Despite the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Developments (SGP) reaching closure, President Lt Gen Ian Khama is still not keen to sign the protocol and adhere to its conditions.
The (SGP) which calls on SADC member states to empower women, eliminate discrimination, and achieve gender equality and equity will lapse in September 2015.
Khama who was recently appointed deputy Chairperson of SADC deputising Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, has long argued that the protocol timeframe was unrealistic. Botswana, which houses the SADC headquarters has not yet signed nor ratified the protocol.
It has now proved that efforts made by Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisation (BOCONGO)’s gender sector to lobby President Khama to sign the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development have not been successful.
“Since the endorsement of the protocol we have been advocating through forums and engaging Botswana government appealing to it to sign the protocol, but our efforts turned fruitless,” explained BOCONGO Executive Director Bagaisi Mabilo in an interview.
Mabilo explained that the government through the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu revealed that their decision was final Botswana will not engage in the protocol assignation.
She expressed that despite reports which indicate Botswana’s good performance on gender issues, there are pertinent burning issues of gender affliction in Batswana. Mabilo stressed that signing the protocol could have legally forced the government to improve on the gaps.
In August 2008, heads of state of SADC agreed on a legally binding instrument for achieving gender equality in the form of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development (SGP). The SGP has 28 targets to be achieved by 2015, also the deadline for the eight targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Out of the 15 SADC countries Botswana and Mauritius were only two States that did not sign the SADC Gender Protocol.
The protocol’s objectives compelled member states to provide for the empowerment of women, to eliminate discrimination and achieve gender equality and equity through the development and implementation of gender responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects. It also called for them to harmonize the implementation of various instruments to which SADC member states have subscribed to at the regional, continental and international level on gender equality and equity. To address emerging gender issues and concerns and also to set realistic, measurable targets, time frames and indicators for achieving gender equality and equity.
Refusing to sign the protocol according to the 2012 Botswana Gender Protocol Barometer, Khama argued that mandatory language used in crafting most of the clauses that Botswana considers critical and that some of the timeframes were unrealistic. He criticized that some of the measures have serious resource implications that Botswana cannot guarantee.
“Other international instruments allow member states to sign and register their reservations on clauses that they are uncomfortable with. This option was not available to Botswana since the SADC Treaty does not allow for adoption of any Protocols with reservations,” argued Khama.
Khama also complained that there is discomfort on the provisions around widows as he stated that it does not apply to Botswana.
Despite refusing to sign the protocol Khama emphasized that Botswana identifies with it and is committed to the objectives of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development highlighting that the country’s policies and programmes as well as resources allocated to the sector demonstrate that and will continue to do so.
“Botswana has fulfilled most of the requirements in legislative reform as well as socio-economic policies. This is demonstrated largely by the increasing numbers of women, both in government and the private sector who hold executive, director and ambassadorial positions,” Khama was previously quoted in media reports.
Gender Links Botswana’s country manager, Gomolemo Rasesigo has rubbished Botswana’s reasons for not signing the protocol and criticized that the country not signing the protocol would lead to it being left behind in issues of gender developments while other signatory countries are close that gap.
Rasesigo thrashed claims by Botswana government that they are aligned to the objectives of the protocol. She also complained that Batswana women are still subjected to gender problems. Rasesigo argues that there is still more to be done to assist women and it could only be achieved if Botswana is legally bound to the protocol objectives
She quoted Article 12 of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development which states that “States Parties shall endeavor that, by 2015, at least 50 per cent of decision-making positions in the public and private sectors are held by women including the use of affirmative action measures as provided for in Article 5.”
Rasesigo argued that SADC member states that have signed the protocol are reaching above the target of 50 percent whilst Botswana currently trails at below 30 percent.
Currently the member states are running their 15 districts level summits (DLSs) taking place in Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The DLSs present an opportunity for the countries to take stock of the progress made in attaining gender equality at the local level. After the district summits the countries hold their national summits before the SADC regional summit.
Councils from the SADC countries have committed to the Centres of Excellence (COE) for Gender in Local Government Programme. It is underscored that the councils have developed gender action plans aligned to the 28 targets of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development that is also aligned to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which both close at the end of this year (2015).
Botswana is also moving on with its district level summits, which are being held respectively in all districts of the country. The country’s national summits are scheduled to be held in Gaborone. For the first time the SADC regional summit will be held in Botswana alongside the 35th SADC Heads of State summit in the same year.
All the summits are reported to form part of a larger campaign led by the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance to strengthen the SADC Gender Protocol in line with the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) of the post 2015 agenda that will come into effect later this year. The Alliance has a mandate to lobby for the protocol and also monitors for its implementation by members that have signed and ratified the protocol.
Rasesigo complained that it was a shame that that Botswana as regional host of the SADC summit have not signed the protocol.
WeekendPost understands that as the 28 targets of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development lapse in 2015 the targets will have to be reviewed in line with those of the Sustainable Development Goals for the post 2015 gender agenda of 2030.
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.
âI 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,â 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. âAs 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 âaccelerated transformative investments in Botswanaâ,â 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. âThere 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,â 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. âThe 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,â 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. âIt 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,â 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. âAs 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,â concluded Leburu.
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 donâtâ 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. âThere 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 consumersâ right to healthier lifestyle choices,â 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.
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. âInnovative 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.
Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smokingâthe most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. âNicotine 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,â 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.
âThe 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,â 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.
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 reachingÂ WeekendPostÂ 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 publicationâs queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, âas 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,â 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.
âIt is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,â he toldÂ WeekendPost, adding that âwhen a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolvedâ.
Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.