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Remembering the unwanted: Baledzi Gaolathe

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

We continue with the series where we remember those of our heroes and heroines who, though unwanted by government, made immense contributions to the legacy we will be celebrating this year. This week we discuss Baledzi Gaolathe who passed away on 25th May 2010 in Johannesburg, aged 68 years old after three major surgeries. It would later be known that he was diagnosed with cancer in 2008.

In remembering Gaolathe’s contributions to this country we shall not pretend that he was without blemish. Blemishes he may have had and such will be exposed in as much as his virtues will be exposed. Yet, emphasis will be made that his blemishes notwithstanding he deserves a place in our country’s history. He at least deserves a mention when we celebrate fifty years of independence.

To some, the suggestion that Gaolathe was unwanted by government is absurd considering that he worked for government, served as government minister, including in the key Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, and also was appointed Chairperson of the Presidential Task Force which delivered the Vision 2016 blue print.

Yet, it is true that, at least towards the end of his life, he was not on President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s good books. He was removed from the ministry he served for almost the rest of his life, Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, and appointed Minister of Trade & Industry, a junior ministry.

Not only that. The way he was removed from cabinet was discourteous to say the least. According to an article in the Sunday Standard edition of 31st January 2010  “ …

Gaolathe was slapped with a letter from President Khama by Permanent Secretary to the President, Eric Molale,…, at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg right on his sick bed.

The letter informed Gaolathe that he had been dropped from cabinet and that Khama was in the process of filling the vacancy.”

The article further states that “… according to sources, Molale delivered the letter to Gaolathe on Thursday just a day after Gaolathe was released from Intensive Care Unit.

Gaolathe is now in the general wards from where he is still recuperating. Molale arrived the day after Gaolathe was released from ICU… Why couldn’t they send someone more senior like the VP, said a close family friend who spoke on condition of anonymity.”

As if that was not enough desecration of this great man’s name, it was also reported that during Gaolathe’s funeral the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) held some event in Maun and instead of attending his funeral many attended the event. If this is true, the BDP did what in Setswana is referred to as “go mmina phuphu”, meaning that the BDP danced on Gaolathe’s grave.

If this version of events is true there is no doubt that indeed Gaolathe was unwanted by government or President Khama, at least towards the end of his life. But, why would a man who served government with such distinction for the rest of his life not have been wanted by the very government or by President Khama?

Before we answer this question we need to make a brief exposition of Gaolathe’s life. According to Remembered.co.za, “Baledzi Gaolathe was born on 4th March 1942 to Gaolathe Dadanaye and Gasemotho Phati Ndaba in Nkange. During his younger years, Gaolathe accompanied his father with his carpentry duties. His father passed away when he was still very young.”

Gaolathe valued education. According to Botswana Press Agency (BOPA)  news on 7th June 2010 “… he started his primary school education in 1952 at Changate and moved to Maitengwe in 1955 for a short spell to Maun in 1957 and finally to Francistown where he completed his Standard Six School leaving certificate in 1958.”

The report further states that “… he then proceeded to Moeng College in 1959 for his secondary school education where he completed Junior Certificate in 1961 and Cambridge Overseas School Leaving Certificate in 1963 before going to the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS) in 1964 where he obtained a Bachelor of Science (Bsc) Degree with a concurrent Certificate in Education in 1967”.

BOPA also reports that “… Gaolathe later obtained a Bsc in Economics as an external student of the University of London in 1973 and a Master of Arts in Economics (in National Development and Project Planning) at Bradford University in England.

Thereafter, Gaolathe had a forty-two year illustrious and almost blemishless career as a public servant. He joined the public service in 1968 as an Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Water Affairs at the age of 26 and was promoted to Under Secretary in the same ministry in 1970.

In 1973 when the new Ministry of Mineral Resources and Water Affairs was established, he was appointed its first Permanent Secretary, a position he held for four years. In 1976 he became Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, a position he held for sixteen years.

Gaolathe also had an illustrious private sector career as gleaned from Debswana’s tribute to Gaolathe published in Sunday Standard’s edition of 6th June 2010. In 1973 he was appointed to the Board of Directors of DeBeers Botswana Mining Company. In 1974 he was appointed Director of the Botswana Diamond Valuing Company and Diamond Trading Company.

In 1989 former president, Sir Ketumile Masire, awarded Gaolathe a Presidential Order of Honour in recognition of his efficient and devoted service to Botswana. The award citation stated that Gaolathe was also awarded the Order of Honor for his economic planning and financial management of the country.

From 1989 to 1992 Gaolathe served as the Director of De Beers Consolidated Mines. He was also Managing Director for Debswana, Governor of the Bank of Botswana (1997 to 1999) and Botswana Development Corporation (BDC)’s Board member for twenty four years, the longest serving member ever.

As Chairperson of the Presidential Task Force on Vision 2016, Gaolathe played a pioneering role during the development and drafting of the Vision 2016 document. Perhaps the highlight of his public service calling was as Minister of Finance & Development Planning during which period Botswana enjoyed unprecedented economic stability and growth.

At the end of his public service career and when his strength had reached his journey’s end he served as Minister of Trade and Industry. But, true to his humility and country commitment and honor he did not decline the appointment despite the fact that he would have been more comfortable as Minister of Finance & Development Planning.  

While Minister of Finance & Development Planning, Gaolathe focused on the Development Planning component of the Ministry. Under his leadership, the role of such bodies as the Rural Development Council (RDC), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) was promoted.

Reportedly, Gaolathe did not allow the Office of the President to, merely for political expediency, and in an uncoordinated and unnecessarily expensive manner, implement such strategies that should ordinarily reside in his ministry as the National Poverty Reduction Strategy as well as issues of population development. The United Nations (UN)’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Botswana’s Vision 2016 were a priority under his leadership.

No wonder at his funeral, former President, Festus Mogae, said “… It is a pity that he (Baledzi Gaolathe) did not succeed me as President.”  His son, Ndaba Gaolathe, could not have been more right when, in a eulogy to his father, he described him as “a good man, a man of impeccable integrity… a humble and morally upright professional…”

I experienced Gaolathe’s integrity, humility, moral uprightness and professionalism in 2008/9 when I was a member of the RDC to which he was Chairperson. From the NGO side was myself; the late Kgosi Seepapitso IV of BaNgwaketse, Kentse Rammidi, Maria Machailo-Elis, Mr. David Modiega and Mr. Manqa representing the youth, Bogosi, Local Councils,  the private sector, NGOs and Land Boards respectively.

Gaolathe would unhesitatingly come to our rescue when we faced the wrath of government officials who often accused some of us of politising issues. I remember a time when there was a project monitoring visit to Masunga, Zwenshambe and Tshesebe villages. He did not take kindly to the fact that after a government bus was engaged to transport the members, many government officials selfishly chose to travel individually, at huge expense, in their official government vehicles.

In Masunga, at Masunga Senior Secondary School where students had reportedly burnt down a hostel, he listened to everybody. He spoke to grounds man, cooks, cleaners, students and teachers alike. He used his mother tongue, Ikalanga, with ease to reach those who were not comfortable with Setswana or English.

During project monitoring visits, which was a priority under his Chairpersonship, Gaolathe would, instead of being driven around at site, walk like all of us. Most of us would easily get tired and complain of the heat, but he never did. He always wanted to do more for everybody. To know that during that time he had just been diagnosed with cancer is touching because it shows that he put the country first, not himself.

His son, Honourable Ndaba Gaolathe, in a tribute to his father said “…he possessed an insatiable appetite to serve, to work for his people and his family.  His endurance inspired him, upon return from a trip abroad, to drive directly from the airport to work or meetings until night…”

Ndaba also used the following words to describe his father:  humble; pleasant humor;  diplomat; stamina and endurance; love for the countryside; a beautiful mind; exquisite negotiator; great achiever; awareness; physically fit; proud of his origins; able leader; a story teller; gracious; and a transformative figure.

No doubt, many Batswana did not experience all these attributes from Gaolathe, not because he did not possess them, but because they only met or interacted with him in ways that made it impossible for them to experience the other attributes. But, Gaolathe had one fault. His fault is that he was too trusting and some government officials took advantage of that to the country’s detriment.

Why then would government or President Khama not have wanted Baledzi Gaolathe, especially towards the end of his life? We may never know the answer because, given his loyalty to the BDP, the government and President Khama, he never spoke of that. Even when he was so unceremoniously removed from cabinet while in hospital in South Africa he never spoke bad about government or President Khama.

Some have suggested that Gaolathe fell out with President Khama because of this opposition to President Khama’s populist pet projects which he advised were unsustainable and would derail our economic growth. He is also said to have crossed roads with his cabinet colleagues when he talked against wasteful spending in ministries and corruption.

Gaolatlhe is indeed a hero who deserves a place in this country’s history. During his funeral, Acting President, Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe said “Mr. Gaolathe was a principled diplomat who commanded a high degree of tolerance and humility. The history of this nation will be incomplete without taking into account the contribution of Baledzi.”

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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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