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D’KAR: Settlement fighting poverty through donations

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our homes to remedy this kind of poverty,” these are the words of the famous humanitarian and saint, Mother Teresa.

In his words, Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church once said “These days there is a lot of poverty in the world and that’s a scandal when we have so many riches and resources to give to everyone. We all have to think about how we can become a little poorer.”

When we reached the D’kar settlement, these are the words that rebounded on our minds, aggressively so. Are the people of this settlement treasured? Are they even desired? What if they are abandoned? Did we have answers to these questions? We somewhat did.

D’kar is a settlement located 40 kilometers to the east of the district capital, Ghanzi. The population was 943 in the 2001 census. According to the 2011 census, the population stood at 1668. The 2022 Population and Housing Census Preliminary Results did not include D’kar settlement, so the current population remains indefinite.  It was a farm of the Gereformeerde church, but later evolved into a rural village after being donated to the Naro. There is only a 1 kilometer tar road from the Trans Kalahari Highway that runs straight to the Kgotla.

That is the short road that helped us reach the Kgotla to get more answers from the horse’s mouth (the village leadership). At that particular arrival time, we were fortunate yet unfortunate. Fortuitously, some members of the Village Development Committee (VDC) were there to welcome us but regrettably, the chief was not accessible as he was engaged in some matters. They were obviously minor issues of theft or scuffles that erupted over the weekend because the police were also involved.

It is a norm that whenever visitors come over, they report themselves to the Kgosi. Before we could even attempt to see social workers or the VDC, we have to consult with the chief. Efforts to reach the social workers also proved futile as they directed us back to Gantsi to see the Council Secretary.

However, with limited time, we had to come up with a plan B getting to Ghanzi and back to D’kar would be a mission. At that point of time, we spotted VDC Secretary, Kebadiretse Sedumago. She was a familiar face and she remembered us from last year when they were receiving food vouchers from Botswana Red Cross Society, sometime in November.

Sedumago told this publication that indeed, in D’kar, there are households that are headed by single mothers, stressing that at times, these women have to also take care of children living with disabilities.

“They do have children who are disabled. In that case, the family gets adopted by the social welfare office. They are given food baskets, they do not have shelter and it is really a devastating situation. Government is trying by all means to help these people, but it has never been enough. It doesn’t seem like it will be enough soon.”

When we reached the settlement that afternoon, most of what raised our eyebrows were the fact that people in D’kar live in houses made out of logs and soil. There are is a very small crop of modern houses and there is no electricity. Quite obvious though, electricity cannot be supplied into a house that is made out of tree branches.

Sedumago gave a further clarification on the issue of food hampers which are supplied by social workers. “You will find out that a household of seven people has been allocated only one coupon to feed all of them. The money credited into the coupon cannot be able to buy food for all of them, considering the economic crisis that the entire world is facing. Food prices went up, there are no proper stores to buy food from here in D’kar so these people have to travel to Ghanzi to buy groceries.”

Talking about travelling to Ghanzi, transport in the Ghanzi region seems to be challenging. We saw lot of people on bus stops, desperately waiting for a ride to Ghanzi. Few hours later, we still found them waiting.

Nevertheless, Sedumago said D’kar is dependent on donor contributions. When we arrived at the Kgotla, some of Ipelegeng workers were nibbling on fruits donated by the Ghanzi Council, which were left overs and were overripe.

“Before the Botswana Red Cross Society identified us, we were assisted by a certain church coming from Gaborone. It donated food that we handed over to the less privileged. The food that remained were taken to a community pre-school which is for free. It is supported by Council but at times the food runs out before the end of the term.”

When shedding light on why most of these women are singly heading households, Sedumago indicated that some lost their boyfriends (as many were not married) through death, while others it was just an issue of break ups.

“Most of their children are school drop outs. This is dominantly due to lack of fatherhood in the family. They normally quit school at junior level (as early as Form One). They are given everything they need, be it food, toiletry, clothes, blankets or school bags, but at the end of the day, they still quit school. We remain thunderstruck on what might be the problem because Council helps a lot in making sure the less privileged have the whole kits and caboodles they need.”

God sent the D’kar residents an angel last week. Let’s Ride paid them a visit, yet with more donations. Sedumago said in an interview that the riders donated food hampers, sanitary towels and clothes.

In November 2021, the Botswana Red Cross Society embarked on a food voucher distribution in D’kar settlement. The food voucher distribution exercise is included in the Health and Care program of the Society, in which through the program, they aim to reach those in need and improve their living conditions through service delivery and humanitarian diplomacy.

The food voucher program covered people living with disabilities, pregnant women, destitute, COVID-19 affected persons and women taking care of their families.

A number of organizations over the years have donated non-food products and services to the settlement. In 2014, Friends like These threw a Christmas party for 85 orphans in Dkar, while in 2015, Botswana Red Cross Society responded to D’kar disaster by handing over clothing.

The floods caused damage to the community’s traditional houses and washed away people’s medications. About 52 families were affected consisting of 231 members (37 adult male, 50 adult female, 68 girls and 72 boys).

The following year, 2016, Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB) refurbished and handed over a fully operational kitchen with trained employees to D’kar Primary School.

In the same year, Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) and These Hands launched the D’kar Innovation Resource Centre as a way of nurturing grassroots innovation and disseminate technologies to improve lives of people living in poverty.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de DĂ©veloppement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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