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Backlash over COVID-19 travel double standards

Barely few months after President Mokgweetsi Masisi called western countries paternalistic over the decision to put travellers from Botswana on ban in the wake of outbreak of omicron COVID-19 variant, Botswana has responded with a similar policy.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) has introduced new Covid 19 requirements at ports of entry.The new requirements have caused a racket internationally and locally as some have come out stating that the regulations impede on their health, legal, ethical and technological rights. Others view the new port of entry laws as indirectly forcing everyone to vaccinate.

A prospective Botswana tourist went onto social media commenting that, we were planning another two-week holiday to Chobe but decided to rather spend our money in South Africa. We will not be dictated by the Botswana government.Another added; Just heard the news. Will not allow my children to get vaccinated for a holiday. Good bye to almost three week Botswana winter vacation.

Effective February 14th 2022, in the name of purposes of reducing the risk of imported Covid 19 cases into the country. The new changes include; that all persons entering Botswana should show proof that they have been fully vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated means having taken two doses of a two-dose vaccine regimen or single dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. If one has taken any of the two and is overdue for booster shots, they are no longer regarded as fully vaccinated, until they have taken the booster shot.

Adding that; when a person is not fully vaccinated, they will be required to present a 72-hour negative PCR COVID-19 test result and undergo COVID-19 vaccination at the port of entry, which will be facilitated by the ministry for free.After vaccination, they will be allowed into the country. True to their word, South African musician, Makhadzi received her vaccination at the border before addressing the press with regard to a show she is to host.

The government Gazette continues that; Alternatively, if one has no proof of being fully vaccinated and has no 72 hour negative PCR test result, they will be required to undergo PCR testing at ports of entry, at their own cost and where necessary quarantine at own cost, while waiting for results. If results are negative they will be allowed into the country.

If results are positive, they will be allowed to isolate within the district of port of entry, at own cost. If one has no proof of being fully vaccinated, is not willing to be vaccinated at the port of entry, has no 72 hour negative PCR test result and is not willing to be tested at own cost, they will not be allowed entry into Botswana, if they are foreigners. If they are citizens, they will be liable to a fine of P5 000.00 or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.

In short, proof of being fully vaccinated is now the most important requirement for entry into Botswana.While Botswana is on a mission of giving access into the country to the vaccinated only, The tenth meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) regarding COVID-19 pandemic took place on Thursday 13 January 2022.

The take aways from the meeting on WHOs position on the matter are; At the present time, it is WHOs position that national authorities and conveyance operators should not introduce requirements of proof of COVID-19 vaccination for international travel as a condition for departure or entry, given that there are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission.

In addition, considering that there is limited availability of vaccines, preferential vaccination of travellers could result in inadequate supplies of vaccines for priority populations considered at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease. WHO also recommends that people who are vaccinated should not be exempt from complying with other travel risk-reduction measures.

WHO goes on that in the current context, introducing a requirement of vaccination as a condition for travel has the potential to hinder equitable global access to a limited vaccine supply and would be unlikely to maximize the benefits of vaccination for individual societies and overall global health.

While individual, economic and social benefits could potentially be promoted through such a policy, these benefits also have to be balanced against the risk to public health based on current scientific knowledge, including critical unknowns about the risks mitigated by vaccination, said WHO.

WHO also advises on another ethical consideration, equity in the general distribution of benefits and burdens. In the context of unequal vaccine distribution, individuals who do not have access to an authorized COVID-19 vaccine would be unfairly impeded in their freedom of movement if proof of vaccination status became a condition for entry to or exit from a country.

National authorities should choose public health interventions that least infringe on individual freedom of movement, WHO says.On 14 January 2021, the COVID-19 IHR Emergency Committee regarding the COVID-19 pandemic advised that it is premature for countries to require proof of vaccination for international travellers.

Subsequently, the WHO Director-General, in the context of the public health emergency of international concern related to COVID-19 pandemic, issued the following Temporary Recommendation for countries: At the present time, countries should not introduce requirements of proof of vaccination or immunity for international travel as a condition of entry as there are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission and limited availability of vaccines.

Should the requirement of proof of COVID-19 vaccination for international travellers be introduced in future in accordance with IHR provisions, vaccines must be approved by WHO, and be of suitable quality and universally available, for the protection of all people from international spread of disease.Currently, yellow fever is the only disease mentioned in the IHR for which countries can require proof of vaccination for international travellers.

Meanwhile, the Botswana Network on Law HIV AIDS has said in light of the new requirements, it is recommended that the instrument be revoked. This is due to the fact that as raised above, the Covid-19 PCR test is the strongest means to detect whether an individual has the virus or not, which is the best way to prevent the introduction of the virus into Botswana. Conversely, though one may be fully vaccinated, this does not mean that the individual is not a carrier of Covid-19.

In this way, a fully vaccinated individual may bring the virus into the country unknowingly due to the fact they would not have tested for Covid-19. Returning to the status quo would be the least intrusive means of preventing the introduction of the Covid-19 virus and would be the most reasonable restriction to the right to movement, allowing individuals to retain their autonomy to make their decision in relation to the vaccine, bearing in mind possible underlying health conditions.

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The roles of PAP committees explained

28th March 2023

Permanent Committees of the Pan African Parliament facilitate the effective implementation of the policies and objectives of the OAU/AEC.

The PAP Permanent Committees roles were eloquently explained by the PAP President Hon. Chief Fortune Zephania Charumbira when giving a presentation on the mandate of the permanent committees of the PAP on Tuesday in Midrand, South Africa. Charumbira’s words of encouragement come on the backdrop of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) members are attending the PAP Permanent Committee meetings that started on March 5-9 in Midrand, South Africa.

The mandate of PAP is to ensure the full participation of African peoples in the economic development and integration of the continent, therefore the permanent committees provide oversight to ensure effective implementation of policies.

According to Charumbira, effective implementation will drive the Africa Agenda 2063, African Continental Free Trade Area, AU Shared Values, Flagship Projects such the Inga Dam Project, Single African Air Transport Market, among others; and further facilitate attainment of AU Theme of the Year: “The Year of AFCTFTA: Accelerating the AFCFTA Implementation”.

Relatedly, the objectives of the Pan-African Parliament promote the principles of human rights and democracy in Africa; encourage good governance, transparency and accountability in Member States; Promote peace, security and stability; Contribute to a more prosperous future for the peoples of Africa by promoting collective self-reliance and economic recovery; Facilitate cooperation and development in Africa; Strengthen Continental solidarity and build a sense of common destiny among the peoples of Africa; and Facilitate cooperation among Regional Economic Communities and their Parliamentary fora.

 

THE PAP PERMANENT COMMITTEES

(a) The Committee on Rural Economy, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment;

(b) The Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs;

(c) The Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration Matters;

(d) The Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict Resolutions;

(e) The Committee on Transport, Industry, Communications, Energy, Science and Technology;

(f) The Committee on Health, Labor and Social Affairs;

(g) The Committee on Education, Culture, Tourism and Human Resources;

(h) The Committee on Gender, Family, Youth and People with Disability;

(i) The Committee on Justice and Human Rights;

(j) The Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline;

The Committees shall handle business that is ordinarily handled by the corresponding Specialized Technical Committee responsible to the Executive Council in accordance with Article 14 of the Constitutive Act.

SPECIFIC FUNCTIONS OF THE COMMITTEES

As for the specific functions of the committees, the Committee on Rural Economy, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment amongst other functions: Considers the development of common regional and continental policies in agricultural sector; Assists the Parliament to oversee and assist with the harmonization of policies for rural and agricultural development; and promotes the development policy and the implementation of programs of the Union relating to natural resources and environment.

On the other hand, the Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs shall, amongst others: Examines the draft estimates of the Parliamentary budget and submit to Parliament; Discusses the budget of the Union and make appropriate recommendations; Examines and report to Parliament on the problems involved in the implementation of the annual budget; and Assists Parliament to execute its role of establishing sound economic, monetary and investment policies.

Meanwhile the Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration Matters amongst other roles: Considers matters relating to development of sound policy for cross-border, regional and continental concerns within the areas of trade, customs and immigration; Assists the Parliament to oversee relevant organs or institutions and policies of the Union; and Helps the Parliament to oversee external trade.

The Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict Resolutions shall, amongst others: Considers issues relating to the development of an efficient policy in matters of cooperation and international relations of the Parliament and the Union; Deals with the conventions and protocols linking the Parliament with regional and international institutions and report to the Parliament; Carries out examinations on the revision of Protocols and Treaties of the Union; Assists the Parliament in its efforts of conflict prevention and resolution.

The Committee on Transport, Industry, Communications, Energy, Science and Technology shall, amongst others: Considers issues relating to the development of transport and communications infrastructure; Assists Parliament to oversee the development and implementation of policies of the Union relating to transport, communication, science and technology and industry; Considers issues relating to the use of science and technology for the development of the Continent; Helps Parliament to supervise the development policies and the Union implementation programs for matters of industry, science, technology and energy.

The Committee on Health, Labor and Social Affairs deals with strategies and programs for the improvement of the lives of African peoples; Considers issues relating to regional and international cooperation in strategic planning and implementation of social development and health policies and programs.

The Committee on Education, Culture, Tourism and Human Resources shall, amongst others: Considers issues relating to the development of human resources in Member States;Assists Parliament to promote policy development and implementation of programs of the Union relating to access to education, promotion and preservation of culture and tourism and human resource development.

The Committee on Gender, Family, Youth and People with Disability shall, amongst others: Considers issues relating to the promotion of gender equality; Assists

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I cannot reconcile with Khama – Guma

28th March 2023

For the second time now, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting turned into a tribalistic boardroom brawl which turned violet and was ultimately capped off with a resignation from one member of the NEC.

Samson Moyo Guma decided to leave the party after a heated exchange with the party patron Lt Gen Ian Khama who attended the Monday meeting at Arirang virtually. The meeting, according to insiders, started on a good footing with President Biggie Butale asking about the venue of their much anticipated congress.

However, things turned nasty as Butale, after the venue discussion was concluded, asked some NEC members to stop attacking the party in public. The accused included the patron, Deputy Treasurer and Deputy Secretary General. It is then that, Guma pleaded with the patron to always liaise with President Butale before he can issue out any public statement, especially about the party, as the two work together.

“Guma then asked Patron to comment, Khama said he did not have any comment. But Guma then told patron to always inform Butale about anything he intends to do, and that is when all hell broke loose.  Khama went berserk, he accused Butale of being a thief who stole party money and accused both of them of being captured and sent by the BDP to destabilize the party. Guma then told him to stop being abusive and that they will not tolerate his autocracy and the whole meeting turned chaotic as some NEC members of Ngwato origin now defended Khama,” said one NEC member who attended the meeting.

Guma was riled according to meeting attendees, and decided to walk out of the meeting and subsequently decided to resign his membership. Butale was also annoyed by the stance taken by some to defend the patron on the basis of being their paramount chief, and he too decided to leave the meeting but did not quit the party. This was after a violet attack between some NEC members. Butale is currently nursing the injuries he sustained when he tried to intervene in a fist fight.

Before all these scenes, one of the agenda items was to suspend the NEC members who disparage other members and the party in public. Failure to execute the plan frustrated both Butale and Guma.

In an interview following a tense meeting that led to his resignation, Guma said the difference between him and Khama is huge and irreconcilable. “I cannot reconcile with him, in fact, no one can reconcile with Khama,” Guma told Weekendpost before he continued. “He should maybe reconcile first with President Mokgweetsi Masisi that is when we can see if it is doable. But for now, I am at peace. I have left him with his party, but I am with the UDC now.”

Some in the party say the party will regret the departure of some key members such as Guma eventually. “We are losing people who add quality to the party. Guma has assisted us with a printing machine for membership cards as well as assisting meaningfully to pay office rent, but since he is gone, we might be in for a hard time.”

The two are, however, expected to meet at Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) as the BPF congress will ratify the NEC decision to join the main opposition party. Once they ratify, and if Khama is elected President, he will find Guma in the UDC. However, it is not clear what role Guma will serve in the UDC.

Guma and Khama have been trading blows once it became apparent that the former will contest for the BPF Presidency. Khama wanted anyone else but Guma. Khama’s political wisdom told him no one can beat Guma in the party in the race for the party leadership, but Khama was not confortable with the idea of Guma becoming the leader of the party he founded. Khama then decided to put on political garments and declared his candidature to lead the party. This is contrary to his uncles’ advice to stay away from politics, especially the BPF Presidency.

Khama’s opposition to Guma leading BPF has opened a can of worms, as some believe it corroborates the popular hypothesis saying the party is the project of the Khamas and no one will be allowed to lead it. One political observer opines that, if Guma or Butale could be allowed to lead the party without any interference, it will increase its footprint in the North East, which help in making it a mainstream party, as opposed to the current perfection that it is a Bangwato project.

The BPF has had a turbulent time ever since its patron, who is also a former President, Khama, relocated to South Africa. He said acts of indiscipline and deep divisions rocked the party, something which irked him.

The party’s NEC is set to convene this weekend in Phikwe, but contents of the meeting are a secret.

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More nurses heading for the UK

28th March 2023

According to a report, the number of nurses leaving Botswana for better-paying jobs in the United Kingdom has increased significantly. This development has the potential to negatively impact the country’s struggling health sector.

Kenosi Mogorosi, the publicity secretary of the Botswana Nurses Union (BONU), in a letter addressed to union members on March 22, 2023, provides a comprehensive analysis of the factors that have affected the country’s nursing fraternity.

Through an agreement with the National Health Service (NHS), BONU was able to help facilitate the transfer of nurses from Botswana to the UK.

In a letter to the country’s nurses, Mogorosi stated that the recruitment firms Swift Trust and NEU Professionals would be coming to the country to look for 20 adult medical health nurses each.

“Submission of CV’s will be done at Lobatse Cumberland hotel on the 27th of March 2023 and Gaborone BONU offices on the 28 March 2023. Subsequently conducting interviews at Lobatse Cumberland Hotel on the 3rd April 2023 and Gaborone Hilton Garden Hotel on the 4th April 2023,” said Mogorosi.

He added that “This comes short notice because the trust is already in Southern Africa and could not reach its target in Zambia, hence coming to Botswana. All nurses who will be shortlisted for interviews should ensure that they mention that they were referred by BONU for easy coordination of sponsorship including English language tests.”

He also stated that “Since its short notice, nurses need not to travel from far places hence nurses around Lobatse and Gaborone can ensure they do submit their CVS.”

BONU is also working with the UK’s NHS to help its members secure jobs overseas as the country is going through a recruitment drive to address its shortage of 40,000 nurses.

This will increase the nursing vacancy rate in Botswana, which currently stands at over 30%. It is expected to further cripple the country’s already struggling health sector.

Last year, the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) said it offered roles to more than 60 nurses from Botswana. The Recruitment team at EPUT spent eight days in Botswana interviewing hundreds of nurses interested in a career with the NHS. Nesta Williams, Director of Workforce Transformation and International Recruitment, at the time said said: “We’re delighted that 66 nurses have chosen to take the next step in their nursing career with EPUT.”

“The interview panel was impressed by the applicants’ commitment to their patients, understanding of good team working, and their approach to providing excellent care.

“Some of the nurses are trained in both mental health and physical health, and this means they could choose to work in a range of services.”

The NHS’s clinical workforce is the largest in the world. Nurses play a vital role in delivering person-centered care.

Professor Natalie Hammond, Executive Nurse, said: “The last two years of the pandemic have been extremely challenging. A robust nursing workforce helps us provide safe care, meet the needs of our communities, and is key to achieving our vision be the leading health and wellbeing service in the provision of mental health and community care.”

“It’s an exciting time; our EPUT clinicians will have opportunities to share their experience and expertise with our new colleagues from Botswana.”

A recruitment team of the Essex Partnership University NHS Trust spent eight days in Botswana two weeks ago during which they say they interviewed “hundreds of applicants” who want to work in the UK.

In the first round of their recruitment campaign in Botswana, the NHS had hired 66 nurses from the huge parade of applicants and revealed that more recruitments are expected to follow.

Indications are that a nurse in England earns an average P52 000 per month; and the figure goes up to P70 000 for a nurse in Ireland and other places in the UK. In Botswana a registered nurse earns between P12 000 and P20 000.

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