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Remembering Sir Ketumile Masire: one year on!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

About one year ago, on 22nd June 2017, former president Sir Ketumile Masire passed on. The nation mourned. The nation lamented and decried the fall of a democrat. While many Batswana’s heats were heavy, many consoled themselves with the knowledge that a democrat had rested.

Today, one year on, the life of this great soul that once walked our land is worth remembering. In their book, ‘The Hidden Injuries of Class’, Richard Sennett and Jonathon Cobb wrote: “character is expressed by loyalty, and mutual commitment, or through the pursuit of long term goals, or by the practice of delayed gratification for the sake of the future end.”

This, in my view, defines the person that Sir Ketumile Masire was. It would be remiss to ascribe the word ‘personality’ to the democrat that Masire was. His was character, not personality. His was charm, appeal, atmosphere, attractiveness, charisma, and oddity. His oddity, though, was neither quirk nor foible; it was neither idiosyncrasy nor eccentricity; it was neither twist nor kink. It was not tic either. It was a peculiarity rooted in incomparable humility.   

Rra Gaone, as he was affectionately called, led a life defined by loyalty. I remember with fondness when, in a programme aired on Botswana Television(Btv), one of his siblings, almost his age, referred to him as his father, recounting how he became a ‘father’ to them following the death of their parents at an early age. He said his care for them was like warmth itself.  His eyes glittered with happiness when he stated that when Mma Gaone joined the family after marrying Rra Gaone she became their ‘mother’. As a result, they have, though orphans, never felt they were orphans.

I remember that in the same Btv programme, Mma Gaone narrated Rra Gaone’s loyalty to her as a wife, stating that he treated her as an equal, respected her and consulted her in all matters that touched on their livelihood. He referred to him as ‘Rre’ almost as if he was more than a husband to her. A parent of some sought. Yet, she did not appear as though she had been subjugated. She did not regard herself as inferior to him. It was almost as though she regarded herself as an unequal equal; a subordinate superior; a wife cum daughter; but a wife cum mother too.

To Rra Gaone, respect for democracy did not mean that other life attributes should be compromised. His brother stated how Rra Gaone used to discipline them with love when they engaged in deviant behavior. Andrew Sesinyi, Rra Gaone’s former Chief of Protocol, has said ‘Rre Masire one ale bogale, mme one a loma a fodisa’, meaning that he was a disciplinarian, but also knew how to soothe people’s feelings after disciplining them.

If soothing means calming, pacifying, quieting, mollifying, appeasing and lulling then I agree with Sesinyi. This, as all Batswana know, he did through, inter alia, the dinyawe, i.e. jokes that have become his trade mark and have become a heritage for our people. One tribesman, a lot younger than Rra Gaone, narrated how Rra Gaone used to give them lifts to the cattle post in his van. We knew, the tribesman said, that every Friday he would be driving to the cattle post so we waited for him. He even remembered the vehicle’s number plates.

Rra Gaone was not only loyal to his family. He was loyal to his country which he served as a teacher, journalist, farmer, Vice President, President and father. His was not just service though. It was voluntary servitude. His life was the epitome of country commitment and honour for the youth, men and women of this beloved Botswana, our land. For, there are very few mortals who serve mankind as though they are serving God Almighty. There are very few mortals who serve their people for more than forty eight years and retire almost blemishless.

Though still very popular when his time to retire came he did willingly. When many of his peers in Africa clung to power to the detriment of their people he listened to his conscience and left. Knowing that he owed Batswana a farewell he travelled the length and breadth of this country bidding them farewell.

Rra Gaone’s calling was not just to serve Batswana. His was to also serve the world. As we lamented in that June of 2017, Basotho too lamented. So too did the Zaireans for they knew peace because of him. Not even when his life was in peril did he relent. What selfless human being was this? Sesinyi said he was humbled when, despite his plane being shot at in August 1988 while flying over Angola on his way from Gaborone to a meeting in the Angolan capital, Luanda, he nonetheless wanted to continue assisting in peace keeping missions in war torn countries.

Rra Gaone’s life was for both the present and the future, but probably more for the latter. He had this insatiable pursuit for long term goals. The vision he bequeathed upon us, Vision 2016, is a case in point. Rra Gaone was a true disciple of the practice of delayed gratification for the sake of the future end. This he showed not only through the long term vision, Vision 2016, but also through the potentially politically suicidal political reforms he championed.

As a true democrat, he reduced the voting age from 21 to 18; he introduced the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC); the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC); the Ombudsman and external balloting. Being the democrat he was he tolerated those with differing political ideologies. Leach Thomelang, formerly of the Botswana National Front (BNF), has narrated how Rra Gaone used to engage him in national assignments despite belonging to the Opposition.

BNF Secretary General, Moeti Mohwasa, has stated that during Rra Gaone’s tenure as President the All Party Caucus where the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) met with all Opposition parties to discuss political issues, especially those related to elections, was functional. Rra Gaone was a statesman. Yet, he never forgot his roots. Obviously influenced by his love for farming, he championed the introduction of such Agricultural programmes as Accelerated Rainfed Arable Programme (ARAP), Arable Lands Development Programme (ALDEP), Services to Livestock Owners in Communal Areas (SLOCA) and the Financial Assistance Programme (FAP).

Rra Gaone was proud of his culture as a Motswana. He loved Setswana and spoke it with such eloquence that very few who rise to his heights do. Being a graduate of Tiger Kloof and being a state President did not make him claim to have forgotten some Setswana words.  Though I had always known that he is humble, when I met him in January 2016 I was humbled by his humility. He was unassuming. He made me feel important. He gave me about three hours of his time during which we collegially discussed the state of our nation, Botswana.

He told me that though he does not always agree with what I write, he appreciates my contribution to the growth of our democracy. He never asked me which political party I belong to. He never recruited me to join his party, the BDP. He never asked about my tribe. He lamented how our cow, Botswana, is dying before our eyes; how we are regressing as far as adherence to democracy is concerned; how our leaders no longer listen to the people; and how our commitment to tolerance as a nation is waning.

He bewailed how our leaders do not listen to advice from former leaders and the elderly. In his trade mark laughter he said ‘Monna gatwe we want to rule from the grave’. He disclosed how he was among those who were accused of contributing to the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), a political party that splintered from the BDP in 2010.

He mourned that had the BDP leadership listened to the advice of such leaders as Dr. Gaositwe Chiepe the late Gomolemo Motswaledi would not have been suspended from the BMD and the formation of the BMD would probably have been avoided. He bemoaned how we, as a nation, are departing from such principles as ‘therisanyo’ i.e. consultation that our founding President and his predecessor, Sir Seretse Khama, sacrificed so much to set, of course with his help and that of our other founding fathers and mothers.

Towards the end of our meeting, in his characteristic jokes, he said ‘Rra ke seka ka go beela ruri fa ka nna Mosadi wame o ntlogetse. O tshwanetse wa ya lapeng ka nako oe go bona Mosadi’ loosely translated to mean ‘Sir, I should not keep you here longer because my wife is late. You have to go home in time for your wife.

Of course, we continued our meeting for about thirty minutes after, during which time I expressed concern how we, as a nation, do not recognize and honour our leaders during their life time. He expressed similar concern, but did not speak much on the subject matter, perhaps because it affected him. After the meeting, he, through his Private Secretary, Fraser Tlhoiwe, sent his gratitude that I honored his invitation and attended the meeting.

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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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