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it’s a jungle out there

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

A 58-year old man called Omar Zouhri died in Britain this week.  So what, you might think – lots of men must have died there this week, death being part of life and of course you would be quite correct.  What makes his death different is the cause of his somewhat premature demise which was that he died from rabies. 

He contracted the disease from a bite from a cat he whilst holidaying in Morocco.  It is understood that he was bitten a few weeks ago and was not given immediate, potentially life-saving, treatment. Public Health England (PHE) issued a warning to travellers after the UK resident contracted the disease stating the somewhat obvious ‘Prompt care, including wound cleaning and a course of the rabies vaccine, is very effective and can save an infected person's life’.

Professor Jimmy Whitworth, professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "My understanding is that this is somebody who had contact with a cat that was behaving abnormally and sought care, I believe in Morocco and in the UK, but unfortunately didn't receive vaccination until it was too late. I believe that the cat bit this person a few weeks ago.  The typical time interval (for symptoms to appear) is two to three months, so you do have enough time (to seek care).

 But it can be as short as a week and that's why seeking prompt care and getting vaccination is so important. In this tragic case the person didn't get the vaccine in time. It is hard to know from the information provided, the delay could have been Morocco, the delay could have been in the UK.

I bring this to your attention because the extended holiday season is nearly upon us, the time when many of you will be travelling locally and abroad and without wishing to sound like a harbinger of doom, to quote the folksinger Cat Steven’s ‘It’s a wild world’ out there full of mean streets where danger lurks round every corner.    This is most clearly delineated on the new 2019 Interactive Travel Risk Map.  The map divides up the world into colour-coded zones showing high, medium and low risk areas in the fields of health, security and travel safety, making it easy to assess the potential risk levels wherever you plan on travelling. 

Some, of course, are obvious.  Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria rank as the most dangerous which is scarcely surprising since they are all war zones where no-one in their right mind would venture unless it were absolutely necessary.  Afghanistan,  Yemen, Libya,  South Sudan and Mali also test low on personal safety, again not most people’s cup of vacation tea but, popular holiday destinations including Mexico, parts of the Caribbean and parts of India were labelled as being of high risk.

At the other end of the scale,  Norway, Finland and Iceland all were deemed to have a low risk of medical problems, security and road safety issues, meaning they are the safest.  This again is no surprise.  These cold, northern countries scarcely feature in the international news since nothing much every happens there and the worst a traveller might expect might possibly be a touch of frostbite if they forget to pack their thermal underwear and heavy overcoat!  Denmark, Switzerland, Slovenia, Greenland & Finland also carry minimal safety risks.

When looking at health, countries with a highest risk of contracting medical issues or disease included the African countries South Sudan, Niger, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone.  Iraq was also labelled a high risk country when it came to health along with Lebanon, Venezuela and North Korea.  Yes, I know hardly anyone chooses to travel to North Korea on their hols but there’s one more reason if you needed it!  Brazil, China and Russia are all deemed to have 'rapidly developing variable risk' when it comes to health.

In contrast, places with a low risk of disease were deemed to be most of Europe as well as Canada, the US, New Zealand and Japan. When it comes to road safety, the countries beside those in Africa that pose the greatest risk include Brazil, Bolivia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Kazakhstan. In this category the U.S scores a 'moderate' ranking.

But let’s face it, most of your travel is likelt to be local, either within or just outside of our borders so how does our area fare?  Well, health-wise, South Africa ranks as low risk, whilst Botswana and Namibia are medium . Travel  to Zimbabwe, however, and the risk rises to ‘high’.
Security-wise Botswana and Namibia are low, South Africa and Zimbabwe are medium but of course with the benefit of local knowledge and footprint we can break that down further – we know where the danger hotspots are down south and most of us are savvy enough to take suitable precautions when travelling round that country.

As to road safety, Botswana and Namibia are marked as ‘high’ with South Africa coming out as ‘very high’ so that’s a sobering warning to us all, both figuratively and literally.  Drink driving is still a big issue in the region, particularly over holiday periods and driving standards not as high as we’d want so please take extra care if you’re planning any road trips next month.

Back to the unfortunate man with the cat bite.  Happily, though not totally rabies-free,  I can say that the risk from being bitten by a rabid animal locally is fairly low.  However, if you are worried I can reveal that there is one country in the world where such risk is not just low but non-existent and that is Iceland.  Animal movement in that country  is so severely restricted even healthy stock is not allowed in and if it ever goes back there is zero chance of it every being allowed back in.  So if that’s your secret fear, try a trip to Reykjavik on your next holiday but be warned – you’re still at risk of dying……of boredom!

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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