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Batswana speak on COVID-19 anxiety and misery

The deadly COVID-19 contagion hit Botswana in early 2020. The World Health Organization (WHO) proclaimed that the virus is spread through contact with infected persons and surfaces. Batswana from all districts, towns, cities and rural areas found themselves in dread mode when the first case of Coronavirus was first confirmed in the country.

At the time, Batswana had slight data about the virus. Some learned that frequent sanitization, masking up and keeping a social distance will help them evade contacting the COVID-19 virus. The government pooled these health safety tips on social media and other forms of communications such as radios and newspapers.

The question that lingered unrequited was: Are these memos able to reach those in rural settlements who live without social media, walkie-talkies or do not have mobile phones even. Even though COVID-19 was not severe in rural settings, this has since seen a drastic change and escalation in COVID-19 cases. The virus has entered poverty-stricken villages with no access to water, medical facilities and not even roads.

WeekendPostfollowed this particular issue and covered villages surrounding Kanye in the Southern District in a unique report. These villages includeNtlhantlhe, Magotlhwane, Ranaka,Lekgolobotlo, Moshana, LotlhakaneEast andMolapowabojang.

These are small communities with fewer populations, but COVID-19 has since paraded in them and continue to claim more lives, precisely every day. The communities decry lack of clean water, nil communication from relevant authorities and failure by the government to come to their rescue. The situation seems to be taking a miserable course, as the government has been vocal about failing to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upon arrival atNtlhantlhevillage, two older women sat under a tree looking down and gloomy. It quickly hit off that it’s probably because of this pandemic, more so that there is no emotional support given to any patient. It gets worse when lives are lost, as families do not have time to mourn their loved ones.

“It’s regrettable for all of us in the village. We go to a funeral every week, which is emotionally straining, but it inculcates anxiety, especially among us, the old age. We have been vaccinated twice, but the young have not been vaccinated yet. These are age groups that are dying at alarming rates, in any case. We do not have anything to protect us except some of these traditional plants that are said to be able to help the body fight viruses,” said Seneo Radimo, a 78-year old woman.

COVID-19 is emotionally straining. As it is in Botswana, there are no psychologists available to help COVID-19 victims. Radimo toldWeekendPostthat, “Ga go na ope o re sidilang maikutlo. Ga re ise re bone ope a tla ko go rona a re sidila maikutlo. Re tshela fela ka lone letshogo. Re thusiwa ke baruti mo seromamoweng ba re balela ditemana.

“We do not have anyone to provide counselling during this crisis. No one has come to provide counselling, and we live with concern. It’s only pastors on radios who can preach for us and share words of hope with us.”

Mental Health Therapist at Botswana Network for Mental Health Lisa Fraser said there is a need to continue raising mental health awareness during the COVID-19 pandemic. She indicated that mental health was generally ignored in most parts of Africa, including Botswana, and necessary action was only taken when the situation worsened.

Fraser stressed that there were only a few mental health facilities to give the necessary support and highlighted issues of stigma against those affected.

Mental health research in Botswana: a semi-systematic scoping review conducted in 2020 says mental health policy was developed in 2003 to provide a framework for incorporating the mental health programme into general healthcare services.

Botswana has no national mental health research database, and to the best of our knowledge, the available literature on mental health research provides inadequate guidance to inform policy and practice.

The mental health aspects of HIV studied were depression, neurocognitive disorders, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in psychiatric patients, sexual behaviour and psychosocial issues.

Most studies were conducted in general hospital settings; only one was completed with psychiatric inpatients and found a high prevalence of HIV among female psychiatric inpatients.

The prevalence of depression in PLWHIV ranges from 25.3% to 48%, and men (31.4%) are more affected than women (25.3%). Factors associated with depression in women were low energy and limitations in role function, lower education, higher income and lack of control in sexual decision making. Similarly, factors associated with depression in men were being single, living in a rural area and engaging in intergenerational sex.

Psychosocial issues identified among adolescents with HIV in Botswana include behavioural problems (70%), family issues (58%) and HIV medication adherence (57%). A study on mental health stigma reported that patients with HIV and mental illness are stereotyped as dangerous and untrustworthy and are discriminated against.

Magotlhwane village’s COVID-19 anxiety is analogous to that of Ntlhatlhe. These are developing villages opposite each other. Phiri said in an interviewthat “Batho ba fedile. Ga gona sepe se eleng gore batho fa ba lwala ba se fiwa ko dipatela. Re kentilwe mme go setse ba bangwe ba e leng gore ga ba ise ba kentiwe. Banana ba fedile jaanong rona ga re itse gore re tlile go bolokwa ke bo mang.

“People are dying. There is nothing that these people are given at the hospitals when they are in a critical state. We have been vaccinated, but not all of us. The young people are gone, and we don’t know who will be taking care of us.”

She, however, designated that young people are conscious of the COVID-19 virus. The fact remains, the youth are now becoming more affected than it was before. “We are concerned really about our lives, but more concern is about the young ones. What pains me more is that there is no help coming from anywhere when one family member is infected. We are kept home with no food, at times, no water.

In Ranaka, a village that lies along Ntlhantlhe-Kanye road, the clinic was full. COVID-19 patients were given chairs to sit and isolate in the sun. The nurse in charge believes that COVID-19 doesn’t become active when in contact with the sun. Some of these patients just received positive results, and the majority are children.

In an interview with one patient, Idah Bosa (53) applauded the villagers as they seem to comply better than those in Mogoditshane village. She said she was intrigued by seeing parents going to the clinic with their children for COVID-19 testing, which shows how much they prioritize health.

“I came to Ranaka because my daughter had lost her mother-in-law due to COVID-19. As you see me here today in the clinic, I came to test for the virus, and my results were positive. I wasn’t surprised to have been positive because my children tested positive before me, and since I live with them under the same roof, I knew at once that I needed to get tested right away. I am still doing very well, I have no complaints so far, but from here, I’ll be going to isolate myself.”

A woman who shares her life with Boiki Thakatswana was sitting under a tree hoping to see someone pass by her stall to purchase something. Her spuds were packed nicely on a table with no shades, except for one from the small tree that was not even good enough. She is a 40-year old Margaret Mogolwane.

The streets were empty. There was absolutely no movement in Lotlhakane East, only a few donkey carts from the village Jojo tank that supplies water on good days.

She added more salt to the wound as she told this publication that she is very troubled by how young people in the village portray offhand arrogance towards COVID-19. For these young folks, the ‘new normal’ doesn’t exist in their lexis. They still host get-togethers in what they call ‘private chillas.” At these sessions, young people have fun hysterically.

To her knowledge, only a few older people in the village have received their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, and she has never heard of the second dose since.

“We pray every day to hear that this pandemic is over because we cannot afford to lose our loved ones at this rate. The worst part of it is that we are even more afraid of attending their funerals in fear of contracting the virus. The fact that their bodies are no longer brought home to be seen for the last time when bidding them farewell is even agonizing.”

“As a street vendor, my business has also been affected by COVID-19. There is this belief that street vendors have COVID-19 as most people prefer buying from supermarkets and not from us. There are no job opportunities available. Companies no longer accept applications like before,” she added.


BPS, Mosala Funeral Parlour butt heads over SA national remains

19th September 2023

A squabble has broken out between Pule Mosala Funeral Parlour and the Botswana Police Service (BPS) over the remains of a South African national who has been in the Mosala mortuary for more than nineteen months. The deceased was one of 10 suspects who were controversially shot dead during a lengthy shootout with law enforcement authorities in Gaborone’s Phase 2 early last year.

The deceased individual’s family based in Soweto, has encountered difficulties in repatriating the body which has been in the care of Mosala Mortuary Services. Following the incident, it has emerged that all 10 bodies were transported to PFG mortuary in Lobatse for a brief period while the police attempted to locate their next of kin.  It is reported that the families of the deceased were eventually identified and informed to come and identify their loved ones, including other South African nationals who were part of the criminal group. These families also witnessed the autopsy procedures conducted at Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone.

Except for the family from Soweto, nine of the bodies were claimed and taken by their separate relatives. The Soweto family claims they lack the resources to bring the body back to South Africa and has made it known that they are looking for money. To end the supposed verbal agreement over the body’s storage for repatriation, Mosala Funeral Service has filed a case against the police at the Lobatse High Court.

According to Keakantse Mmotlhana, the company’s Sales and Marketing Manager, 10 people who were killed in Phase 2 by gunfire were all temporarily transferred to one of PFG’s branches in Lobatse by the police while efforts were made to find their next of kin. She expressed outrage at the statement made by the Minister of Defense and Security, recently.

After Assistant Police Commissioner Dipheko Motube called her office to apologize for giving the Minister wrong information during a news conference, she confirmed that they had accepted the apologies. He made it clear that one of the victims was still at Pule Mortuary in Lobatse.

Bushie Mosala, the director and owner of Mosala Funeral Services, confirmed that the body of a South African national has been in his mortuary for the past nineteen months. He expressed his desire for the police to remove the corpse from the mortuary, characterising the situation as a “nightmare.” He has instructed his legal team to file a lawsuit against the police in the Lobatse High Court concerning the body.

Mosala urged the acting Police Commissioner to come forward and apologize to the nation for the situation, asserting that the public has the right to know the truth regarding the body of the South African national, w

C -002Bhich was preserved by the police as evidence.

The South African High Commission in Gaborone had not responded to queries from Weekend Post at the time going of going to press.

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BOSETU frustrated by Gov’t new dispute winning strategy

19th September 2023

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) has expressed alarm over a troubling trend by the government. Tobokani Rari, Secretary General of the BOSETU, stated that it appears that these days, whenever there is a dispute between workers and the government, the administration is fast to run to the courts to attempt and muffle unions.

“This is quite disturbing development, we have seen it with the Botswana Doctors Union, there was a disagreement over the shift allowance, government rushed to court, they indeed got order that was saying the doctors should go and do the work. We have seen it with the nurses, they rushed to court they got the order, we are now seeing it with the teachers, they rushed to the court and they got what they wanted,” said Rari, who also served as the Secretary General of BOFEPUSU.

Rari raised concerns that the government’s enforcement of teacher’s work, through a court order will result in reduced classroom productivity and morale. Rari added that this situation would negatively impact labour relations and teachers emotional wellbeing due to dissatisfaction in their work places leading to persistently poor academic outcomes.

“You can get an order that forces people to work, but what happens at work, it heightens emotions, it destroys relationships and the morale goes down and productivity does. Courts and judgments don’t solve productivity issues. Productivity only comes when people are satisfied at the workplace, so if you force them to work through a court order then you may not get the maximum out of the working population,” said Rari


“As you are aware, the Ministry of Education approached courts and they were demanding three things from the court in this case between BOSETU and the ministry. First, they were demanding that the joint letter that was written by BOSETU and Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) asking members to stop doing course work because there was no agreement be declared unlawfully and BOSETU should write to its members and withdraw that letter within 24hrs. The second thing that they were looking for, was to interdict BOSETU from further issuing any instructions to that effect going forward. Lastly was that court should hold BOSETU to pay the cost of the lawsuit on a punitive scale,” Rari said.

Rari stated that the court decided to rule in favour of the Ministry of Education on all three relieves sought, that the savingram should be declared unlawful, that BOSETU should withdraw the contents savingram within 24hrs.

Court also said BOSETU should not issue any of such instructions going forward up until the case of contempt that BOSETU has taken to court, the contempt of the 2009 judgment has been decided. Court also awarded cost to the ministry on a punitive scale.

“BOSETU is a law abiding citizen and therefore we are bound by any laws and judgments that are there in Botswana and arise on the courts of Botswana hence we have complied with the order. On the 31st after the court case, we wrote to all our members and told them that the contents of that savingram as far as coursework is concerned has been withdrawn,” said Rari.

Rari said what happened in this case is that the judge decided to listen to the urgency without the responding affidavits of the opposing party, BOSETU, and went on to rule the merit of the case, which surprised the union.

“However we have been in discussion with our lawyers because if we leave things like this, we feel like we cannot leave that unchallenged. We have taken a decision to appeal the judgment,” Rari confirmed.


“We would like to make our members aware that the following day after the judgment, we were able to meet the Ministry of Education and we have arrived at a conclusion that we signed an agreement that coursework rates will be increased by 5%. If court had ruled that coursework is the duty of the teachers’ means it wouldn’t have been any agreement after the court case, it tells you that the issue is still open and it is on the table. We have arrived at an agreement that there is going to be an increment on all components of coursework and invigilation,” Rari pointed out.

Rari further explained that Article 2 says union party is to submit detailed proposals on the intensity of the coursework for further engagement. Intensity of coursework means where the coursework payment starts in terms of varying from different subjects. He said the outcome based subject that are taught Maun Senior Secondary School and Moeng college which are agriculture and hotel and tourism is that ministry have agreed and acknowledge  that there are some peculiarity in their coursework and   therefore should be paid in line with the peculiarities that are contained in their coursework.


Rari pointed out the resolutions taken at the conference where the issue of application of corporal punishment was addressed.  “BOSETU will issue out a memo to their members to advise them that they should not apply corporal punishment, they should leave it to be applied in line with the Education Act.”


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BMC sees red as mass buffaloes disrupt plans to supply schools

19th September 2023

The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) which had struck a deal with the Ministry of Education to supply some schools in the northern part of the country is counting losses as mass migration of buffalos jeopardize the Commission’s plans. 

Information reaching this publication shows that the beef exporter was recently given the greenlight to supply government schools with beef. According to documents seen by this publication, as a result BMC had scheduled to buy and collect cattle in the Nata-Gweta and Boteti constituencies from 11 to 17 September.

This was after BMC and the Ministry of Education struck a deal for the former to supply government schools with beef. Letters exchanged between Ministry officials state that it has been recommended to the ministry to support BMC by allowing it to supply schools with beef products.

The Ministry indicated that it was aware that some schools have contracts that are currently running with suppliers such as local butcheries.

The Ministry revealed that at the same time BMC has 256 tins of frozen quality meat at its Maun Plant.

The Ministry requested the Director-Regional Operations to appoint an officer to manage the procurement of meat for schools that do not currently have running contracts. The Ministry further stated that Modalities of collection will be arranged between the region and the schools identified.

According to the Ministry, a list of schools including the condition of their cold rooms and their number of deliveries and kilograms per week they buy should be compiled. The Ministry also requested its officials to share the list with headquarters and the acting director-Basic Education, and engage BMC accordingly to procure.

But this plan ran into trouble after it emerged that between 300 to 500 buffalos migrated from the buffalo fence area to Nata, Dukwi and Mosetse areas.

The Department of Veterinary Services sprang into acting by revising movement protocol for cloven-hoofed animals with immediate effect following buffalo sightings in zone 3b which covers Nata/Sowa, zone 3c which is around the Dukwi areas as well as zone 6a, which covers the Mosetse area, which fall under zones, 3b, 3c, 5,6a and 8.

The Department of Veterinary Services indicated that as a result, movement of live cloven-hoofed animals and their products out of zones 3b, 3c, 5, 6a and 8 were prohibited and that movement of live cloven-hoofed animals within and into these zones is only allowed for direct slaughter at licensed slaughter facilities under veterinary movement permit issued through BAITS.

The department also indicated that the movement of fresh products derived from cloven-hoofed animals such as raw milk, skins and fresh meat into these zones is also only allowed under a similar arrangement.

Movement of live cloven-hoofed animals into these zones for rearing and other purposes will not be allowed, and farmers and the general public is requested to continue being vigilant and report any buffalo sightings to the nearest veterinary office, the police or the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, the department said.

Meanwhile the Ministry of Agriculture has stated that following the press release on prohibition of movement of live cloven-hooved animals and their products in and out of Zones 3b, 3c, 5, 6a & 8, the acting Minister of Agriculture Karabo Gare, his counterpart Acting Minister of Environment, Wildlife &  Tourism Mabuse Pule, acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Mr. Joshua Moloi, Director of Veterinary Services Dr Kefentse Motshegwa and other government officials visited the areas of Sepako and Dukwi respectively on a mission to consult with communities regarding the invasion of the places by buffalos.

Minister Gare alluded that they have been sent by the President of Botswana, who is equally worried by the current situation. He noted that the affected areas have a total of around 300000 cattle and if the situation goes unchecked, there might be detrimental effects on the economy of this country.

He encouraged the communities to help government going forward by reporting any spotted buffalos in their areas, emphasizing that buffalos are dangerous and can kill people and that care should be exercised at all times.

The Director of Veterinary Services mentioned that they closed the above mentioned zones to allow for testing of buffalos & cattle for foot & mouth disease. The wildlife department’s Director Mr. Moremi Batshabang assured farmers and the community that they will eliminate small clusters of buffalos found within communities and translocate larger clusters to ensure their safety.


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