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Unemployment: Youth Ministry ponders solutions

Ministry of Youth Empowerment Sports and Culture Development (MYSC) is grabbling with solutions to the unemployment conundrum, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Ministry, which is under the watch of Tumiso Rakgare and Billy Buti, is mostly worried by the escalating joblessness as it directly affects the young graduates.  At one point, this publication has learnt, that Rakgare pushed for the internship allowance to be increased from P1400 to at least P2000. This, however, never succeeded as the government lamented about a bleeding purse. 

According to Statistics Botswana (SB), the unemployment rate went up by 1.3 percentage points, from 23.2 percent in the quarter one of 2020, to 24.5 percent in quarter four, 2020. Currently, it is estimated to be at 26 per cent. This has left the Ministry with nothing but to come up with ideas and ways to fight this vice. 

In a bid to curb the depressing numbers of unemployment and to encourage entrepreneurship, the ministry is said to have taken a decision to encourage most of the youth to venture into small stock than cattle rearing.  It is said from the Youth Development Fund (YDF) especially pastoral farming, the youth are mostly persuaded to take small stock.

“We haven’t finalized as yet. But we are removing cattle, they will only be considered when there is a value chain to benefit other youth. We have resorted to small stock because it is quickly profitable, and therefore the youth can sell and make money, especially that there are international markets in the offing. Again, this is done to support the Presidential initiative, which is aimed at improving the small stock to eventually export. Compared to cattle, goats and sheep appear to be a better venture,” one ministry official told this publication.

The Ministry is also revitalizing their dilapidated 68 hectares farm in Mmankgodi to house the youth who are interested in various areas of farming.  Currently, the farm is still in maintenance phase as houses and boreholes are being refurbished. 

The whole intention is to give the youth two-year leases to occupy the land which has poultry houses, kraals, and a plenty of horticultural land to the youth using the available amenities like electricity and water at no costs.

“The recent closing of imports on some vegetable productions has opened our eyes. We want to be robust with the youth and go horticultural way to empower our youth and reduce the unemployment rates.  One of the concerns is land, which is why the plan is to lease to them so that they are empowered, then they graduate, and we give others a chance. That way we can beat unemployment, and it will also assist us to be self-sufficient and maybe achieve food security,” said the official who could not be named as the preparations are yet to be publicized.

For the 2022/23 financial year, the youth ministry is also working on creating a Youth Hub that will house at least 100 youths from various sectors to share resources and showcase their product while the ministry assist them with the market. 

“It has been noticed in a number of applications of YDF that office space is a thorny issue, so what is planned is to secure a place for them and avail necessary resources. We cannot fund everyone who wants videography equipment for example. We will instead buy the equipment and then select five from that industry and share those, that way we will save money while on the other hand we have given them the office space they want. It will also allow them to have a market because clients would know where to find them, we are convinced that it would work wonders for the youth and economy,” explained a very optimistic source from the Ministry.   

SPORTS ALSO TO CURB UNEMPLOYMENT

Ever since the duo assumed Ministry in 2019 it is said they have been working tirelessly to ensure that sport rewards athletes beautifully. 

In 2021, the ladies national senior team were awarded P250 000 to share after reaching the COSAFA finals for the first time. Just recently the same team received P650 000 for their maiden qualification to the Africa Women Cup of Nations. Further, the Ministry has also rewarded athletes from the Olympics with houses after winning a bronze medal. 

“The Ministry sees sport as a tool that can seriously fight unemployment and empower the youth. The Ministry has secured quite a number of sponsors for sports, like the recent P9 million towards athletics for preparations of the next Olympics. The Ministry wants to assist in exporting a number of athletes,” added the official.

This publication has also learnt that the Government of Botswana and Namibia have agreed to Co-host the 2027 AFCON. The bid preparations have started, and the bid committee will soon be set up, it is said. 

“This if we are successful we will see our tourism being exposed. Look at how the Kazungula Marathon boosted the Chobe region and imagine if we host a tournament of AFCON stature, the economy will boom and our youth and other Batswana will be the biggest winners.” Contacted for comment on what the Ministry could be doing behind the scenes as far as curbing unemployment is concerned, Minister Rakgare could not share much. 

“I thought we are partners in developing our country and economy. But some of you (media), wants to derail us from our vision as a government and ministry. I will engage you later, right now, we are busy working and all what you are saying I cannot confirm nor deny.” 

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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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