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Opposition MPs slam parley proceedings

Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe

Members of Parliament from the opposition block have expressed their displeasure with unfairness of parliamentary proceedings and standing orders.

This is in the wake of a development that will see MPs debating only 25 motions from Francistown West MP, Ignatius Moswaane in the next parliament session. Opposition MPs argue that parliament is seized with Moswaane’s business to the detriment of other MPs.

““I fail to understand as to why parliament can debate motions of only one MP and others not given a chance to table their motions” MP for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse told this publication in an interview.

Keorapetse accused Botswana Democratic Party (BDP )and the Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe of hatching a plan to deliberately sabotage opposition by silencing them. 

“BDP wants to make parliament boring and frustrating to opposition MPs, “he observed. “Only ruling party legislators are listened to by the speakership.”

Keorapetse also explained that their efforts as opposition to resolve the issue proved futile as the General Assembly meetings flopped because of the quorum. He said the intention was to amend the standing orders to allocate a quota of motions to MPs as it is with questions and find a way in which there can be equitable distribution of time for MPs’ business.

The youthful legislator slammed ministers for arrogance when responding to questions in a manner that detracts from the role of parliament as an oversight body.  

Keorapetse criticize the ministers for providing inadequate information, misleading parliament and lacking seriousness when responding to questions.  

Keorapetse also lambasted the speaker for colluding with the government through the Leader of the House to frustrate MPs’ efforts to table urgent motions or answer uncomfortable questions.

He added that the speaker was fast losing credibility as she was biased, incompetent and haphazard. Keorapetse indicated that the speaker was timid, fearful, and lacking assertiveness.

Another opposition legislator, Haskins Nkaigwa of Gaborone North said parliament was not another arm of government but a mere rubberstamping authority of the executive. Nkaigwa maintained that the executive was more powerful than parliament and the judiciary.

“Our parliament approves decisions of the cabinet which forms part of the executive yet it is always not well-informed as to what motivated those decisions. Since the beginning of the 11th parliament, supplementary estimates of hundreds of millions or even billions of pula  are rushed through parliament for approval in order to conceal failures of the government to budget properly” he pointed out.

According to Nkaigwa, members of the cabinet should not be drawn from parliament as that weakens parliament which is the only voice of the people.  

Phenyo Butale of Gaborone Central bemoaned the president’s failure to attend parliament for no apparent reasons. He said Botswana should emulate countries like South Africa and United Kingdom where there are laws forcing the president to attend parliament in order to answer MPs’ questions and at times take part in parliamentary debates. Butale observed that the president only attends parliament during the Budget Speech and State of the Nation Address. He said as the opposition, they would like to debate with the president directly on issues of national interest not with his deputy as it is the case. Butale also reiterated that since the president is elected by parliament he must account to it so that in turn legislators can account to the nation. He also lamented that the president can take some decisions without the consent of parliament.

Opposition chief whip and Francistown South legislator Winter Mmolotsi said if speculations that there are intentions to increase the number of government ministries are true, then parliament will be almost dead. He observed that the BDP backbench will be weakened as ministers will be selected from it meaning that the executive will even become more powerful. Mmolotsi also said parliamentary committees do not exist as there are seldom reports of these committees in parliament because they rarely meet. He said the committees were dysfunctional and ineffective because the ruling party backbenchers dominate these committees including chairing them and majority of them are clueless about the committees. Mmolotsi also took a swipe at the leader of the House, Mokgweetsi Masisi accusing him of being in control of parliament. He accused Masisi of intimidating the speaker and displaying lackadaisical attitude.

BDP chief whip, Liakat Kably could not respond to accusations levelled against his party as his mobile phone rang unanswered despite numerous efforts by this publication. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe said she could only respond to complaints lodged by legislators upon her return from Malaysia where she is attending speakers’ conference. 

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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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