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Sub-Saharan Africa faces grave hunger in 2020 – UN report

At the dawn of the next decade, a new World Food Programme WFP forecast of global hunger hotspots has revealed that escalating hunger will challenge sub-Saharan Africa in the first half of 2020.

According to the WFP 2020 Global Hotspots Report, millions of people in Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central Sahel region will require life-saving food assistance in the coming months- the sheer scale and complexity of which will stretch the UN food relief agency’s capacity to the limit and require generous donor support for a ramped-up humanitarian response.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley spelled out ‘’WFP is fighting big and complex humanitarian battles on several fronts at the start of 2020. In some countries, we are seeing conflict and instability combine with climate extremes to force people from their homes, farms and places of work. In others, climate shocks are occurring alongside economic collapse and leaving millions on the brink of destitution and hunger’’

Against the backdrop of an imploding economy and when Zimbabwe is entering the peak of its lean season and food is at its most scarce, WFP observed that the country has more hungry people now than it has had over the past decade. And as concerns grow over the impact of a regional drought that could drag even more countries down in the first months of the year, WFP is planning assistance for some four million people in Zimbabwe.

‘’Last year, WFP was called upon to bring urgent large-scale relief to Yemen, Mozambique after Cyclone Idai, Burkina Faso and so many other crises to avert famine’’ said Margot Van Der Velden, WFP Director of Emergencies. ''But the world is an unforgiving place and as we turn the page into 2020, WFP is confronting new, monumental humanitarian challenges that we need to address with real urgency’’

Elsewhere, the report says rapidly evolving political and social crisis in Haiti is raising alarm, while Afghanistan continues to face insecurity combined with drought, leaving millions of people uncertain of where their next meal will come from. WFP is the frontline agency responding to emergencies and strengthening people’s preparedness and ability to cope in the face of crises.

The largest humanitarian agency working to both save and change lives, WFP is primed 24/7 to step up support wherever needed, given sufficient funding and access. However, the agency estimates it will require more than 10 Billion US Dollars to fully fund all of its operations in more than 80 countries around the world in 2020.

According to WFP, Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst drought in decades, with temperatures hitting over 40 degrees Celsius. Food production has been severely affected, driven by climate change, the drought is exacerbating Zimbabwe’s severe economic crisis and causing a humanitarian emergency characterised by hyperinflation and rising food security. Food insecurity levels are the highest in a decade. The report underlined that half the population, 7.7 million people, is food insecure, with the 2019 cereal harvest falling more than 50 per cent short of needs for the 2019-20 lean season.

The group, however, indicated that it will double its assistance to reach up to 4.1 million of the hardest-hit Zimbabweans. It will switch to distributing food in rural areas from January, due to concerns over hyperinflation and reduced availability of commodities in rural markets. WFP is supporting efforts to boost communities’ resilience to crisis, from small dams to retain precious water to vegetable gardens to grow crops.

South Sudan remains embroiled in local conflicts, while trying to rebuild after a fragile peace dealt in September 2018 sought to end a deadly civil war that displaced 3.8 million people. A crippled economy, poorly functioning markets, lack of infrastructure and climate shocks all hamper recovery efforts. The report further indicated that parts of the country were hammered by severe drought and flooding in 2019, which has affected close to 1 million people and destroyed over 730 thousand metric tons of cereals.

Livestock such as cattle, goats and sheep perished, and grazing pasture was wiped out. It was also shared that levels of hunger are expected to dramatically worsen in the coming months unless assistance is increased, with half the population- 7.5 million people- projected to need support inn 2020.01.28 in response to this, WFP reached over 4.6 million people in 2019, including 740 thousand flood-affected people who received food and nutrition assistance.

The group also provides cash and deploys all-terrain vehicles and aircraft to reach the most remote communities, while also carrying out road repairs. Efforts to build resilience to shocks include training smallholder farmers in post-harvest storage and access to markets. Further, Southern African has experienced a stream of devastating climate chocks in the past year, with harvests failing as western and central areas of the region suffer the worst drought in 35 years.

A total 45 million people across Southern African will be severely food insecure at the peak of the lean season from January to March 2020. However, WFP is providing transport and procuring pulses to complement government distributions in Zambia. In addition, WFP is assessing further activities including cash-based distributions in Namibia, as well as technical assistance to the government of Angola’s emergency response.

Meanwhile, WFP called for increased support as eight million people in Zimbabwe face hunger. In a press statement released in December, WFP said roughly half the population of Zimbabwe, or approximately eight million people are not getting enough to eat. Zimbabwe, once known as an African breadbasket, has been hit hard by three consecutive years of drought. As a result, the maize harvest dropped by 50 per cent in 2019 as compared to 2018. To meet increasing needs, WFP was forced to launch an emergency lean season assistance programme in August, months earlier than expected.

Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, visited Zimbabwe in November where she witnessed how women and children are bearing the brunt of the crisis. ‘’In a desperate effort to find alternative means of livelihood, some women and children are resorting to coping mechanisms that violate their most fundamental human rights and freedoms. As a result, school drop-outs, early marriages, domestic violence, prostitution and sexual exploitation are on the rise throughout Zimbabwe’’ she said in a statement following her 11-day mission.

The hunger crisis comes as Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic downturn in a decade. Runaway inflation is just one of the symptoms, and it has put the price of basic goods beyond the reach of the average citizen. WFP reported that bread is now 20 times more expensive than it was six months ago. Increasing hardship is forcing families to skip meals, take children out of school, or sell off livestock, among other desperate measures.

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Bangwato regent speaks ‘respect for Dikgosi’

23rd May 2022
Bangwato

Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.

Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.

Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.

One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution

Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.”  Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.

She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age.  Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.

Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.

Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.

For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.

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Parliament unveils major shake-up plans & reforms

23rd May 2022
Parliament

Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.

The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare.
Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.

According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned.  It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.

“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said.  Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.

The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.

The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.

The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.”  The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana.  It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.

“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.

Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.

“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversification of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly.  It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).

“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.

Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.

The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.

“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said.  The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.

The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.

“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).

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Salbany, Bareetsi threaten to sue DIS

23rd May 2022
Salbany Bareetsi

Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.

After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.

They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.

“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.

They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”

They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.

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