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Ndaba on Economy, Education and lame duck Parliament

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Secretary General Ndaba Gaolathe says the economic problems besieging the country will not go away until government think-tanks make proper diagnosis of the economic crisis.

In an exclusive interview with the Weekend Post this week, Gaolathe charged that what government offers as a solution to the problems facing the country certainly indicates the extent to which much is being misunderstood about the country’s economy.

“We are clearly making wrong diagnosis of what the country needs,” he said.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) recently announced a new initiative called Target 20 000 Up skilling programme. The initiative will see youth who failed Junior Certificate (JC) and Botswana General Certificate for Secondary Education (BGCSE) being enrolled for tertiary programmes through bridging courses.

The Gaborone Bonnington South legislator pointed out that the Target 20 000 Up Skilling is a prime example that government does not know what the country needs. “There are no clear objectives of what the programme intends to achieve,” he said. “Education should form a cog of economy’s transformation and should have put emphasis on certain key elements like; technical skills and managerial skills.”

Gaolathe contends that the new initiative by MoESD is target based and not driven by potency to transform the economy. What the government wants to achieve is to increase the quantity so that they make the case, he contends.

“It serves no purpose because it does not build the right skills that we need,” he said. “It does not increase the base of artisans, engineers, and doctors− simply it has no clear objective.”

Gaolathe, who is also the President of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) noted that the government would rather have used the millions which are going to be spent on the Target 20 000 initiative to send unemployed youth abroad. He said, the youth would then be trained through attachment so that they earn the skills that the country needs.
Gaolathe mentioned countries like India, which has a blossoming diamonds industry as prime area, which Botswana can use for skills transfer.

Gaolathe, who spent his early career as a think tank at Botswana Institute for Development and Policy Analysis (BIDPA) further suggests that government should first do away with bottle-necks that hinder opportunities for economic prosperity.

He wants government to do away with monopolies in key sectors such as the beef industry and power production. Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) remains the only abattoir in the country allowed to export beef to foreign markets. Gaolathe wants government to end BMC monopoly and bring other players on board and establish a regulator. “You will then have broad based participation, which means more demand for cattle and more jobs,” he said.

With the country besieged by unprecedented power crisis, Gaoathe opines that it is a self created crisis. He mention government‘s inability to bring on board independent power producers and create a regulator as well. “We failed to invest on energy despite having independent power producers ready as far as 2009,” he said. “We are also lost jobs in the process.”

Gaolathe asserted that when it comes to parastatals, government gets a lot of fundamentals wrong. “Government uses iron fist as haphazard strategy on managing quasi-government institutions,” he observed. Parastatals need autonomy with clear mandates not interference.”

There are reports that the ruling party in its bid to retain power is contemplating increasing the number of constituencies from the current 57 to 120, more than double the number. Gaoathe says it’s a futile exercise and does not address the inefficiencies of parliament. “If you compare the number of MPs in Botswana to other jurisdictions such as United States based on the population-representation ratio, we already have more legislators and councillors,” he said.

Gaolathe said the biggest challenge facing parliament today is lack of independence from Office of the President. He wants parliament to consider having the budget office manned by economic experts who will do finance estimates for MPs. “Parliament should be able to have capacity to make their own assessment independent from those of the executive,” he said.

This, according to Gaolathe should be coupled by the establishment of an office manned by lawyers responsible for drafting the bills for MPs. “If we can augment expert support base, parliament can be more effective,” he said.

Gaolathe also identified public procurement as one area where the country can use as a lever for broader based participation. “We are based more on price forgetting factors such as potential and consortia,” he said.

“The system [procurement] is bad at identifying potential and has resulted in the breeding of tenderpreneurs for the politically connected,” he charged.

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People with Disabilities Face Barriers to Political Participation in Botswana

23rd February 2024

Individuals challenged by disabilities encounter formidable obstacles when endeavoring to partake in political processes within the context of Botswana. Political involvement, a cornerstone of democratic governance, empowers citizens to shape the legislative landscape that impacts their daily existence. Despite Botswana’s reputation for upholding democratic ideals, recent insights unveil a troubling reality – those with disabilities find themselves marginalized in the realm of politics, contending with substantial barriers obstructing the exercise of their democratic liberties.

A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.

The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.

Calls for decisive action cascade forth, urging the establishment of more inclusive and accessible political ecosystems that embrace individuals with disabilities in Botswana. Government bodies and concerned stakeholders are urged to prioritize the enactment of laws and policies designed to safeguard the political rights of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, initiatives geared towards enhancing awareness and education on political processes and rights for this segment of society must be spearheaded, alongside the adoption of inclusive measures within political institutions and party structures.

By dismantling these barriers and nurturing a political landscape that is truly inclusive, Botswana can earnestly uphold its democratic ethos and afford every citizen, including those with disabilities, a substantive opportunity to partake in the political fabric of the nation.



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Neo Kirchway- Defying the odds

23rd February 2024

In the heartwarming tale of Neo Kirchway, a beacon of inspiration emerges, shining brightly amid life’s adversities.

Defying the constraints of destiny, Neo Kirchway, a resilient Motswana soul now thriving in the United States, stands tall despite the absence of her lower limbs. With unwavering determination, she tends to her cherished family – a loving husband and four children – engaging in the daily symphony of household tasks with remarkable grace.

Neo’s indomitable spirit traces back to the fateful year of 1994, a time when medical intervention called for the amputation of her curled legs. Embracing this pivotal juncture with unwavering courage and the blessing of her mother, she ventured forth into a world adorned with prosthetic legs, eager to script a tale of triumph.

Venturing beyond borders, Neo’s journey led her to the embrace of the United States, where serendipity intertwined her fate with that of her soulmate, Garrett Kirchway. Together, this harmonious duo navigates the ebbs and flows of life, their bond fortified by unwavering love and unyielding support.

In a bid to illuminate paths and embolden hearts, Neo leverages the digital realm, crafting a sanctuary of empowerment on her YouTube channel. Brimming with authenticity and raw emotion, her videos chronicle the tapestry of her daily life, serving as a testament to resilience and the unwavering human spirit.

Amidst the digital cosmos, Neo, affectionately known as “KirchBaby,” reigns supreme, a luminary in the hearts of 658,000 enraptured subscribers. Through her captivating content, she not only navigates the mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, and childcare but also dances with celestial grace, a testament to her boundless spirit and unyielding zest for life.

In the cathedral of Neo Kirchway’s narrative, resilience reigns supreme, echoing a universal truth – that amidst life’s gales, the human spirit, when kindled by hope and fortitude, emerges as a beacon of light, illuminating even the darkest of paths.


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Inequalities Faced by Individuals with Disabilities

22nd February 2024

The government’s efforts to integrate individuals with disabilities in Botswana society are being hampered by budgetary constraints. Those with disabilities face inequalities in budgetary allocations in the health and education sectors. For instance, it is reported that the government allocates higher budgetary funds to the general health sector, while marginal allocations are proposed for the development and implementation of the National Primary Health Care guidelines and Standards for those with Disabilities. This shows that in terms of budgetary solutions, the government’s proposed initiatives in improving the health and well-being of those with disabilities remain futile as there is not enough money going towards disability-specific health programs. On the other hand, limited budgetary allocations to the Special Education Unit also are a primary contributor to the inequalities faced by children with disabilities. The government only provides for the employment of 15 teachers with qualifications in special education despite the large numbers of children with intellectual disabilities that are in need of special education throughout Botswana. Such disproportional allocation of resources inhibits the capacity to provide affordable and accessible assisted technology and residential support services for those with disabilities. Given the fact that a different amount of resources have been availed to the education and health sectors, the general understanding is that the government is not doing enough to ensure that adequate resources are distributed to disability-specific programs and facilities such as barrier-free environments, residential homes, and special education schools for children with disabilities.


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