In an effort to address socio-economic hardships confronting people living with disabilities, the government of Botswana earlier this year introduced a monthly disability allowance for local inhabitants challenged by disabilities. It has however emerged that many people with disabilities have been turned away and declared ineligible for this allowance which was due to be paid to beneficiaries starting in April 2015 when the provision for this allowance became effective.
Rehabilitation officer and Disability focal person for the Boteti Sub District Council Mr Ramosesane Mathodi has revealed that to qualify for the allowance, one has to be fully assed and go through a rigorous qualification process, however not many disabled people qualify and many are rejected during this process “the provision is very clear and only caters for severe and profound disability and not every disability, not every disabled person will qualify” he said.
It is this provision that classifies those challenged by disability into the ‘severe and profound disabilities’ category that has opened a can of worms. Kaboyaone Matlho who was born without hands, feet or legs has complained that he was recently returned from a disability office in Gaborone and told that he is not eligible for the monthly allowance as he is a well-known talent singer.
He said he was informed that the allowance is reserved only for those with ‘severe and profound’ disability and those who have no means of income, in his response Mathodi said that while he understands Matlho’s grievances fully, this is an issue raised by many disabled persons who have been rejected, it is a contentious issue which he says they are still addressing internally.
Matlho felt that if a man born without limbs does not qualify for the allowance then in his view it is not truly meant for disabled people, but those with severe conditions who are in hospitals and unable to function at all “I think it is safe to say only those with severe illnesses and confined to hospital beds will qualify, if a man with no hands and feet and is in constant need of care and assistance does not qualify” he said. He felt that the provision inherently discriminates against disabled persons as it does not recognize that many of them are fully ad functional human beings. He said it was hard for him to understand what profound disability is in this case, as many people with profound disabilities are functional and able to start a means of income, regardless of their daily challenges.
He said he was hoping that they will sort out the problem so that he will be assisted together with others in a similar position. Mathodi has responded by saying that while the provision is very strict as to who can get the allowance he was hoping that Kabo will be enrolled.
“I will consult with my superiors to see how we can help Mr Matlho as in my opinion he should benefit” He said disability officers and focal persons across the country were planning to meet with the authorities in Gaborone to lobby for a change in the provision as many people living with disabilities have been rejected.
He also revealed to this publication that those who have been screened and qualify will start receiving their monthly disability allowance next month (September) backdated to April 2015. He said that this initiative experienced some delays since its introduction in April and that they are now done sorting out impediments and modalities “the allowance due to those people challenged by severe disability will start being credited next month, all arrangements are now in place and they should start being paid in September 2015 and we have agreed that they will get back pay, backdated to April this year” he said.
He said the allowance, P300 monthly pay will apply retroactively, only to those who have been assessed and passed all the qualification stages.
He said that his office which caters for People-Living -With –Disabilities covering the whole of the Boteti Sub District currently has 546 people registered. “my offices is responsible for taking care of the needs of people with disabilities from Mokubilo to Makalamabedi and all of the small settlements across Boteti and this is where all the people we work with come from” he said.
He said he is responsible for connecting People-Living -With –Disabilities to developments and government service in his area “I deal with people challenged by all sorts of disabilities, some of the disability came about because of diseases, some of it due to accidents and some clients were born disabled, while some of it, its causes unknown” He said. He said that the majority of those registered with his office are learners with intellectual disability “majority of the 546 persons under my care suffer from intellectual disability. On a daily basis, I link them with social services and ensure that they have access to educational opportunities as well as advocate for their rights. If they are deaf, I ensure that they receive proper sign language training and connect them to other relevant government departments” he said.
He said that he was happy that some of his clients were recently awarded the youth development fund while some have graduated from destitution to self-sustenance “I also view it as a success that we have so many people coming out to register, in the past disabled people were hidden from sight by family members and stayed indoors. Things are changing and we are happy to be able to help them as many of them are talented and can live meaningful lives if they know which government services to access and take advantage of to develop their talents” he said.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.