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Masisi takes charge

Parliament has acceded to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi’s request to extend a State of Emergency for a period of six months solely for the purposes of addressing the novel coronavirus.

After a heated debate at the Boipuso hall in Gaborone, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) had to flex muscles and evoke its majority to suppress the arguments against from the main opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) who were against the proposal.

The BDP had also quashed UDC proposals of a 28 days and three months State of Emergency. The UDC was suspicious of the six months request and argued that there is potential for abuse of power by the sitting President because absolute power corrupts absolutely. On the day of the conclusion of the debates on the State of Emergency request, Government published an amendment to the Guidelines issued by the President.

Part of the amendments suspends for a period of six months provisions of the Trade and Disputes Act which provides for the right to strike and lockouts. Furthermore during the State of Emergency, the Chief Justice may suspend the operation of any of the procedures or timelines laid down in the rules of any court; issue directives relating to the detention, bail or remand of prisoners awaiting arraignment, trial, or appeal.

The amendments further deal with businesses, Where a business is unable to have employees work remotely from home or where a business is unable to pay salaries, the business may cease operations but shall not retrench or dismiss an employee during the state of public emergency.

Earlier when addressing Members of Parliament, President Masisi said, I found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, and use the powers vested in me to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from 2nd April 2020 at midnight. The State of Public Emergency is for purposes of taking effective measures to address the spread and transmission of this novel virus.

He reasoned that the said constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provides that such a declaration can be up to 21 days. Considering the gravity of the matter, and in line with the Constitution, I also invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult you on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus, after which I will request you to pass a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and also extend its duration by six (6) months.

President Masisi said the Constitution of a democratic country has in its nucleus a core of entrenched provisions that are not and cannot be subordinated to any other piece of legislation. Such entrenched provisions include the Bill of Rights that guarantees freedoms of movement, gatherings, association and self-expression.

These are the liberties that in our Constitution are so deeply embedded that they can only be legislatively reviewed through the instruments of national referenda. However, the prevailing state of emergency is intended to deal only with the COVID-19 crisis and will not in any way undermine people’s fundamental rights.

According to Masisi, this pandemic is a national security threat that challenges our very existence as a nation state and people. Parliament has, in its last sitting, passed the Appropriation Bill that allocated the national budget. At the time, we did not foresee that the pandemic would reach these alarming rates.

Masisi argued that it became clear from the impact that COVID-19 was having on the global economy that the declaration of a Public Health Emergency was limited in adequately addressing the possible social and economic negative effects it would have on our country.

Therefore on 31st March 2020, on the strong advice of the High Level Task Force and Cabinet, I declared a State of Public Emergency in accordance with Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana.

The President said during the period of the State of Emergency; all businesses and offices may only continue their business operations by allowing their employees to work remotely from home except employees designated as essential service provider; and All persons employed within the public service, parastatals and any other state owned entity, unless specifically designated as essential service providers, shall work remotely from home.

Responding to fears that he may abuse the powers conferred on him by Parliament, the President declared, “I Mokgweertsi Masisi did not seek the Presidency of this country for reasons of ruling by decree; I did not campaign for election as President of this celebrated democracy for me to erode civil liberties upon coming into office; I did not dream of leading this proud and beloved nation, by diminishing its values of freedom and other enshrined rights that have made us the unique nation that we are.

He said he rejoiced over his ascendency to the Presidency of this country with the prescription of a legacy that would “enhance our freedoms, develop our country and lead our people beyond the middle income trap towards the first world status of development.” Masisi said he intends using the declaration of the State of Emergency, solely for the purpose of protecting our people against the decimating potentials of the Novel COVID-19 virus.


ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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