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Is Masisi’s populism sustainable-the case of Khama and Zuma

NDULAMO ANTHONY MORIMA
EAGLE WATCH

No doubt, His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, has won the hearts of many, with some adoring him almost to the level of fanaticism.

For his die-hard supporters, especially those who hate his predecessor, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, with a passion, Masisi can do no wrong. He can say no wrong. He can think no wrong. He is mokgweetsi-the driver they have long awaited to take control of the vehicle which had lost direction under the reckless tutelage of Khama the dictator, an exact antithesis of his great grandfather, Khama the Great. According to them o abetswe botautona. Leadership has been bestowed upon him. To them he is God’s favored son is as far as leadership is concerned.

He is perhaps the only president in the world who is called a ‘boy’ since many of his supporters affectionately call him Sisboy, a name he seems to relish because it makes the youth identify with him. During his inauguration it rained so hard that the ceremony which was initially planned to be held outside Parliament was held inside Parliament. On 1st April this year, one year since his inauguration, it drizzled.

To his supporters, this showed that Masisi is in God’s favour. Such statements as Go Masisi have been uttered to show that his being brings reverence and serenity. Multiple songs have been composed in his name by his party, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). With just over a year in office, his party has published a book in his honour. His hitherto critics have become his praise singers. Trade Union veteran, Johnson Motshwarakgole has, at the risk of alienating his base, publicly praised him and, in fact, stated that he can vote for him.

BDP stalwarts who had been alienated by the Khama regime have publicly stated their unequivocal support for him, especially during the build up to the party’s presidential elections from which Dr. Pelonomi Venson Moitoi withdrew on the 11th hour, stating that the elections were a sham and had already been rigged. The question is: is Masisi’s popularity sustainable? To assist you to answer this question we consider the case of Khama and South African former president, Jacob Zuma.

Let us start with Khama. During the dawn of his presidency, he was so loved by many that he had attained a status of a demi-god. Many people, especially the elderly, used to be so overwhelmed by love that they cried when they saw him. His impromptu walk-abouts and house to house visits endeared him to thousands of Batswana who regarded him as the savior they had long awaited. I remember one elderly woman who, after shaking hands with him, stated, on live television, that she will not wash her hands for some days so that Khama’s touch soaks in her.

The old men who used to sit with him around his popular bond fires used to be so elated that they would cry. One of them, also on live television, stated, in tears, that he never thought he could ever bite a piece from the same meat (Lesuhu) that a president ate from. Khama, affectionately called Tshetha from Tshetha ya dikgwa, meaning lion of the jungle, had become so popular that his preferred fisher men’s jacket became the thing to wear, even in offices.

Masisi himself, especially when he was Minster of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, leading the poverty eradication programme, was the dress code’s ambassador. Even today, he wears it. If you did not have the jacket and the farmers’ hat you were not a person. Bachelorship nearly became the in thing since several of his proteges remained unmarried. Those who were married either divorced or became estranged from their wives.

If you spoke ill of Khama you risked being beaten or purged, at least. Desert racing, cultural events, Bakgalagadi’s Polka dance, grass root sport in the form of constituency tournaments, et cetera became the in thing because of his patronage. We turn to Zuma. He used to mesmerize the masses with his singing, especially the popular liberation song ‘A o lethi Mshini wami’, loosely translated to mean bring my machine gun.

His popularity, especially among his tribesmen, the Zulu, was so unprecedented that some believe it even surpassed that of the late Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Even when he faced one of the most heinous crimes, rape, his supporters were undeterred, even threatening harm against his accuser, the late Fezekile "Khwezi" Kuzwayo. Being charged with corruption in fact made him a celebrity, with thousands of his supporters bracing unforgiving weather conditions to gather around court every time he went to court.

The African National Congress (ANC) recalled his predecessor, former president Thabo Mbeki, simply because he had removed Zuma as deputy president because of the corruption scandals he was facing. One of the charges he was facing was with respect to the Arms Deal, which charges were reinstated by former National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Shaun Abrahams, in 2018 after former NDPP, Advocate Mokoteti Mshe, dropped them in 2009.

There is one thing common about Khama and Zuma. When they left office, they were very unpopular, with Zuma suffering the same fate that he engineered against Mbeki when he was recalled by the ANC and resigned as state president, with only six months before the expiry of his constitutional term.

When Zuma was recalled by the ANC and resigned as president many of his cheer leaders abandoned him and aligned with his then deputy, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, whose political career nearly came to an end when Zuma, among others, peddled propaganda that Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sixwale were planning to overthrow the government. Though unlike Zuma, Khama finished his term, many, including his political proteges have forsaken him and are riding the Go Masisi wave. Masisi, who, by all accounts, owes his presidency to Khama, is today Khama’s nemesis.

Khama is no longer referred to as Rraetsho, but he is called with derogatory words that are not worth repeating in this article. But, why has Zuma and Khama suffered this fate? In the case of Botswana, former president Festus Mogae was far less popular than Khama, but after leaving office he did not suffer the humiliation that Khama is suffering. Similarly, in the case of South Africa, Mbeki was not even half as popular as Zuma, but his dignity has remained intact post his retirement.

In my view, the difference is that, by and large, Mogae and Mbeki’s leadership was guided by principle and not sheer political expediency. Of course, like all humans, they erred, but their presidencies were not characterized by folly. Like all politicians they made promises, some improbable to achieve, but they seldom exploited the peoples’ ignorance and trust. Put simply, they did not take the people for granted.

Mogae, for instance, was well known for calling a spade a spade. If, based on evidence, there was no case for salary increments, for instance, he made none despite the political ramification that would ensue. When the Tsolamosese squatters had to be evicted, he ordered their evictions despite the fact that, at the time, the BDP desperately needed to win at least one constituency in or around Gaborone. When people hurled slurs at him, he said le nna ke a le ikomanyetsa, meaning that he will also hurl slurs at them.

That notwithstanding, he has continued to enjoy respect among Batswana more than ten years since he retired. The question is: will Masisi’s popularity endure up to the end of his presidency and beyond? Just this week, after he stated he will not rest until Kgosi Kgafela comes back to Botswana, many Batswana began to question his sincerity. Many asked why he will only do that now when he is in fact the person who contributed to Kgosi Kgafela’s escape to South Africa when he was Minster of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration.

Many wondered why he is only saying that now at the eve of the general elections when he failed to do that for the past one year. They wondered whether this is not a ploy to lure Bakgatla to vote for the BDP. Some posed the popular Rapitsenyana question ‘one o le bokgakala bo kae’ when Kgabo was forced to flee his country, leaving his tribe without their Kgosi. Others referred to one of Masisi’s inaugural promises that he will, as a matter of priority, table the long-awaited Declaration of Assets & Liabilities Bill, stating that more than one year since he assumed office the Bill has not been tabled.

In my view, because of Masisi’s over promises; his insincerity at times, his propensity to ride on division, even tribal division, and, in some instances, taking Batswana for a ride for political expediency, his popularity may not last his term and beyond.  Already, beyond the Kang euphoria, some are beginning to realize that there was nothing after all. Of course, he, especially within the BDP, still has momentum because of the forthcoming general elections.

But, beyond the elections, things may change. Batswana are going to start demanding the jobs and better life Masisi has been promising. By then, the Khama question may no longer be the distraction he currently is. Some of his ardent supporters will have been disappointed by not being appointed ministers, specially elected Members of Parliament (MPs) and nominated Councilors, and they would have switched factions.

If things do not change and he lasts his full term, which is likely because of the melancholic state of the Opposition, his lame duck days may be worse than those of Khama. But, that is assuming the BDP will win the forthcoming elections. Things may get worse for Masisi should the new Khama led party be formed. This may result in a hung Parliament, and a coalition between the new party and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) or Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) or Alliance for Progressives (AP) may relegate the BDP to the opposition benches.       
  
Ndulamo Anthony Morima

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Appendicitis: Recognising the Signs

29th March 2022

Many a times I get clients casually walking into my room and requesting to be checked for “appendix”.  Few questions down the line, it is clear they are unaware of where the appendix is or what to expect when one does have it (appendicitis). Jokingly (or maybe not) I would tell them they would possibly not be having appendicitis and laughing as hard as they are doing. On the other hand, I would be impressed that at least they know and acknowledge that appendicitis is a serious thing that they should be worried about.

So, what is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix; a thin, finger-like pouch attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. Often the inflammation can be as a result of blockage either by the faecal matter, a foreign body, infection, trauma or a tumour. Appendicitis is generally acute, with symptoms coming on over the course of a day and becoming severe rapidly. Chronic appendicitis can also occur, though rarely. In chronic cases, symptoms are less severe and can last for days, weeks, or even months. 

Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency that almost always ends up in the operating theatre. Though the appendix is locally referred to as “lela la sukiri”, no one knows its exact role and it definitely does not have anything to do with sugar metabolism. Appendicitis can strike at any age, but it is mostly common from the teen years to the 30s.

Signs to look out for

If you have any of the following symptoms, go and see a Doctor immediately! Timely diagnosis and treatment are vital in acute appendicitis;

Sudden pain that starts around the navel and shifts to the lower right abdomen within hours

The pain becomes constant and increases in severity (or comes back despite painkillers)

The pain worsens on coughing, sneezing, laughing, walking or deep breaths

Loss of appetite

Nausea and vomiting

Fever

Constipation or diarrhoea

Abdominal bloating/fullness

Diagnosis

The doctor often asks questions regarding the symptoms and the patient’s medical history. This will be followed up by a physical examination in which the Doctor presses on the abdomen to check for any tenderness, and the location of the pain. With acute appendicitis, pressing on and letting go of the right lower abdomen usually elicits an excruciatingly unbearable pain. Several tests may be ordered to determine especially the severity of the illness and to rule out other causes of abdominal pain. The tests may conditions include: blood tests, a pregnancy test, urinalysis, abdominal  “How do ultrasound scans work?” ultrasound (scan), CT scan or MRI Scan.

Treatment

The gold standard treatment of acute appendicitis is surgical removal of the appendix known as appendectomy. Luckily, a person can live just fine without an appendix! Surgical options include laparoscopy or open surgery and the type will be decided on by the Surgeon after assessing the patient’s condition. Painkillers and antibiotics are also given intravenously usually before, during and after the surgery.

Complications

Appendicitis can cause serious complications such as;

Appendicular mass/abscessIf the appendix is inflamed or bursts, one may develop a pocket of pus around it known as an abscess. In most cases, the abscess will be treated with antibiotics and drained first by placing a tube through one’s abdominal wall into the abscess. The tube may be left in place for a few hours or days while the infection is clearing up but ultimately one would still have surgery to remove the appendix.

Peritonitis – without treatment, the appendix can rupture/burst. The risk of this rises 48–72 hours after symptoms start. A ruptured appendix spreads the infection throughout the abdomen (peritonitis). This is life threatening and requires immediate surgery to remove the appendix and clean the abdominal cavity.

Death – The complications of appendicitis (and appendectomy) can be life threatening, only if the diagnosis has been missed and no proper treatment has been given on time. This is rare though with the evolved medical care.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email  HYPERLINK “mailto:info@themedicscentre.co.bw” info@themedicscentre.co.bw or visit www.themedisccentre.co.bw

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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A degree of common sense

7th February 2022

Here’s a news item from last month you may have missed. In December 2021 the University of Staffordshire announced it would be offered a degree course in pantomime! Yes, that’s right, a degree in popular festive entertainment, the Christmas panto.

We used to have one here, put on by the Capitol Players, though it seems to have fallen away in recent times, but the spectacle is still alive and well in the UK, both in local ad-dram (amateur dramatic ) societies and on the London stage and most of the major cities, these latter productions usually featuring at least one big-draw name from the world of show business with ticket prices commensurate with the star’s salary.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the pantomime format, it consists of a raucous mixture of songs and comedy all based around a well-known fairy or folk tale. Aladdin and His Magic Lamp, Cinderella, Jack & The Beanstalk & Dick Whittington are perennial favourites but any well-known tall tale goes. There is no set script, unlike a play, and storyline is just a peg to hang a coat of contemporary, often bawdy, gags on, in what should be a rollicking production of cross dressing – there has to be at least one pantomime dame, played by a man and always a figure of fun, and a Principal Boy, ostensibly the male lead, yet played by an attractive young woman.

As an art form it can trace its roots back to 16th century Italy and the Commedia Del’Arte which used a mélange of music, dance, acrobatics along with a cast of comic stock characters so it has a long and proud theatrical tradition but you have to wonder, does that really qualify it as a suitable subject for a university? Further, what use might any degree be that can be acquired in a single year? And last but not least, how much standing does any degree have which comes from a jumped-up polytechnic, granted university status along with many of its ilk back in 1992, for reasons best known to the government of the time? Even more worrying are the stated aims of the course.

Staffordshire University claims it is a world first and the masters course is aimed at people working inside as well as outside the industry. Students on the course, due to start in September 2022, will get practical training in the art form as well as research the discipline.

“We want to see how far we can take this,” Associate Professor of Acting and Directing Robert Marsden said. The role of pantomime in the 21st Century was also going to be examined, he said, “particularly post Me Too and Black Lives Matter”. Questions including “how do we address the gender issues, how do we tell the story of Aladdin in 2021, how do we get that balance of male/female roles?” will be asked, Prof Marsden added.

Eek! Sounds like Prof. Marsden wants to rob it of both its history and its comedic aspects – well, good luck with that! Of course that isn’t the only bizarre, obscure and frankly time and money-wasting degree course available. Staying with the performing arts there’s Contemporary Circus and Physical Performance at Bath Spa University. Sounds like fun but why on earth would a circus performer need a university degree?

Or how about a Surf Science and Technology degree at Cornwall College (part of the University of Plymouth). Where the one thing you don’t learn is….how to surf!

Then there is a  degree in Floral Design at University Centre Myerscough. No, I hadn’t heard of it either – turns out it’s a college of further education in Preston, a town that in my experience fits the old joke of ‘I went there once…..It was closed’ to a ‘T’!

Another handy (pun intended) art is that of Hand Embroidery BA (Hons), offered at the University for the Creative Arts. Or you could waste away sorry, while away, your time on a course in Animal Behaviour and Psychology. This degree at the University of Chester teaches you about the way animals think and feel. Cockroaches have personalities according to the subject specs– you couldn’t make it up.

Happily all these educational institutes may have to look to their laurels and try to justify their very existence in the near future. In plans announced this week, universities could face fines of up to £500,000 (P750m), be stripped of their right to take student loans or effectively shut down if they cannot get 60 per cent of students into a professional job under a crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses. Further, at least 80 per cent of students should not drop out after the first year, and 75 per cent should graduate.

The rules, published by the Office for Students (OfS), aim to eliminate ‘low-quality’ courses by setting new standards & requiring courses to improve their rating in the TEF, the official universities ratings system. Universities not meeting the new standards will not be able to charge full annual fees of £9,250. Unconventional courses that could fall victim to the new rules could include the University of Sunderland’s BA in Fashion Journalism, where students learn essential’ skills such as catwalk reporting and the history of Chanel.  They have only a 40 per cent chance of entering highly skilled work 15 months after leaving.

At University College Birmingham, BSC Bakery and Patisserie Technology students – who learn how to ‘make artisan bread’ – have a 15 per cent chance of a professional job within 15 months. Universities minister Michelle Donelan welcomed the move, saying ‘When students go to university, they do so in the pursuit of a life-changing education, one which helps pave their path towards a highly skilled career. Any university that fails to match this ambition must be held to account.’

OfS found that at 25 universities, fewer than half of students find professional work within 15 months.  Business and management courses at the University of Bedfordshire (14.8 per cent) were among the least likely to lead to graduate-level jobs.  Asked to comment, the University of Sunderland said it always looked ‘to find ways to improve outcomes’; University College Birmingham said data on graduates and definition of ‘professional work’ was limited. I’ll bet it is! As the saying goes, ’what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over’. What a pantomime!

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Why regular health checks are important!

7th February 2022

With the world still reeling from the negative impact of the Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), and the latest Omicron variant (which is responsible for the ongoing global forth wave) on everyone’s lips, we should not forget and neglect other aspects of our health.

While anyone can get infected with corona virus and become seriously ill or die at any age, studies continue to show that people aged 60 years and above, and those with underlying medical conditions like hypertension, heart and lung problems, diabetes, obesity, cancers, or mental illness are at a higher risk of developing serious illness or dying from covid-19.

It is a good habit to visit a doctor regularly, even if you feel healthy. Regular health checks can help identify any early signs of health issues or assess your risk of future illness hence prompting one to take charge and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other non-communicable diseases (even communicable) can often be picked up in their early stages, when chances for effective treatment are high.

During a health check, your doctor will take a thorough history from you regarding your medical history, your family’s history of disease, your social life and habits, including your diet, physical activity, alcohol use, smoking and drug intake. S/he will examine you including measuring your weight, blood pressure, feeling your body organs and listening to your heart and lungs amongst the rest. Depending on the assessment, your doctor will notify you how often you need to have a health check. If you have a high risk of a particular health condition, your doctor may recommend more frequent health checks from an early age.

Diet – a healthy diet improves one’s general health and wellbeing. It is recommended that we have at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily. Physical activity – regular physical activity has significant health benefits on one’s body, mind & soul. It contributes to preventing and managing non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhances thinking, learning, and judgment skills and improves overall well-being. According to the world health organisation (WHO), people who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active. Aim for 30 minutes to an hour of moderate physical activity at least four days in a week. Examples of moderate physical activity include brisk walking, gentle swimming and social tennis.

Weight – maintaining a healthy weight range helps in preventing long-term complications like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and arthritis. It is also vital for one’s mental wellbeing and keeping up with normal activities of daily living. Ask your doctor to check your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference annually. If you are at a higher risk, you should have your weight checked more frequently and a stern management plan in place.

Alcohol – as per WHO reports, alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. Healthy drinking entails taking no more than two standard drinks per drinking day with at least two alcohol-free days in a week.

Smoking –Nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, many different types of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. Every year, at least a whopping 8 million people succumb from tobacco use worldwide. Tobacco can also be deadly for non-smokers through second-hand smoke exposure. It is not ‘fashionable’ if it is going to cost you and your loved ones lives! If you are currently smoking, talk to your doctor and get help in quitting as soon as possible to reduce the harm.

Blood pressure: Hypertension is a serious medical condition and can increase the risk of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide, with upwards of 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women – over a billion people – having the condition. Have your blood pressure checked annually if it is normal, you are aged under 40 and there is no family history of hypertension. You might need to have it checked more frequently if you are over 40, your blood pressure is on the high side, or you have a personal or family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack. Your doctor will be there to guide you.

Dental care – eating a low-sugar diet and cleaning and flossing the teeth regularly can reduce one’s risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. Visit a dentist every six months for a dental examination and professional cleaning, or more frequently as per your dentist’s advice.
Blood tests – annual to five-yearly blood tests may be done to further assess or confirm risk of disease. These may include blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, kidney function, liver function, tumour markers, among other things. They may be done frequently if there is already an existing medical condition.

Cancer screening – various screening techniques can be done to detect different cancers in their early or pre-cancer stages. These include; skin inspections for any suspicious moles/spots, two-yearly mammograms for those at risk of developing breast cancer, Pap smear or the new Cervical Screening Test (CST) every five years, stool tests and colonoscopy (every five years) for those at most risk of bowel cancer, prostate cancer screening for those at risk (over 45 years of age, family history of cancers etc.). Discuss appropriate tests with your doctor.

Vaccinations – You should discuss with your doctor about the necessary routine immunisation, in particular; the Covid-19 vaccines, an annual flu shot, a five-yearly pneumococcal vaccine if you have never had one or you are immunocompromised and any other boosters that you might need.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email HYPERLINK “mailto:info@themedicscentre.co.bw” info@themedicscentre.co.bw or visit www.themedisccentre.co.bw

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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