse now we realize that we need to dialogue with each other for us to succeed and we want our members to do the same,” the BCP leader asserted. “And that is why we have decided to call our parties’ structures, constituency committees as well as regional committees that during the months of February and March we expect all structures to jointly hold at least one activity in their respective areas.”

Saleshando also maintained that he pins his hope on the nation to also support the activities that will be held countrywide as a build up to the full proper talks.

However he pointed out that “let’s remember that this agreement is only about bye elections and we believe it will keep the BDP away from victory stand on all bye elections that will be held until the 2019 General Elections.”

The BCP president added that it doesn’t matter what the locality is and that even in constituencies of BDP stronghold they will go there. He said the plan is to deny them any chance of victory nationwide while adding that it doesn’t help them if they only plan to win their strongholds against the BDP.

Of course we expect members of the cooperating parties to be cordial to each other and use the language that is consistent with people trying to build a relationship, he cautioned.

On his part, his counterpart UDC cum BNF president Duma Boko asserted in his prologue account marking the official declaration for the dates leading to the cooperation talks, “we will begin engagements,” he told the press conference.

“And to pre-empt the question that you will ask me members of the press, we have had formal engagements amongst ourselves at this level of leadership because it is important for us.”

He also added that they had informal whereabouts while emphasizing that it is important for them sometimes to hold these meetings away from the public and even away from their members, and he said some of these have not been discussions on the issue of cooperation but just to break bread together and just to have a cup of tea together as they have always done before.

Boko, who is also the leader of opposition chunk in parliament highlighted that “so those informal contacts, are a prelude to more formal engagements that we hope to begin and if I may put some time frame to it, the hope is that the beginning of April we may commence these formal discussions between Umbrella for Democratic Change and Botswana Congress party.”

According to the top notch qualified lawyer, “the nature, the scope and depth will define itself as we go out so I just wanted to clear this out so that you remain in absolute no doubt about what we are doing and that we make no apologies for it because it has to be done – as it’s about time” he asserted.   

In those recent wine and dine meets, Boko told the journalists that they have touched on the thorny issue in the process of finding out what it is that has separated them from working with each other from the past.

“So yes we have met, all over the place in this country and even at each other’s houses so that you may be shocked and surprised,” he stated wearing his signature laugh with his eyes glued down from the audience.  

He cleared the air by stating that it goes to reinforce the fact that there is no acrimony between him and BCP leader Saleshando, “we are not fighting with each other and we have never fought, and we have never insulted each other at least at the level of leadership,” the Gaborone Bonnington North law maker stressed.

So, he also insisted that “we are here today as you can see, in part to begin another step. We have responded to the budget speech yesterday, some issues that arose from our intervention yesterday are issues we will pursue together, both the leadership of UDC and that of the BCP and going forward we will jointly pursue these matters. And one of these matters include skyrocketing military expenditure.”

The Member of Parliament has also underscored that both parties acting jointly need to pursue the government to push it to account. “These are the things we need to pursue for the betterment of this country. We will call on this government to be as transparent as the situation demands. There are many issues that we will deal with together. Issues will be tackled from a common platform.”

He added that they will also refine their own issues together. We want solutions that work for our country, he said. He however cautioned that when they get to the terrain (of opposition cooperation talks) they should approach it with open mind. “We will quarrel from now and then, and we will strike a compromise here and there,” Boko stated.

He also advised that politics is more dynamic, more interesting, more engaging and that we need to rescue it from this caricature of “ideologues” but do what works for the country.  

“So as I said to you, April we will engage in formal discussion about unity. I have no doubt in my mind that we will succeed. I have absolutely no doubt. And this is an ominous message to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). They must be quaking on their boots as I speak and I know they are freaked out because if there is anything they don’t want to hear and see is in fact this opposition cooperation,” the UDC leader postulated.

So now we are giving them a sneak preview so that when they run around and tell us who their president is or is not they know, he stated to a thunderous applause from both the UDC, BCP party members who were present alike.

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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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