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Ram blasts Gov’t over Olympics fiasco

RAMACHANDRAN

Following team Botswana’s poor display at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the retail giant, Choppies Enterprises, Ramachandran Ottapathu, who had promised to part with millions of Pula for medalists, has come out hard on the government‘s lackadaisical approach towards sport which has of late become the country’s primary source of pride internationally.

The business mogul has often come under heavy criticism for his pie-in-the-sky-incentives approach to athletes, which he has never shied away to defend as “a legitimate form of motivation.” Ram finds the accusations misplaced, saying his place if anything is in the support structures department.

Before the competitions, the government approached him to give athletes some allowances, a request he declined. Ram confirmed to this publication that the government indeed approached them to assist the team during preparations and give out some allowances to the team before their departure to Tokyo, a request they declined.

“I confirm that we were approached. We acceded to some requests, but not allowances. Our strong view is that private companies should not be held responsible for the preparations of Team Botswana for competitions like the Olympics,” he told Weekend Sport in an exclusive interview.

Although he did not accede to the request for allowances, Ram had promised the athletes that he was prepared to part with millions for medallists, “we pledged to reward performance, and we made it clear. It is high time the government invests in our athletes. We are not saying we cannot assist, but we need to see some commitment from the government. We will play our role to support,” he stated, further adding that “the government should always be willing to spend where there is value for the national flag.”

His company had pledged P1 million for a gold medal, P500,000 for silver, P250,000 for bronze, and P25,000 to any team member who reaches the finals in their respective events. Relay teams will receive identical amounts, which will be shared equally among team members. With the Olympics Team’s dismal display, the money will remain with Choppies.

This development allegedly does not sit well with a government that has spent a total of P33 million on the preparations over the last three years. According to Rakgare, the funds covered the athlete preparations, training, qualifying for the games, athlete welfare, and other administrative logistics associated with getting the team Tokyo.

But what is Ram’s take on the Olympics Team performance? He responds, “I think they did well given the circumstances they faced, which I think we are all familiar with. In my view, we need to professionalise our systems- from training, preparations, welfare, and others. As I said, the private sector should only come to offer support at the end of everything’.

He echoed the 400 meters local champion, Isaac Makwala, who posted a much similar view on social media after his loss in the finals. He wrote on his social media platform: “…I am so proud of myself..It was not easy for me to be here in this Olympics, looking at the challenges I had’.
It is understood that Rakgare, who snubbed the Choppies’ occasion to announce incentives to the team, is unhappy with Choppies’ contribution and has not made any effort to hide his displeasure.

However, Ram says his company’s contribution towards sports and athletics, in particular, is notable. It needs no endorsement from anyone, “we have a track record, and we still promise more support for the future,” he remarked.

And what happens that the athletes have not made it? “We are still going to sit down and discuss that issue with my team on the way forward. All that I can say to our athletes is better luck next time,” responded Ram.

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Mental health concern amid COVID-19 pandemic 

24th September 2021
Mental Health

With the advent of COVID-19, mental health and psychosocial has become a major concern around the world. There is   significant increase in the rates of stress, anxiety and depression globally.

In creating awareness and support on mental health and psychosocial support, the Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development, through the Department of Social Protection (DSP) hosted a virtual regional mental health and Psychosocial Support Forum (MHPSS).

The MHPSS Forum brings together stakeholders from different sectors providing Mental Health and Psychosocial Support services particularly to children, youth, families and the workforce, as well as Academia, International Cooperating Partners, Community Implementing Partners and the media.

It aims to facilitate learning, information exchange and advocacy to promote mainstreaming of Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (PSS) into policies, programmes, services and funding priorities for children and youth in Botswana.

The event is a partnership between The Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development, through the Department of Social Protection (DSP), and the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI), with Project Concern International Botswana (PCI) and Marang Child Care Network Trust (MCCNT).

The event is held every two years, and Botswana started hosting the Forum in 2014. The theme for this year is ‘Innovate, Integrate, Thrive,’ which prompts us to find new ways to survive the COVID-19 pandemic which we can mainstream into our daily activities.

The Northern Regional Forum in Mahalapye was held on 17-19 August 2021 while the Southern Regional Forum  in  Ghanzi, was  from 21-23 September 2021. Findings from both regions will be presented at the National Forum to be held in Kasane on 12-14 October 2021. The event is held in collaboration with local authorities in each region.

The event is structured in this manner: The first day is a Special Session for Children, where children in the region will talk about the challenges they face that affect their mental health, how they cope and what they think can be done to support them.

The second day is the official opening where the lead ministry gives a keynote address, and presentations from service providers in the region. The third and last day is abstract presentations from different speakers on thematic areas under the theme.

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GMES & Africa Southern Africa to hold a Regional Stakeholder Workshop on Earth Observation Technologies

24th September 2021
GMESAfrica

The Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) in collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will hold a Hybrid GMES and Africa Regional workshop from 27 – 29 September 2021, at Safari Hotel in Windhoek, Namibia.

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES & Africa) Initiative is a programme formed out of mutual cooperation between Africa and Europe with a focus on Earth Observation (EO) systems.

It was formed to respond to the global need to manage the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security by providing information to policymakers, scientists, private sector and the public. GMES and Africa aims to promote development of local capacities, institutional, human and technical resources for access to and exploitation of Earth Observation (EO) based services on an operational basis for sustainable development in Africa.

In its first phase, GMES has funded 13 consortiums in Africa. In Southern African, SASSCAL-led consortia is implementing the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Service for Transboundary Basins in Southern Africa (WeMAST) Project while CSIR is leading the Marine and Coastal Operations for Southern Africa (MARCO[1]South). SASSCAL Members of the consortium include the University of Botswana, University of Zambia, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, University of the Western Cape and Midlands State University, South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) of Zambia.

CSIR led consortium includes ABALOBI, Benguela Current Convention, Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, National Sea Rescue Institute, University of Dar Es Salaam, University of Eduardo Mondlane and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association).

The workshop will also provide an opportunity to promote and encourage mutual exchanges in terms of sharing best practices, knowledge and experiences as well as allow for the exchange of information and knowledge on new and innovative Earth Observation technologies developed under the programmes and their alignment with the region’s sustainable development strategies.

The workshop will also reveal trends in the use of earth observation data to monitor and assess wetland conditions, threats to sustainable utilisation of wetland resources as well as updating stakeholders on how climate change variability and drought is continually affecting Sub-Saharan Africa’s surface water resources.

The workshop’s envisaged outcomes will be to ensure shared knowledge and understanding of the new and innovative Earth Observation technologies, and their application to society. Expected to visit is a broader pool of international delegates from the two continents (Europe and Africa) both physically and virtual.

This includes the member countries policy makers, line ministers from the SADC countries, public and private sector stakeholders, implementers, Basin Commissions, researchers, and any other stakeholders whose activities are related to coastal areas, rivers, and their ecosystems.

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Vendors ready for the Tobacco Control Bill

21st September 2021
Vendors

Some vendors have been misled
Vendors thrive on households goods and fresh produce

Despite the previous false allegations that the Tobacco Control Bill will lead to several 20 000 vendors across the country losing their jobs, several local vendors have expressed that they are ready for the bill and because vendors sell mostly household goods

“This is something that we openly accept and receive as street vendors, the problem is some of our counterparts were misled and made to believe that we will not be allowed to sell cigarettes on our stalls.

Some of us got to understand that the bill states that we have to be licensed to sell cigarettes, we are not supposed to sell them to children under the age of 18 years of age and eliminating the selling of single sticks. We understand that this agenda is meant to develop a healthy nation but not take us down,” said Mbimbi Tau a vendor who operates from Mogoditshane.

The Tobacco Control Bill has been passed in several countries and street vendors are operating properly without any challenges faced. Tau further mentioned that there is no way that the Tobacco Control Bill will affect their business operations, all they have to do as vendors are to get the required documentation and do what the bill requires.

Another vendor Busani Selalame who operates from Gaborone Bonnington North was not shy to express his support towards the Tobacco Control Bill, “the problem is that some people within our sector have been misled and now they think that the bill is meant to take our operations down and completely stop selling cigarettes.

I support the fact that we are not supposed to sell cigarettes to children who are under the age of 18 years of age this has always been wrong, as parents we should be cautious of such and ensure that our children are disassociated with cigarettes,” said Selalame.

The Tobacco Control Bill prohibits advertising, promotion and sponsorship by the tobacco industry to prevent messages, cues, and other inducements to begin using tobacco, especially among the youth, to reassure users to continue their use, or that otherwise undermine quitting.

Renowned economist Bakang Ntshingane is of the view that since vendors sell household goods and fresh produce they are likely to keep on making profits despite what the Tobacco Control Bill comes with. He further stated that the Tobacco Control Bill will not be of harm on the local economy since the country does not manufacture or produce any tobacco related products.

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