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Broke Statistics Botswana retrenches

Close to 50 lower cadre employees of the Statistics Botswana will lose their jobs, as the organisation is headed for broke. The now financially crippled SB is under the microscope as Parliament recently resolved that a special committee be set up to investigate allegations of maladministration and corruption at the institution.

Most of those who are being retrenched are lower cadre employees earning P3500 or less. The Statistics Botswana has been receiving negative reviews because of its alleged mishandling of funds and nepotism.

The drivers and cleaners are seen as an easy group to part with because financially they will not weigh heavily against the organisation in terms of packages as compared to senior employees who earn between P30 000 and P60 000 per month.
Weekend Post has gathered that the lower cadres were informed of the retrenchment exercise this week and they were told that they will be taken through counselling. Government is generally working on a turnaround strategy aimed at outsourcing services such as cleaning and gardening among others.

Documents passed to this publication indicate that the employees who include messengers, drivers, handypersons, cleaners and switchboard operators are in the list of retrench staff and are serving their last month with the organisation.
Ironically the institution has engaged temporary drivers to assist bridge the gap left by the fired workers, stocking speculation that they may be too broke to pay the benefits of the full time employees. It also shows that despite retrenching, there is a scarcity of the drivers as well as the cleaners.

In addition, the organisation is said to be entangled in possible privatisation of cleaning services – following the dismissal of the cleaners. Services such as cleaning have been viewed as non-essential and therefore always face the wrath of the hammer when organisations get financially drained as with Statistics Botswana.

Statistics Botswana is a parastatal organisation established under the Statistics Act by separating Central Statistics Office from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. The role of Statistics Botswana is multi– faceted and, as the pre – eminent agency it is responsible for the development and management of official statistics.

Its duties include and not limited to; the collection, processing, analysis, publishing and disseminating of official statistics in areas such as, commercial and industrial activities, agricultural social, economic, environmental, energy, communications and household conditions. It also advises government and other agencies on policies and procedures relating to statistics.  

Sources close to the parastatal told this publication that due to looming privatisation of cleaning services; already associates of some management staff have lined themselves up for snatching the tenders fuelling previous concerns and accusation of nepotism at the organisation.

Statistician General Annah Majelantle was said to be out of office at the time WeekendPost made inquiries on the matter. Senior Stakeholder Relations Officer Themba Sibanda stated that, “It is not a retrenchment but rather the contracts of the employees have expired and therefore would not be renewed.”

He however chose to withhold the number of people facing the looming job losses at the institution.

Nevertheless, Statistician General Annah Majelantle earns a total of P61, 554.81 including entertainment allowances at P1,182.09, housing at P11,820.90, transport at P5,910.45 and communication at P1,071.20. In contrast a cleaner earns around P3, 520.58 at SB and this translates to the fact that the Statistician General wage could settle salaries of close to 15 cleaners/handypersons. The situation is not helped by reports that she fancies going to school to further her studies despite the organisation she heads going through financial constraints.

The employees who face the chop will end of this month join the unemployment statistics. Despite its middle-income status, Botswana continues to grapple with significant social challenges including unequal distribution of wealth, high levels of poverty, and unemployment.

The unemployment rate in Botswana increased to 20 percent in 2013 from 17.80 percent in 2010. It also averaged 18.42 percent from 1991 until 2013, reaching an all time high of 23.80 percent in 2006 and a record low of 13.90 percent in 1991. Currently, unemployment rate in Botswana sits at 17.8% and with the recent development, Statistics Botswana employees will become part of the statistics.

During the budget speech this year, Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Mathambo emphasized that government’s priorities going forward, with their slogan “moving Botswana forward” – will be among others creation of employment for the citizens and eradication of poverty. It remains to be seen whether the government’s effort will bear fruits.

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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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