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Will Masisi sustain his goodwill?

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

That His Excellency the President, Mokgweetsi Masisi,’s popularity has taken many by surprise is incontrovertible. This is especially true considering the bad will he brought from being Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. 

He was, among other things, blamed for the 2011 public sector strike; the poor relations between the media and government; and the poor relations between trade unions and government. His self-acclamation of being a lelope, i.e. boot licker did not help the situation.
Today, H.E Masisi is so popular that some in the Opposition are singing him praises. Trade unions and the media, though not yet in a celebratory mood, are prepared to give him a chance. The question is: will H.E Masisi sustain the good will he is currently enjoying?

To answer this question, if it is at all possible to answer, one may look at the case of former President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama. When Khama started his tenure as President his name was revered; he was regarded as the savior that Botswana had been waiting for. Khama, no doubt, had tremendous goodwill. Granted, Khama’s goodwill was largely because of his status as not only the son of Botswana’s founding president, Sir Seretse Khama, but also Kgosikgolo for the BaNgwato.

But there is no denying that Khama had acquitted himself well as Vice President (VP). He had positioned himself as pro-poor and as accessible. It was during his tenure as VP that he gave an impression that anyone who wanted to meet him could do so without going through the normal bureaucratic channels. One of the things that ingratiated Khama to the masses was his support for Village Development Committees (VDCs), something which resulted in high rental payments by VDC house tenants who had hitherto been perpetual defaulters.

Initially, his position against alcohol abuse, which resulted in the introduction of the alcohol levy, also endeared him to the masses, especially the religious and elderly who had the believe that alcohol abuse was at the center of moral degeneration among our people. The other was his seeming disdain for corruption. Khama gained this accolade after calling politicians vultures after Members of Parliament (MPs) agitated for their own salary increment and not that of the civil servants they represent.

Then, Khama had so much clout that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) pinned its hopes of continuing in power on him. So much was his clout that former president Festus Mogae overlooked such stalwarts as Ponatshego Kedikilwe and Danial Kwelagobe and made him his vice. So much was Khama’s political gravitas that he resigned from the Botswana Defense Force (BDF) only to be elected Vice President the following day. Khama was such a force that Mogae gave him an unprecedented one-year sabbatical leave and allowed him to continue flying BDF aircraft.

In the dawn of his presidency Khama did not disappoint. To the delight of many, especially the elderly and rural area dwellers, he introduced such programmes as Ipelegeng; constituency tournaments; the poverty eradication project; backyard gardening, etc. Khama also endeared himself to the youth through such programmes as the National Internship Programme, the revamped Youth Development Fund; National Service Scheme, Youth Employment Scheme, etc.

He endeared himself to the elderly and the poor through bond fires; unannounced walk-abouts; the Housing Appeal Project; hand outs of blankets and food parcels. He endeared himself to people living with disabilities by prioritizing their needs and having their affairs coordinated from his office. But it seems that amidst the celebrity and pomp Khama lost the support of a significant portion of our voters. He lost the support of the civil service owing to his confrontational approach in dealing with trade unions.

He lost the support of the fourth estate, the media, because of his ostracization of the private media, as well as the enactment of the controversial Media Practitioners Act in 2008, whose passage in Parliament was boycotted by the Opposition. He, according to the views of many people, allowed the former Director General of the Directorate on Intelligence & Security Services (DISS), Isaac Kgosi, a free reign, something which many believe led to the DISS perpetrating gross human right violations. 

In the end, though at the dawn of this presidency he was welcomed with ululations in view of his enviable track record as Vice President, Khama’s tenure as president was marred by controversy and loss of good will. He retired a very unpopular president who will go down in history as the first BDP president under whose leadership the BDP attained a popular vote of less than 50%.

In the 2014 general elections the BDP garnered 46.7% of the popular vote compared to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP)’s 30% and 20.4% respectively. In terms of parliamentary seats, while the BDP suffered a decline of 8 seats, the UDC celebrated an upsurge of 11 seats. The BCP suffered a decline of 1 seat.

Even after his retirement his name has been embroiled in controversy because of, inter alia, his alleged support for some candidates during the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) primary elections and his insistence on the appointment of the former Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), Isaac Kgosi, as his Private Secretary.

The question is: will H.E Masisi sustain his goodwill or he will, like Khama, suffer a humiliating loss of his good will even before the end of his term? Put differently, will Masisi’s popularity go beyond his honey moon?

For H.E Masisi’s goodwill to be sustainable, he must embark on sustainable interventions which will address such issues as employment creation; poverty mitigation; media freedom; employee welfare, and enhancement of our democracy, generally. Also, H.E Masisi must, through an enhanced foreign policy and improved diplomatic relations with the international community, put Botswana in its rightful position in the world.

Though there is need for more impetus in employment creation, the interventions that H.E Masisi’s government is putting in place give hope that more sustainable jobs will be created, especially for the youth. The Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs’ relaxation of restrictions on VISAs and work and residence permits, which hitherto scared off many investors, will go a long way in not only attracting Foreign Direct Investment, but also creating employment. 

For the first time in many years, we see the president not only holding Press Conferences, but also meaningfully interacting with the media during such conferences. To date, he has held more than four press conferences, one of which was broadcast live on both Botswana Television and Radio Botswana. Also, for the first time in about ten years, the president met with the leaders of Opposition parties. This, in my view, was a good start for the reintroduction, in earnest, of the All-Party Conference, which Khama abolished.

Though the wounds on trade unions and workers cannot be healed overnight, H.E Masisi has started well in trying to repair the damaged relationship between government and labor. He has already met with trade unions; the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC)’s restoration is ongoing, etc.

We recently witnessed something which cannot have happened under Khama’s reign. Following complaints that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Basic Education, Dr. Collie Monkge, had used uncouth language in relation to school managers, the Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, immediately arranged a meeting with the school managers during which he tendered an apology on behalf of government.

What is even more heartening, in as far as relations with trade unions is concerned, is that Morupisi invited representatives of the concerned trade unions to attend the meeting with him. Morupisi would not have done that under Khama’s reign. In the foreign relations front, H.E Masisi has also done a lot within a short period of time to bridge the gap that widened during Khama’s era.

Besides visiting Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries as well as the United Kingdom, Mauritius and Seychelles, he has also already paid a state visit to the Peoples Republic of China and attended the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Also, particularly heartening has been H.E Masisi’s recognition of former leaders by paying them visits. In an unprecedented move, he was joined by some Opposition leaders during such visits. He was also joined by former president, Festus Mogae.

Though his government has not repealed the relevant amendment to the Electoral Act, the statement by government that the controversial Electronic Voting Machines will not be used in the 2019 general elections and that supplementary registration will continue is a welcome development. There are, however, issues which H.E Masisi has not yet addressed but will, hopefully, address soon. In my view, if he does not address such issues his goodwill will not be sustained in the same manner that Khama’s was not.

Though he has assured Batswana that his government shall, by the end of the year, table the long-awaited Bills on Declaration of Assets & Liabilities and Access to Information, progress has not been made in that regard. Also, even though the issues have been topical for years, H.E Masisi has not made any commitment of at least taking such issues as political party funding; direct presidential elections; changing the electoral system from first past the post to proportional representation and recall of non-performing MPs and Councilors to a referendum.

He has also not made commitment to consider such issues as enhancing the independence of the Independent Electoral Commission, the Ombudsman and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime. Nor has he made a commitment to convert Btv and RB from state broadcasters to public broadcasters despite complaints that they are biased in favor of the ruling BDP.

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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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