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Taxpayers pay bill for CKGR case that never happened


Botswana’s taxpayers will foot the bill in the fresh legal battle between the government and some residents of Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).  The matter which was expected to be argued before the court went nowhere-but tax payers will pay P200 000 in legal fees. This was after the government reached an out of court settlement with the Basarwa tribesmen.

The result is that taxpayers will pick the legal bill arising from the out of court settlement agreement reached by the Ghanzi District Council and Pitseng Gaoberekwe’s family.  On behalf of the Botswana Government, the Ghanzi District Council had engaged Sidney Pilane’s law firm to sue Gaoberekwe’s family over its decision to insist that he should be buried in CKGR where he was born instead of New Xade where he resided at the time of his demise.

Documents before the High Court show that the corpse of the 75 year old Gaoberekwe who was born in the Reserve is still lying at a mortuary for more than three months following his death during Christmas Eve due to a standoff between his family and the Ghanzi District Council as to where he should be buried.

According to a consent court order dated 9th March 2022, which forms part of the out of court of settlement between the parties, it was agreed that Gaoberekwe’s family was, “To remove the corpse of Pitseng Gaoberekwe from the mortuary at which it is currently kept and to bury it at their own expenses within seven days of the date of the making of this order.”

This was also confirmed by Ghanzi District Counsel Secretary, Dick Kalantle, in his letter addressed to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja, dated 11th March 2022. Stating that the matter has been finally settled by consent, Keaja explained that, “It must be noted that the delay was due to the fact that the respondents (Gaberekwe family) wanted Council to participate in burying the deceased in CKGR.”

He added, “They throughout insisted that notwithstanding the fact that they wanted to bury the deceased at CKGR, such burial should still be at the expense of the Ghanzi District Council.”  “The policy relative to burial of Council beneficiaries is such that, should they take over the burial, such shall be at the expense of the next of kin,” Kalantle said.

The decision to challenge the matter before the Court did not come cheap. While the government sought to reach a win-win situation in their never-ending legal battle with the residents of CKGR in the latest saga, the biggest loser is the taxpayer. The botched suit against Basarwa will see the government partying away with at least P200 000 in legal fees.

Advocate Sidney Pilane who was the State Counsel in the initial suit that saw the government being directed to allow Basarwa to return to CKGR has issued a legal fee note to cash strapped Ghanzi District Council. Kalantle confirmed in his letter to Keaja that, “We are already in possession of the legal fee note from Advocate Pilane our instructed Counsel (in the fresh matter).” He reminded Keaja that, “You are in no doubt aware of our financial state as at current. We, as we do hereby, seek financial assistance relative to this fee note in order to settle the bill as a matter of urgency.”

According to the legal fee note from Pilane, the amount is broken down as follows;

-On 10th to 17th February 2022, Pilane attended to “numerous telephone discussions, some of them lengthy , between him and one Attorney Moeng (who according to a trove documents seen by INK, is Ghanzi District Council legal representative) in respect of the dispute between Ghanzi District Council and the family of the deceased.”

This involved among others receipt, perusal and consideration of deration of brief and pertinent documents from the Council, consultation with Attorney Moeng on different dates and hours; on 15 February 2022 from 1400 hours to 1700 hours; consultation with attorney Moeng and Council, Kelebogile Tlhako Simula and Roy Sesana on 17th February 2022 from 10 00 hours to 17 hours. Consultation for the said dates and hours will see the taxpayer parting away with P85 000. The consultation with Sesana also raises questions about his role in the dispute.

Sesana who was a fierce critique and the lead applicant in the case against the relocation of Basarwa from CKGR in the initial legal battle is currently a civil servant. He has since been accused of ‘betraying the struggle’ by his kinsmen, something which he has since denied.
The legal fee note also shows that on 18th February 2022 to 21 February 2022; Pilane also billed the Ghanzi District Council for “preparation of application papers on 18 February 2022 from 08000 hours to 1700 hours; on 19 February 2022 from 0900 hours to 1730 hours, on 21 February 10000 hours to 12 00 hours and various telephone discussions with attorney Moeng” His legal consultation for this attracted a fee of P97 000.

The legal fee note further indicates that on 22 February 2022, there were, “various telephone discussions with Molodi Molodi and Beghani, both of the Attorney General’s Chambers and Mrs Acting Deputy Director General (operations) of the Department of Wildlife, National Parks and to the latter’s supporting papers from 1400 hours to 17 30 hours.” This attracted a legal fee amounting to P17, 500.

Pilane’s law firm also billed the Ghanzi District Council for among others, printing, photocopying and to collation, compilation, pagination of Court documents and preparation of bundle by Chamber staff that occurred on 2nd March 2022 from 1000 hours to 1700 hours. The legal fee for this is P5000.

The Ghanzi District Council was also billed for the consultation with “Attorney Moeng and Council Secretary that occurred on 3rd March 2022 from 14000 hours to 1700 hours” and for another consultation with “Attorney Moeng and the Council Secretary and settling replying affidavit on 04 March 2022 from 12000 hour to 16000 hours.” The legal fee for this is 20 000

Preparations for Ghanzi District Council Heads of Argument as well as telephonic conversation from 5th to 9th March 2022 resulted in the authority picking another legal bill amounting to P30 000.
This legal fee was also part of the “discussion in respect of settlement with attorney Nelson Ramaotwana (Gaoberekwe family legal representative) on 06 march and 08 march 2022and with attorney Moeng on the same dates, to settling draft consent order and appearance at the High Count in Lobatse to have the draft consent order made an order of the court.”

The legal fee note also shows that Vat is calculated at P35 7 00 and the legal fee was “Discounted 100 000.”  Therefore, the whole legal fee “due and payable” to Pilane’s law firm is “P190 700.”


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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