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Minister Mokaila needs Assistant Ministers

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

Though the problems of power outages and water cuts currently bedeviling the country are partly because of circumstances beyond Botswana’s control, some of the problems are caused by lack of institutional capacity within the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs, especially at political level.

Currently, the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs has no assistant minister, something I consider odd, especially considering that the ministry has three large portfolios which are the basis for all economic activity. The fact that this ministry is so important that it was once assigned to the Vice President, His Honour Ponatshego Kedikilwe, is enough to justify its need for assistant ministers, or at least one assistant minister.

Considering its centrality to the economy and the need to drive the mineral beneficiation programme, the minerals portfolio deserves a ministry of its own. It is common cause that our economy is reliant on mineral revenue, especially diamonds. In fact, the revenue generated by diamonds alone is more than that generated by some ministries combined. There is also a need to give attention to the beneficiation of such other minerals as copper, nickel and coal.

Purportedly, the coal reserves we have are enough for us to meet the nation’s energy needs as well as exporting to other countries in the region. Not only that. The coal, through a liquification process, can be used to produce many chemicals for local use and export. It can also be used, says the Deputy Head of Mission, Political Counsellor for the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Li Nan, for brick making by using the ash which comes as a bye product.  

How can one political leader in a ministry deal with all these issues? Where will he or she find the time to address such other challenges as electricity and water shortages? If such a minister is also an elected Member of Parliament (MP) where will he or she find the time to attend to constituency issues? Even a genius may fail. One of the best ministers of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs we have ever had, former Vice President, His Honour, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, failed.

The revenue generated by Agriculture, for both arable and pastoral farming, including the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) is far less than that generated by mineral production, yet the Ministry of Agriculture has always had an Assistant Minister, but the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs has not.

The Energy and Water portfolios are also significant enough to our economy that they deserve to be a full ministry. It is needless to say that without electricity and water, for example, our economy would be paralyzed as has been the case due to the current power outages and water cuts.

The current energy and water crisis requires somebody at political level to be devoted to addressing them. They require constant negotiation with other governments for supply agreements. They also require constant monitoring of the projects intended to reduce foreign dependency for energy and water supply.

As is the case in other ministries with assistant ministers, assistant ministers in the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs can be assigned the task of project monitoring so that the minister focuses on driving the ministry’s strategy  and maintenance of relations with countries which supply us with energy and water as well as forging new partnerships.    

There is, therefore, need for the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs to have two assistant ministers, one for Minerals and the other for Energy and Water Affairs. If resources do not permit there should be at least one assistant minister.

In the same manner that education is so significant that the Ministry of Education & Skills Development requires two assistant ministers, one for higher education and the other for basic education, the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs requires two assistant ministers.

The Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development is one big ministry and it too has rightly had two assistant ministers. The same should apply for the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs. The Ministry of Health has also had an assistant minister. Surely, though the health portfolio is inarguably demanding it cannot be more demanding than the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs.

All ministries, including those with one or two assistant ministers need revenue to operate and most of that revenue is generated by the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs. Clearly, since the ministry is our major revenue earner it should be capacitated so that it generates more revenue to sustain the ministries. Certainly, a salary bill of two assistant ministers and two Deputy Permanent Secretaries for such a critical ministry cannot be too much to ask.

If the budget is too tight to accommodate such an increased salary bill, His Excellency the President can redeploy one assistant minister from each of the ministries with two assistant ministers to the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs. Alternatively, the President can task the ministry to increase its revenue or to cut expenditure in non-priority areas in order to cater for the budget increase.

The argument that the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs does not need assistant ministers since it has such well-established parastatals as Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) and Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) is neither here nor there. The Ministry of Agriculture too has such well-established parastatals as BMC and Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) yet it has assistant ministers.

In any case, parastatals do not operate in a vacuum. They, just like government departments, also require political supervision. While such supervision should be less for parastatals it is unfortunately not the case in Botswana because most of our parastatals lack prudent leadership and operate with the same culture as government departments. No wonder despite the establishment of many government parastatals ministerial performance has hardly improved.  

From a human resource capacity point of view, the Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development has, at local government level, such high level officers as Council Secretaries and District Commissioners. The Ministries of Education & Skills Development and Health too have regional and district level officers at director level.  

On the contrary, the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs has no such high level officers at local government level. The ministry is lean at both national and local level, yet a lot is expected from it. This issue is not about an individual’s capacity, but the institution’s capacity.

If this lack of institutional capacity is not addressed, the ministry will not be able to address the challenges facing the sector. It will be unfair to ascribe such failure to the current minister, Honourable Kitso Mokaila. In fact, it is my view that given the resource constraints facing him he has done very well as an individual. But, we do not want our ministries’ performance to be based on personal capacity alone. The performance should be mainly based on institutional capacity.

As we speak, the economy is declining because of energy and water shortages. Several companies, especially in the manufacturing sector are losing millions of Pula as a result. If the energy and water problems are not addressed urgently retrenchments will soon become inevitable, further worsening our already high unemployment level.

Surely, the energy and water problems we are facing cannot simply be blamed on Honourable Mokaila’s alleged poor performance. Like I said before, Honourable Mokaila is doing the best he can.  There is more to the problem. Part of the problem is of course government’s poor planning and poor project implementation. The other is the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs’ lack of institutional capacity, especially at political level.

If the Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs remains this weak even the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) will be in vain because the projects planned to stimulate the economy will fail because of lack of electricity and water. One of the areas targeted by the ESP is Agriculture, but Agriculture cannot thrive without water. Nor can construction thrive because to build the targeted number of class rooms, for example, reliable water and electricity supply are needed.  

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

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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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