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COVID 19 impact: Govt probes civil service

The government is racing against time to complete a perception survey on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public service as it picks up the pieces and exits the State of Public Emergency, it has emerged.

The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) acting Director Samuel Rathedi confirmed in a savingram addressed to ministries and departments that his department is undertaking a study as a matter of urgency to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Botswana Public Service.

“The purpose of the study is to determine the extent to which the pandemic has affected performance and productivity levels of employees and government entities. Further, the study results would then inform the basis for the government on policy matters,” he said.

Rathedi said an electronic questionnaire (soft copy) would be sent to all employees at ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to access the questionnaire through their official email addresses and are expected to have completed and submitted it by 8th Wednesday.

The study is anticipated to be completed by mid-October.

The study follows another savingram issued in August by the then acting DPSM Director Dr Omponye Kereteletswe. He encouraged different departments and ministries to utilize the flexible working arrangements to contain the rising COVID-19 cases at the time.

He said that in considering the work schedule options, accounting officers should consider routine responsibilities/tasks that cannot be fulfilled while working remotely and their impact on operations or other people.

Therefore, consider coming up with innovative ways (shifts/staggering arrangements) to reduce the impact of these tasks, e.g. records management services.

Kereteletswe had also stated that employees who showed signs of illness (flu-like symptoms) or any other symptoms should not come to work and instead immediately inform their supervisors and seek medical assistance.

He said that to ensure the health and safety of employees providing services during this period, ministries and departments must take precautionary measures as guided by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

Kereteletswe said President Dr Mokgweetsi Keabetswe Masisi has identified saving Botswana’s population from COVID-19 as a top priority in his RESET Agenda.

“It is, therefore, an imperative that as Government ensures continual service delivery during this pandemic, employees are also protected from CoVID-19,” he said.

He reiterated that with the high increase in the number of Covid-19 infections across the country, the acting DPSM director said, government ministries and departments should utilize the flexible working arrangements.

“In considering the work scheduling options, Accounting Officers should take the following into account; Routine responsibilities/tasks that cannot be fulfilled while working remotely and their impact on operations or other people. Therefore, consider coming up with innovative ways (shifts/staggering arrangements) to reduce the impacts of these tasks, e.g. Records Management Services,” he said.

He said special projects or tasks that can be progressed while working from home and how to monitor progress should be another option, adding that events or meetings scheduled fr this period should be done virtually.

According to Kereteletswe, utilization of leave balances as a determining factor for scheduling employees should be encouraged. Those employees with high leave balances should be encouraged to take vacation leave.

He said it was incumbent on Ministries/Departments/Agencies (MDAs) to revisit internal administrative arrangements) that best suit their day to day operations. “MDAs are requested to inform the public on their service delivery plans during this period,” said Kereteletswe.

He said revisiting the arrangement of employees and customers to ensure the continuation of service delivery in their respective sectors given the above work scheduling options.

Kereteletswe noted that while evidence collected showed that MDAs had embarked on several interventions to reduce the possibilities of employees contracting the COVID-19 in the workplace by reducing the number of employees at any given time.

“There was little evidence about the provision of psychosocial support offered to employees which corroborate assertions by some ministries of exhaustion due to work-life balance resulting negative psychological wear-off culminating into mental health challenges,” he said.

He said, therefore, the Directorate would, in due course, embark on a programme aimed at addressing the issue of psychosocial support in the public service. “This will be introduced in due course,” he said.

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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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