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BCP at crossroads: the road ahead

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

Following the just ended general elections, the political parties that contested the elections are, in my view, all at crossroads and they have to carefully choose the road ahead if they are to win the forthcoming general elections, especially after the departure of President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama. In this series, I consider which road, at this crossroad, each political party, has to take in order to not only remain relevant, but also to win elections after President Khama’s departure. I start with the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).

In the last column I opined that the BCP is at a crossroad following its dismal performance in the just ended general elections. It was, and it is still, my view that one of the imperatives for BCP to emerge from the crossroads is the resignation of its president, Dumelang Saleshando.  In this column I argue that critical as it is for Saleshando to resign, several other steps ought to be taken for the BCP to survive. Inter alia, such steps are resisting leadership personality cultism; reconsidering the BCP’s involvement with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC); and re-casting its relations with the labour movement. I will now discuss these in turn.

Many political parties, especially in Africa, fail because of the curse of leadership personality cultism. This curse often arises when the leaders who either emerged during the country’s liberation struggle or are the party’s founding fathers are elevated to the level of deities who are infallible and, therefore, irreplaceable. Regrettably, the party and often invariably the country’s leadership remain in the hands of such leaders until they die or are deposed through military coups or mass uprisings. When such ‘deities’ depart their children or chosen loyalists succeed them either by imposition or ‘acceptance’ by the brainwashed followers.

In Botswana, the case of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is an example. Because of Khama III’s role in Bechuanaland Protectorate’s protection by the British and because of his role in Botswana’s independence, the late Sir Seretse Khama had become such a ‘deity’ that his stranglehold on the BDP and Botswana is today felt by the grip that his son, President Khama, has on both the BDP and the country. The saying ‘domi ke ya rona le bana ba bana ba rona’ (the BDP is ours and our children’s children) has become a painful reality.      

Yet, if the BCP is not careful it will follow in the BDP’s footsteps. If BCP members do not stand up against it and nip it in the bud, the Dingake and Saleshando families will be turned into BCP’s ‘deities’ and the party leadership will alternate between them. BCP’s presidency started with one of its founders, Michael Dingake, and then went to an ‘outsider’ Otlaadisa Koosaletse before going to Gilson Saleshando who then kept it in the family and ‘handed’ it to his son, Dumelang Saleshando. In the run up to the just ended general elections, another Dingake, Letsweletse Martin Dingake, Michael Dingake’s nephew, was appointed as the presidential spokesperson. This appointment was, in my view, unnecessary considering the size of the BCP, our level of politics and the BCP president’s status and political diary. Can it be regarded as unreasonable if one concluded that Letsweletse Martin Dingake is being positioned or is positioning himself to one day take the party presidency?

 Another road ahead which the BCP has to navigate carefully is whether or not to join the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and contest the next general elections under its banner. Because the BCP denied itself the historic opportunity to start the UDC with other Opposition parties and because of its dismal performance in the just ended general elections, its bargaining power has, no doubt, been diminished. On the contrary, two of UDC’s members, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), which have hitherto been minors to the BCP, have been buoyed. BCP’s nemesis, the Botswana National Front (BNF), has also been validated and may be bullish towards the BCP.

Yet, to reclaim its glory, the BCP appears to have no option, but to put up with that and join the UDC. This should, of course, depend on how the UDC handles its success and how it remains true to its founding values. It should also depend on how, beyond the excitement of the general elections, the UDC remains united despite the differences between its member parties. It is my view that if the BCP fails to join the UDC, and the UDC stays true to its course, the BCP will be thrown into obscurity in the next general elections. Not only that. More painfully, Batswana who yearn for change will be denied the opportunity to experience a change in government in their life time. History may not forgive the BCP for denying Batswana such an experience.

The BDP will be at its weakest when President Khama retires. His Honor the Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is expected to automatically succeed president Khama when he retires, lacks the charisma and political capital to lead the BDP to victory during the next general elections. Considering that even president Khama’s charisma has obviously waned and he failed to avert the loss of parliamentary and Council seats to the UDC, even Tshekedi Khama II may not have sufficient political capital to save the BDP post his elder brother’s departure.

Another road ahead which the BCP has to contend with is its relations with the labour movement. Needless to say that if it joins the UDC that may not be an issue since the UDC already has relations with Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU). However, though this relationship seems to have paid for the UDC during the last elections, I still contend that this is an unhealthy relationship. It is fundamentally unhealthy for any trade union to have a political party as an ally because if such a political party wins elections it may be too comfortable and compromise the workers. A case in point is the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa which, because of its alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), it is increasingly becoming anti-labour.

Such an alliance can also bring divisions within the labour movement as it did with BOFEPUSU and Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU). In South Africa, for example, it led to conflicts resulting in the expulsion of National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA). It also led to the ANC and the National Union of Mine Workers (NUM) engineering the formation of a pro-COSATU and ANC metal workers union to rival NUMSA. Prior to that, it led to the formation of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) which felt that COSATU’s alliance with the ANC compromised COSATU’s worker emancipation agenda.  

Also, because civil servants belong to a variety of political parties they cannot be safely relied upon to vote for a particular party simply because their trade union has a relationship with that particular party. The just ended elections were peculiar because beyond party affiliation, workers were angry with government for the way it treated them during and post the 2011 public sector strike. Government’s failed attempt to designate such professions as teaching as an essential service, its dismissal of hundreds of essential service employees who went on strike during the 2011 public sector strike; the Directorate on Public Service Management(DPSM)’s arrogance and its disregard for the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) swayed the public service’s vote against the BDP. But, these circumstances will not necessarily exist during all the general elections.

In view of the aforegoing, it is advised that if BCP, of course after adequately consulting its members and structures, joins the UDC it should advise the UDC to reconsider its relations with BOFEPUSU and Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU). If the BCP does not join UDC it is advisable that it avoids entering into a formal alliance with either BOFEPUSU or BFTU. Rather, it should strengthen its Labour Committee so that it develops labour friendly policies and programmes which will be attractive to employees as individuals. This will be more sustainable because even if the alliance between BCP and BOFEPUSU or BFTU ends, the workers are likely to remain as BCP loyalists.
 

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Appendicitis: Recognising the Signs

29th March 2022

Many a times I get clients casually walking into my room and requesting to be checked for “appendix”.  Few questions down the line, it is clear they are unaware of where the appendix is or what to expect when one does have it (appendicitis). Jokingly (or maybe not) I would tell them they would possibly not be having appendicitis and laughing as hard as they are doing. On the other hand, I would be impressed that at least they know and acknowledge that appendicitis is a serious thing that they should be worried about.

So, what is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix; a thin, finger-like pouch attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. Often the inflammation can be as a result of blockage either by the faecal matter, a foreign body, infection, trauma or a tumour. Appendicitis is generally acute, with symptoms coming on over the course of a day and becoming severe rapidly. Chronic appendicitis can also occur, though rarely. In chronic cases, symptoms are less severe and can last for days, weeks, or even months. 

Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency that almost always ends up in the operating theatre. Though the appendix is locally referred to as “lela la sukiri”, no one knows its exact role and it definitely does not have anything to do with sugar metabolism. Appendicitis can strike at any age, but it is mostly common from the teen years to the 30s.

Signs to look out for

If you have any of the following symptoms, go and see a Doctor immediately! Timely diagnosis and treatment are vital in acute appendicitis;

Sudden pain that starts around the navel and shifts to the lower right abdomen within hours

The pain becomes constant and increases in severity (or comes back despite painkillers)

The pain worsens on coughing, sneezing, laughing, walking or deep breaths

Loss of appetite

Nausea and vomiting

Fever

Constipation or diarrhoea

Abdominal bloating/fullness

Diagnosis

The doctor often asks questions regarding the symptoms and the patient’s medical history. This will be followed up by a physical examination in which the Doctor presses on the abdomen to check for any tenderness, and the location of the pain. With acute appendicitis, pressing on and letting go of the right lower abdomen usually elicits an excruciatingly unbearable pain. Several tests may be ordered to determine especially the severity of the illness and to rule out other causes of abdominal pain. The tests may conditions include: blood tests, a pregnancy test, urinalysis, abdominal  “How do ultrasound scans work?” ultrasound (scan), CT scan or MRI Scan.

Treatment

The gold standard treatment of acute appendicitis is surgical removal of the appendix known as appendectomy. Luckily, a person can live just fine without an appendix! Surgical options include laparoscopy or open surgery and the type will be decided on by the Surgeon after assessing the patient’s condition. Painkillers and antibiotics are also given intravenously usually before, during and after the surgery.

Complications

Appendicitis can cause serious complications such as;

Appendicular mass/abscessIf the appendix is inflamed or bursts, one may develop a pocket of pus around it known as an abscess. In most cases, the abscess will be treated with antibiotics and drained first by placing a tube through one’s abdominal wall into the abscess. The tube may be left in place for a few hours or days while the infection is clearing up but ultimately one would still have surgery to remove the appendix.

Peritonitis – without treatment, the appendix can rupture/burst. The risk of this rises 48–72 hours after symptoms start. A ruptured appendix spreads the infection throughout the abdomen (peritonitis). This is life threatening and requires immediate surgery to remove the appendix and clean the abdominal cavity.

Death – The complications of appendicitis (and appendectomy) can be life threatening, only if the diagnosis has been missed and no proper treatment has been given on time. This is rare though with the evolved medical care.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email  HYPERLINK “mailto:info@themedicscentre.co.bw” info@themedicscentre.co.bw or visit www.themedisccentre.co.bw

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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A degree of common sense

7th February 2022

Here’s a news item from last month you may have missed. In December 2021 the University of Staffordshire announced it would be offered a degree course in pantomime! Yes, that’s right, a degree in popular festive entertainment, the Christmas panto.

We used to have one here, put on by the Capitol Players, though it seems to have fallen away in recent times, but the spectacle is still alive and well in the UK, both in local ad-dram (amateur dramatic ) societies and on the London stage and most of the major cities, these latter productions usually featuring at least one big-draw name from the world of show business with ticket prices commensurate with the star’s salary.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the pantomime format, it consists of a raucous mixture of songs and comedy all based around a well-known fairy or folk tale. Aladdin and His Magic Lamp, Cinderella, Jack & The Beanstalk & Dick Whittington are perennial favourites but any well-known tall tale goes. There is no set script, unlike a play, and storyline is just a peg to hang a coat of contemporary, often bawdy, gags on, in what should be a rollicking production of cross dressing – there has to be at least one pantomime dame, played by a man and always a figure of fun, and a Principal Boy, ostensibly the male lead, yet played by an attractive young woman.

As an art form it can trace its roots back to 16th century Italy and the Commedia Del’Arte which used a mélange of music, dance, acrobatics along with a cast of comic stock characters so it has a long and proud theatrical tradition but you have to wonder, does that really qualify it as a suitable subject for a university? Further, what use might any degree be that can be acquired in a single year? And last but not least, how much standing does any degree have which comes from a jumped-up polytechnic, granted university status along with many of its ilk back in 1992, for reasons best known to the government of the time? Even more worrying are the stated aims of the course.

Staffordshire University claims it is a world first and the masters course is aimed at people working inside as well as outside the industry. Students on the course, due to start in September 2022, will get practical training in the art form as well as research the discipline.

“We want to see how far we can take this,” Associate Professor of Acting and Directing Robert Marsden said. The role of pantomime in the 21st Century was also going to be examined, he said, “particularly post Me Too and Black Lives Matter”. Questions including “how do we address the gender issues, how do we tell the story of Aladdin in 2021, how do we get that balance of male/female roles?” will be asked, Prof Marsden added.

Eek! Sounds like Prof. Marsden wants to rob it of both its history and its comedic aspects – well, good luck with that! Of course that isn’t the only bizarre, obscure and frankly time and money-wasting degree course available. Staying with the performing arts there’s Contemporary Circus and Physical Performance at Bath Spa University. Sounds like fun but why on earth would a circus performer need a university degree?

Or how about a Surf Science and Technology degree at Cornwall College (part of the University of Plymouth). Where the one thing you don’t learn is….how to surf!

Then there is a  degree in Floral Design at University Centre Myerscough. No, I hadn’t heard of it either – turns out it’s a college of further education in Preston, a town that in my experience fits the old joke of ‘I went there once…..It was closed’ to a ‘T’!

Another handy (pun intended) art is that of Hand Embroidery BA (Hons), offered at the University for the Creative Arts. Or you could waste away sorry, while away, your time on a course in Animal Behaviour and Psychology. This degree at the University of Chester teaches you about the way animals think and feel. Cockroaches have personalities according to the subject specs– you couldn’t make it up.

Happily all these educational institutes may have to look to their laurels and try to justify their very existence in the near future. In plans announced this week, universities could face fines of up to £500,000 (P750m), be stripped of their right to take student loans or effectively shut down if they cannot get 60 per cent of students into a professional job under a crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses. Further, at least 80 per cent of students should not drop out after the first year, and 75 per cent should graduate.

The rules, published by the Office for Students (OfS), aim to eliminate ‘low-quality’ courses by setting new standards & requiring courses to improve their rating in the TEF, the official universities ratings system. Universities not meeting the new standards will not be able to charge full annual fees of £9,250. Unconventional courses that could fall victim to the new rules could include the University of Sunderland’s BA in Fashion Journalism, where students learn essential’ skills such as catwalk reporting and the history of Chanel.  They have only a 40 per cent chance of entering highly skilled work 15 months after leaving.

At University College Birmingham, BSC Bakery and Patisserie Technology students – who learn how to ‘make artisan bread’ – have a 15 per cent chance of a professional job within 15 months. Universities minister Michelle Donelan welcomed the move, saying ‘When students go to university, they do so in the pursuit of a life-changing education, one which helps pave their path towards a highly skilled career. Any university that fails to match this ambition must be held to account.’

OfS found that at 25 universities, fewer than half of students find professional work within 15 months.  Business and management courses at the University of Bedfordshire (14.8 per cent) were among the least likely to lead to graduate-level jobs.  Asked to comment, the University of Sunderland said it always looked ‘to find ways to improve outcomes’; University College Birmingham said data on graduates and definition of ‘professional work’ was limited. I’ll bet it is! As the saying goes, ’what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over’. What a pantomime!

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Why regular health checks are important!

7th February 2022

With the world still reeling from the negative impact of the Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), and the latest Omicron variant (which is responsible for the ongoing global forth wave) on everyone’s lips, we should not forget and neglect other aspects of our health.

While anyone can get infected with corona virus and become seriously ill or die at any age, studies continue to show that people aged 60 years and above, and those with underlying medical conditions like hypertension, heart and lung problems, diabetes, obesity, cancers, or mental illness are at a higher risk of developing serious illness or dying from covid-19.

It is a good habit to visit a doctor regularly, even if you feel healthy. Regular health checks can help identify any early signs of health issues or assess your risk of future illness hence prompting one to take charge and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other non-communicable diseases (even communicable) can often be picked up in their early stages, when chances for effective treatment are high.

During a health check, your doctor will take a thorough history from you regarding your medical history, your family’s history of disease, your social life and habits, including your diet, physical activity, alcohol use, smoking and drug intake. S/he will examine you including measuring your weight, blood pressure, feeling your body organs and listening to your heart and lungs amongst the rest. Depending on the assessment, your doctor will notify you how often you need to have a health check. If you have a high risk of a particular health condition, your doctor may recommend more frequent health checks from an early age.

Diet – a healthy diet improves one’s general health and wellbeing. It is recommended that we have at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily. Physical activity – regular physical activity has significant health benefits on one’s body, mind & soul. It contributes to preventing and managing non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhances thinking, learning, and judgment skills and improves overall well-being. According to the world health organisation (WHO), people who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active. Aim for 30 minutes to an hour of moderate physical activity at least four days in a week. Examples of moderate physical activity include brisk walking, gentle swimming and social tennis.

Weight – maintaining a healthy weight range helps in preventing long-term complications like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and arthritis. It is also vital for one’s mental wellbeing and keeping up with normal activities of daily living. Ask your doctor to check your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference annually. If you are at a higher risk, you should have your weight checked more frequently and a stern management plan in place.

Alcohol – as per WHO reports, alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. Healthy drinking entails taking no more than two standard drinks per drinking day with at least two alcohol-free days in a week.

Smoking –Nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, many different types of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. Every year, at least a whopping 8 million people succumb from tobacco use worldwide. Tobacco can also be deadly for non-smokers through second-hand smoke exposure. It is not ‘fashionable’ if it is going to cost you and your loved ones lives! If you are currently smoking, talk to your doctor and get help in quitting as soon as possible to reduce the harm.

Blood pressure: Hypertension is a serious medical condition and can increase the risk of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide, with upwards of 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women – over a billion people – having the condition. Have your blood pressure checked annually if it is normal, you are aged under 40 and there is no family history of hypertension. You might need to have it checked more frequently if you are over 40, your blood pressure is on the high side, or you have a personal or family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack. Your doctor will be there to guide you.

Dental care – eating a low-sugar diet and cleaning and flossing the teeth regularly can reduce one’s risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. Visit a dentist every six months for a dental examination and professional cleaning, or more frequently as per your dentist’s advice.
Blood tests – annual to five-yearly blood tests may be done to further assess or confirm risk of disease. These may include blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, kidney function, liver function, tumour markers, among other things. They may be done frequently if there is already an existing medical condition.

Cancer screening – various screening techniques can be done to detect different cancers in their early or pre-cancer stages. These include; skin inspections for any suspicious moles/spots, two-yearly mammograms for those at risk of developing breast cancer, Pap smear or the new Cervical Screening Test (CST) every five years, stool tests and colonoscopy (every five years) for those at most risk of bowel cancer, prostate cancer screening for those at risk (over 45 years of age, family history of cancers etc.). Discuss appropriate tests with your doctor.

Vaccinations – You should discuss with your doctor about the necessary routine immunisation, in particular; the Covid-19 vaccines, an annual flu shot, a five-yearly pneumococcal vaccine if you have never had one or you are immunocompromised and any other boosters that you might need.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email HYPERLINK “mailto:info@themedicscentre.co.bw” info@themedicscentre.co.bw or visit www.themedisccentre.co.bw

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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