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Ntuane is Right, Botswana needs reforms!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH


John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States of America, once said: "Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost". In the context of this column, Adams’ statement can be adapted to say “Always stand for principle, though you may stand alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your stand is never lost”.

When Botsalo Ntuane, the Chairperson of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s Gaborone Region, authored an opinion article in the Sunday Standard newspaper edition of 11th January 2015 under the heading ‘20 years on, is it time for BDP’s 2nd Reform Agenda?’ he, at the risk of being labelled a radical by some conservative elements in the BDP, stood for principle and put the party and the country first. As Adam said, though Ntuane may be alone now, he, if he continues with such a mindset, which I trust he will since he has exhibited it before, will cherish the sweetest reflection that his stand will never be lost.

On the contrary, those ‘Democrats’ and ‘party loyalists’ who, for political expediency and gaining favours from the party leadership, fail to advise the party leadership to embark on reform will certainly have their stand lost. When the party leadership, perhaps when it will be too late, realizes that such ‘loyalists’ misled the party the results may be dire for both the individual and the party.

It takes a brave and principled party member, let alone a Regional Chairperson, to call for such an electoral reform as using the hybrid of Proportional Representation (PR) and the current First Past the Post (FPTP) or the Single Member Plurality System (SMPS) when his or her party has expressed opposition to such. By citing examples of countries, in Africa, where PR and hybrid electoral systems are being used Ntuane dispelled the propaganda that is often used alleging that such systems are western and/or socialist.

The fact that Namibia has been using the PR system since independence in 1991 and has not experienced political upheavals dispels the myth that PR or hybrid electoral systems lead to political instability. The truth is that such systems, which address such socio-economic ills as gender inequality and minority right violations, promote peace and stability. That Lesotho and Zimbabwe, both of which use the hybrid system, are tainted with political instability has nothing to do with the electoral systems. The political instability is as a result of such vices as vote rigging and corruption and, in the case of Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe’s insatiable desire to remain in power until his death.

If, as Ntuane reminds us, the BDP, following its 1995 Sebele Extra-ordinary Congress, embarked on such far reaching reforms as introduction of the two-term presidential term limit; reduction of the voting age from 21 to 18; external balloting and the establishment of the Independent Electoral Commission, it can certainly afford a second phase of reforms. In fact, considering the fact that the last such far reaching constitutional reforms were twenty years ago, it can be argued that reform is long overdue. Further, such reforms would be opportune in view of the fact that we are just about to reach Vision 2016 and start a new Vision. Not only that. We have reached the year 2015, the milestone year for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Also, in 2016 Botswana will be celebrating her 50th anniversary.

I have written earlier in this column that beyond President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s departure the BDP may lose elections if it does not renew itself now. Such renewal is not, like some BDP Public Relations Agents shortsightedly advice, only about election messaging, bill boards, newspaper adverts and press releases, but also, and most importantly I opine, about ushering in constitutional reforms. Such reforms, which will further entrench such of our long held values as the rule of law; judicial independence and separation of powers, will make Botswana a freer and fairer society. Consequently, regardless of who initiated the reforms, the BDP, as the ruling party, will enjoy the credit and Batswana will reap the rewards.

It is, therefore, naïve for any BDP member, official or Consultant to advise the BDP against adopting certain reforms simply because they were initiated by the Opposition or by such interest groups as civil society and the media. Were the 1995 Sebele Extra-ordinary Congress reforms aforesaid not initiated by the Opposition or by interest groups? Who benefited the most from the reforms, is it the BDP or the Opposition? I agree with Ntuane that, as evidenced by the BDP’s winning of 33 out of 40 seats in Parliament and a popular vote of 54% in the 1999 polls, the BDP benefited the most. But, beyond party politics Batswana emerged the victors.

Therefore, over and above reforming the electoral system by introducing a hybrid of Proportional Representation (PR) and the current First Past The Post (FPTP) or the Single Member Plurality System (SMPS), the BDP should consider such other reforms as making Parliament, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and the Ombudsman truly independent; introducing political party funding; introducing direct presidential elections; decentralizing power to Local Authorities; and abolishing Specially Elected Members of the National Assembly and nominated Councilors. The least the BDP can do is to subject these to a referendum.

Further, the BDP should, in order to enhance judicial independence, introduce a system where the Chief Justice (CJ) and the President of the Court of Appeal (CoA) are appointed by the President with advice from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). Also, like in such democracies as South Africa, the JSC should not, save for one member of the Law Society nominated by the Law Society, only comprise such appointees of the Executive as the CJ, President of the Court of Appeal, the Attorney General (AG), the Chairman of the Public Service Commission and a person of integrity and experience not being a legal practitioner appointed by the President. It should also comprise Members of Parliament (MPs), DiKgosi, the clergy and the civil society.

There are those within the BDP as well as Consultants who advise the party leadership that such reforms may result in the BDP losing elections. This is not necessarily true. If there is any reform which could have led the BDP to lose elections it was the reduction of the voting age from 21 to 18, yet it did not. Following the reform, the BDP, like the Opposition, developed strategies to attract the youth vote. How can introduction of political party funding, for example, result in the BDP losing elections? Will the BDP not receive funding like the Opposition? It will and if the funding will assist the Opposition to reach more voters, it will do the same for the BDP.

How can enhancing the independence of Parliament, the IEC, DCEC and the Ombudsman make the BDP lose elections? If the BDP has a good presidential candidate, how can direct presidential elections make it lose elections? If the party president is a member of the party who can be disciplined and recalled by the party, how can there be two centers of power? Even Mugabe, one of the world’s worst dictators, is elected through direct presidential elections! How can an independent judiciary make the BDP lose elections? If the BDP is a democratic party and abhors such ills as corruption and economic crime and subscribes to the rule of law why should it be afraid of enhancing the independence of the judiciary?     

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Some defeats are more triumphant than victories”. If by conceding to the calls for reform, the BDP will have been defeated, such a defeat will in fact be a victory-a victory for democracy and the country. While some reforms will require a referendum, the BDP should implement those reforms which do not require a referendum. Even for those reforms which require a referendum, if the BDP uses its majority and influence to support them such reforms will certainly gain Batswana’s support.

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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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