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Masisis VP tag weigh on other candidates

Vice President Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi

He is currently Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s best-known political enigma. He rose to the country second most powerful position in a short space of time and many are still wondering why President Lt Gen Ian Khama picked the less decorated Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi for Vice President ahead of well-oiled political machines within the party ranks and of course ahead of his friends and or blood line.


Indeed the name Masisi has a scion of, yes, as one of the country’s most enduring, trans-generational political dynasties, but it is without a doubt that had very little to do with Khama appointing him Vice President. He trusted him not because of his name, many are yet to know why…


The Vice President made his name available for selection as chairman of the BDP last week; in political nomenclature he could be labelled a late comer in the race. Not forgetting that people contesting this position are increasing at intervals. But as things stand he is the late comer. There is ongoing debate as to whether this decision will make or break him. The verdict is out there and voices from within his party are saying, the weight of his office will help him cross the river.


He is up against seasoned campaigners like Tebelelo Seretse and determined new comers in the mould of Biggie Butale and willing party members like Ramadeluka Seretse among others. But Masisi’s handlers are confident he will romp home. He arrives when the race is already on home run.


Unlike his rivals, Masisi is already privileged; he had a team that was willing to push his agenda even before he committed to the race. It is recorded that he was being lobbied by some within the party to “take” the chairmanship. Of course there are BDP members who believe that the party constitution section 29 c entitles the Vice President to the chairmanship.


By announcing his candidacy or availability, Masisi was effectively telling the other candidates to make way for him. “It is about the office, we must respect the office of the Vice President, we have entrusted him with the responsibility of leading the country, why can’t he lead the party?” quips Mephato Reatile, Southern District Council chairman who is also BDP’s chairman for the Political Education Sub Committee.


Reatile’s view expressly conveys a general expectation as per the BDP’s culture of old. BDP members usually follow the leader although the party has experienced considerable tweaking in the past because of the changing political landscape. By extension President Lt Gen Ian Khama is expected to support his Vice President come rain or sunshine.


“Members of Parliament voted for Masisi in Parliament, my view is that we are bound by President Khama and Parliament decision. We are just following them and in addition to that Masisi is a capable leader,” adds Reatile. But all the people who are running for the position of chairman so far have indicated that they will not withdraw, at least for now. They have already spent resources in the campaign and many believe their campaigns have gained speed and prospects of winning are high.


Not that their decision not to withdraw will be hurting Masisi. Some may see the “defiance” as undermining Masisi and his office, but it is a big No from the likes of Ramadeluka Seretse who posted on his facebook page that he welcomed the latest entrants to the race because it attests to BDP’s respect for democracy.


“People know his name, they know about him, but they don’t know him,” says Reatile, who declares that his Southern region has a collective responsibility to support Masisi for chairman. “He’s at a perfect age to be chairman of the party. He’s running for a very powerful position in the BDP, we are grooming him for presidency.”


BDP’s position of chairman is not necessarily a powerful position. It is merely ceremonial; it is far eclipsed by that of secretary general in terms of roles and profile. But surprisingly most have picked the chairmanship as the hot spot despite the fact that the crust of the BDP soul rests with the position of secretary general.

Masisi’s supporters want him to build a big profile that befits one who is preparing to be a President. They want to win this election; to them it will be a big boost.

Masisi has already been credited with the bye-election loss in Moshupa and many believe that he supported Tshepo Wareus who was mauled by Dorcas Makgato in Lobatse last month. His supporters want to prove that he has a big temperament and he is a born winner.


If Masisi wins, he stands a better chance of fighting potential challenges ahead including in 2018. But it will not come easy albeit the scores of endorsements that have started pouring in through the social media. Dr Alfred Madigele, Assistant Minister of Health has declared his support for Masisi.

Minister of Defense Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi, who is also running for deputy secretary general, has already aligned his campaign to that of the Vice President, and Botlogile Tshireletso has also indicated her intentions to push Masisi’s agenda. The Youth Wing chairman, Andy Boatile has declared his unconditional support for the Vice President.

These are public endorsements that have not been seen for other candidates. Some political commentators dismiss them as political posturing but in fact they are giving currency to Masisi’s 11th hour campaign. Khama may just work the magic on the final moments before elections at the congress.


A general chat with a political scientist reveals that Masisi as a politician is not by all accounts popular but he has proven himself; hence BDP members could be compelled by his status to accept him for chairman.
“People in the south know the name, it has very positive resonance in southern region, but there is need for Masisi to demonstrate more substance so that he could appeal to the middleclass.”


Masisi could adjust his political compass a bit to accommodate other spheres such as media and non-state actors. He has in the past expressed anti-media sentiments, which some say may just not help his course of crafting a character commensurate with today’s politics.


Numbers game may well be in Masisi’s plate. Many believe that President Khama has already helped the Vice President’s course by roping in Kgotla Autlwetse and Fidelis Molao to cabinet. They should be able to reciprocate the “favour” by pushing votes for the Vice President. The Central District will be highly contested, but Masisi is expected to get a chunk. The north-south debate is not catching speed and some regions in the north seem to be swaying towards Masisi. The Vice President looks set in southern and Kweneng regions.


The Khama versus Ponatshego Kedikilwe battle in Gantsi has some fearing for Masisi. The battle was very tight despite the fact that the name Khama was involved and that Masisi is not a Khama. Victor Malete roots for the Vice President, but he foretells that this could end up as a battle between three candidates. He expects a photo finish, with Masisi emerging top.

“Its protocol, we should support our VP,” he says. But others are quick to point out that there is no Kedikilwe again in the race, young BDP members outside the Youth Wing structure have aligned themselves to Biggie Butale.


But one thing remains about this BDP race, slates will not be so pronounced this time around.

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BAC graduates 727 students this year

9th December 2022

Botswana Accountancy College (BAC) last week held its 2022 graduation where 727 students graduated after spending the last two years of their academic studies navigating through the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is said that during the pandemic, BAC provided students with laptops, tablets and data sim cards to facilitate virtual learning and blended learning. The Acting Minister of Education and Skills Development at the ceremony, Wilhemina Makwnja noted that the students managed to create connections and build bridges to reach their ultimate goals, therefore their graduation is not only testimony of their strength and resilience, but it also demonstrates their commitment to excel by facing the challenges they encountered head on to break through the barriers and focused on their success.

“I trust that the graduates will build onto these qualities and competencies as they venture into the industry to impart their skills in the various sectors of the economy,” said Makwinja. She also shared that she strongly believes that the graduates will become agents of change and that they will take advantage of the spectrum of opportunities available in the market both locally and internationally.

Living in an era of digital economies, e-commerce, fin-tech and many other new eco-systems that have been created as the world continues to evolve, it is said to be inevitable that we all need to be steadfast and adapt to the rapid changes experienced before the pandemic. “As part of the transformation agenda, the Ministry of Entrepreneurship has been established with a mandate to drive development of sustainable industries and trade, and this can be achieved through ‘accelerated transformative investments in Botswana’,” said Makwinja.

She further noted it is through the Ministry that youth entrepreneurship projects will be supported including administration of the Youth Development Fund that facilitates funding commercialization of various youth projects. “There are other Government incentives in Agriculture which are aimed at supporting Batswana farmers with commercialization of their produce to supply both the local market and exporting to other markets,” added Makwinja.

The BAC Executive Director, Serty Leburu on the other hand enunciated that it was important to recognise that the past years they have gone through a lot of changes and mostly life defining moments as the school lost some valuable staff members and students during the Covid-19 pandemic. “The environment within which we operate has been changing rapidly and as an institution we have to constantly come up with some interventions and pivot ourselves in order to rise to the test and adapt,” said Leburu.

Leburu also renowned that they were also launching the BAC 2022-2027 Institutional Strategy focusing on key areas for Teaching and Learning, Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Transition to University Status and Internationalization, Asset Mobilisation and Optimization as well as Student and Staff experience. “It is our ambition to continue to expand into other markets to provide access to our programs through partnerships and collaborations with both local and international private and public entities,” added Leburu

In addition to this, she reflected that research, innovation, and consultancy are some of the areas they are making strides to develop and grow in partnership with various stakeholders. Through the schools there are projects that are being worked on at various levels. “As BAC we continue to work with the industry and our partners, we assess the market to identify training and development needs to capacitate employees to meet the demands of the new and evolving economies,” concluded Leburu.

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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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