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Saleshando warns UDC on AP, BPF

Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando has warned the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) that failure to resolve existing conflicts could dissuade other opposition parties from joining forces. 

Addressing the media this week, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament said it is important for the leadership of the UDC to admit that there are problems with the coalition.

Saleshando said admitting problems, as opposed to being in denial, will lead to resolutions that will keep the coalition in good shape as it engages other opposition parties.

Brotherly relationship that existed between Saleshando and UDC President, Duma Boko as well as the rank and file members in the build-up to 2019 elections has frantically collapsed.

Disagreements on UDC governance issues and the democratisation of the UDC has drawn the two opposition leaders to parallels.

The fallout between Saleshando and Boko is so dire that the two leaders have not spoken to each other in ages. “I do not remember the last time I talked to Boko on the phone. Certainly it is not this year,” said Saleshando.

Saleshando and BCP leadership recently snubbed the UDC press conference addressed by Boko, indicating that they were not informed about issues that were to be discussed.

“There is a problem and all of us should come with extinguishers to douse the inferno, failure which would bring down the confidence of the people on UDC.”

The UDC is currently in negotiations to lure other opposition parties, Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) to the umbrella.

The talks began last year preluded by a Memorandum of Understanding on impending by-elections.

However, with the current demoralising state and shape of the UDC, Saleshando warned that: “The UDC should introspect and have a conflict resolution mechanism, we should agree as to what to do when we hold diverging views. We have not had that but the time is now to see how we solve our bickering.”

This would assist the party to transit from the muddy waters they find themselves in, according to BCP leader who is also a legislator for Maun West.

However, despite the ill-treatment that BCP has suffered recently at the hands of other coalition partners, Saleshando is adamant that his party, remains part and parcel of the umbrella project.

“We are not leaving the UDC, but the members (BCP) in my recent nationwide tours have told me that they are aware of the differences in the UDC and to my belief we as the UDC leadership should also admit that indeed the relationship has soured,” he said.

“The trust is gone. So we should address that, or else it would make us un-attractive and I will not be surprised if other opposition parties shun being part of the UDC when the talks begin.”

Currently the UDC has no code of conduct or ethics committee to deal with members irrespective of party position and this is a concern. The UDC set up is a coalition and not a political party and as such matters are left to contracting parties to instill discipline among members.

Some within the opposition have been advocating for the formation of the UDC Advisory Committee to ensure that the party adheres to all NEC portfolios.

Furthermore, another suggestion has been to engage UDC conveners to give parental guidance on critical governance matters in the party. This is meant to ensure that meetings are called frequently and resolutions taken by the NEC are implemented. These are some of the qualms other parties have in the UDC.

All the while Saleshando insists that the best conflict resolution mechanism would be for the party to come out of the closet first and discuss the problem besieging us.

“No need to engage outsiders, it is us who are aware of the problems and we should try and reach understanding of our differences then we should see if it is possible to cure it, failure in which that is when we can engage others,” Saleshando said at a media briefing hosted at Avani hotel.

The BCP leader together with his party will not be bullied into submitting to the Umbrella. He says as far as they are concerned, what they are seeing now is not what they signed for in 2017 when they joined UDC. “No party is entitled to the UDC leadership and we agreed that in after 2019 elections there will be congress and if we can do what has been agreed the party will regain its appeal. We agreed when we joined that after every three years the leadership will have to seek mandate renewal from the members and it is not happening, this is not what we signed for. But it is not a deal breaker.”

Veteran politicians have also in the past warned that the fights could collapse the UDC. “Yes to a certain extent I think these bickering and defections might affect the negotiations but it would be up to all the parties to see the bigger picture,” says Gilson Saleshando. When this ‘senseless’ bickering played out early this year, AP’s Secretary General says Dr. Phenyo Butale was not much bothered and opted to play a wait and see game. “We are not sure of the extent of how long this (bickering) will go. But we are focused, our eyes are on the ball, we want united opposition going to 2024 as you know that we have already signed memorandum of agreement with others.”

Meanwhile BCP did not honor the past UDC NEC meeting due to various reasons, but they will be part of today (Saturday) meeting in Palapye. “We have been directed by our members that going to the meeting we should not bury our heads in the sand like an ostrich but face the current problems we face because we do not trust each like we used to, so we will be party to the meeting,” Saleshando confirmed.

“For now the BCP will not leave the UDC contrary to reports. We will give our best shot. We came far and we cannot give up now,” he said.

BCP is expected to convene for their elective congress later this year to introspect and rope in new Central Committee members.

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Media have a Role in Accelerating Harm Reduction Adoption

8th December 2022

African Scientists and Experts Call for the adoption of a Harm Reduction in approach in Public Health Strategies and Tobacco Control. Media have a critical role to play in accelerating Harm Reduction efforts by informing and sensitizing cigarette smokers on the availability and benefits of alternative, potentially lower risk products to cigarretes. Traditional cessation and smoking prevention norms are not the only ways that smokers who cannot or don’t’ want to quit can make healthier choices that cause less harm to themselves and those around them.

This was said during the 2nd Harm Reduction Exchange conference for African journalists held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 1st of December 2022. Speaking at the Harm Reduction Exchange Conference, Integra Africa Principal Dr. Tendai Mhizha emphasized the role that journalists and media houses should play in handling misinformation and disinformation in tobacco harm reduction discourse that is actually perpetuating the death and disease caused by people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes. “There has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects that e-cigarettes have on public health.

This has led to policies that disfavour risk reduces products and narratives that completely deny their benefits. The media have the difficult responsibility to curb the scourge of disinformation and misinformation on harm reduction just like on other socio-political stances that are prescriptive and do not uphold consumers’ right to healthier lifestyle choices,” Dr Mhizha said.

The Harm Reduction Exchange cast a spotlight on alternative ways to reduce harm among tobacco smokers. Held under the theme Harm Reduction: Making a difference in Africa, the conference focused on the progress being made through harm reduction strategies in all fields related to public health such as drug and alcohol abuse, excessive sugar consumption, skin lightening and other addictive and behavioral practices. A wide array of harm reduction strategies and initiatives that are deployed towards reducing unnecessary deaths through non-communicable diseases were presented and discussed.

On his part, Prof. Abdoul Kassé, a world renowned and awarded Oncologist and a Professor of Surgery at the Cancer Institute in Senegal, said that Harm Reduction is a powerful public A Summary of the HR Exchange 30th November  1st December 2022 health tool that has the potential to reduce cancer by 30% and should be at the centre of all public health development strategies. Harm reduction, he said, has already benefited many people in public health and is the most viable alternative in tobacco control.

It applies to areas where there is a need to reduce the harm associated with a practice or consumption of a substance that is overused in society leading to increased morbidity and mortality. “Innovative Harm Reduction initiatives will help to keep more Africans alive. Tobacco Harm Reduction initiatives, including the use of popular e-cigarettes, nicotine patches and chewing gums, have continued to generate a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and in the media. However, there is evidence that the use of potentially less harmful alternatives than cigarettes for those who are not willing or cannot give up smoking with currently approved methods may be a solution, not necessarily the best for everyone but by far better than continuous smoking.

Where cessation repeatedly fails, switching to less harmful products is expected to result in benefits for many smokers,” Prof. Abdoul Kassé said. Similarly, views were expressed by Kenya’s Dr. Vivian Manyeki who said tobacco Harm Reduction has a solid scientific and medical basis, and it has a lot of promise as a public health measure to assist millions of smokers. “Many smokers are unable, or at least unwilling, to achieve cessation through complete nicotine and tobacco abstinence. They continue smoking despite the very real and obvious adverse health consequences and against the multiple public health campaigns. Conventional smoking cessation proposals should be complemented with alternative but more realistic options through Harm Reduction,” Dr. Manyeki said.

Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smoking—the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “Nicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Across the world, there is growing interest among experts in novel approaches towards tobacco control and there is an ongoing discussion that reducing the negative effects of smoking can be also achieved by tobacco harm reduction,” Dr. Kgosi Letlape, an ophthalmologist and President of Africa Medical Association and the president of the Association of Medical Councils of Africa, said.

Tobacco cessation is a key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Abstinence from tobacco smoking is one of the primary goals for health promotion and management globally but it is unachievable in a huge amount of cases. This task remains unaccomplished despite extensive public campaigns on the health dangers of tobacco smoking. Thus, the development of novel strategies to reduce smoking is imperative. Moreover, the use of innovations in smoking products has been currently adopted by several smokers to reduce the health risks of smoking.

“The Harm Reduction approach prevents drug-related deaths and overdose fatalities and is the only way out for addicts. In the same way these alternative technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world as they reduce exposure to toxicants,” Bernice Apondi, A Policy Manager at Voices of Community Action and Leadership Kenya (VOCAL-Kenya), said.

During the Harm Reduction Exchange, journalists drawn from Southern, West and East African countries, including: Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe debated and set forth several resolutions in regards to the present and future as well as the challenges and progress made in Harm Reduction,and science-led regulation.

The Harm Reduction Exchange brought together high-level policy makers, physicians, scientists and health policy experts with media stakeholders from Africa in a lively mix of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. The key note speakers included Prof Abdoul Aziz Kasse, Ms Bernice Opondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma, Clive Bates, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Dr. Vivian Manyeki and Dr. Tendai Mhizha.

 

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Over 2 000 civil servants interdicted

6th December 2022

Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.

According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reaching WeekendPost shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.

In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.

This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publication’s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, “as you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,” she said.

She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.

Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.

Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.

Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.

“It is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,” he told WeekendPost, adding that “when a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolved”.

Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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