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“Govt doesn’t care about Basarwa” – Khwedom Council

The MidweekSun Admin

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As rain clouds gather above the Boteti skies, the clouds dance seductively but the scorching heat hits hard to dismiss any hope of rain pelts. The veldt is warm with backdrops of the cold. There is little sign of life as it is midweek. Ocassionally, a bird flies in the sky and a forlorn figure can be seen ducking in the forest. The life of the Basarwa in the Boteti is not only lonely but frightening too.
They live far away from resources. “As things stand, these people have to travel long distances to access basic services such as schools and health posts.

Some children get tired and frustrated from the up and down and end up dropping out of school,” said Botswana Khwedom Council public relations officer Banyatsi Salutu. In this forsaken area, having ambitions is a luxury. There isn’t much to do beyond being idle and if one has the energy, fornicating. Boteti is a mineral rich area and one would expect that the standard of living would be better. Instead, the opposite is the reality. Poverty and hopelessness are rife in the area.

“We have had more than four cases of women who gave birth in the open veldt or even kombis as they tried to make their way to hospitals to give birth. A special fare on a taxi is P25 and most of them cannot afford that money because there is no employment; they end up giving birth here, with no proper care,” said Salutu. When residents see outsiders, they flock to them like birds to carrion, hoping to salvage something. Most of the residents, particularly Basarwa, live in abject poverty. The area is undeveloped and improverished and puts a blot on Botswana’s development record. Although diamonds are mined in the area, the people here have nothing to show for it.

Their humour masks frustration and pain. They not only lack basic amenities but also pride and self identity; their dignity is gone, like that of a village harlot whose only sense of pride is once being desired, if only for five minutes. Speaking to The Midweek Sun recently, Botswana Khwedom Council public relations officer Banyatsi Salutu claimed that Basarwa were better off when De Beers operated in the area. “They got us jobs and cared,” he said.

Things changed when Debswana took over. “Basarwa were struck off the work roll and we were pushed out and treated like rubbish. It has been a roller coaster ride since then.” However, Debswana’s Matshidiso Kamona refutes this claim, insisting they follow the National Employment Act.

While she could not divulge much before engaging the personnel in Orapa/Letlhakane, she was aware that the Khwedom Council had presented some grievances. She asked for a questionnaire which she had not responded to by press time.

Salutu said that they wanted government to engage them on issues affecting the Basarwa and other indigenous tribes in Botswana. The Botswana Khwedom Council was registered by Registrar of Societies in 2008 and purpots to represent minority tribes and stands against the abuse and oppression of the Bakhwe (Basarwa). Salutu said it was horrible how issues affecting Basarwa continue to be treated with indifference, claiming that some politicians only showed interest in their plight for political mileage and were not really concerned with their condition.

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Three months more

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INTERCHANGE WORKS: Work at the Boatle Interchange continues as the entire project nears completion set for April

Following numerous postponements, the dual carriageway between Game City in Gaborone and Boatle near Ramotswa will be opened for full use in April this year. Currently motorists are using the newly-constructed half of the four-lane stretch as work on rehabilitating and reconstructing the old side that will form the western carriageway continues.

Construction of the eastern plane of the Boatle interchange and bridges at Tloane and Metsimaswaane rivers has been completed and the entire eastern carriageway from Gaborone to Boatle is open for traffic.

The department of transport recently released a media statement confirming that completion of the road was at 77 percent and that the hope is that it will be fully completed by April 2019.
This will come as music to the ears of travellers who have been frustrated by the seemingly endless construction on the road and the slow movement of traffic particularly during peak hours just before and after working hours. The department has however cautioned that drivers should still remain vigilant, drive carefully and obey road signs.

Meanwhile, some motorists have complained that construction of the road has taken too long and that there is little order on the road. “These people are way behind schedule and we can’t see what they are doing. Also, there is no order on the road. Once you get to the side of Mokolodi, traffic comes to a complete standstill. They should try and push work at slow hours and not at peak hour,” said Mmoloki Obuditswe, who commutes between Lobatse and Gaborone daily.

He however expressed hope that traffic would ease near the Boatle junction as cars headed to Ramotswa would break off easily without delaying those headed for Lobatse. “The cars going to Ramotswa used to cause a headache because they are so many and the road was thin and in a bad state,” he said.

Another motorist, Kutlwano Seemo noted that while the opening of the road was a welcome development that shows progress, it would have been great if the dual carriageway went all the way to Lobatse.

“They should have fixed the whole A1 road and not a brief stretch. This road is terrible and it continues to claim many lives. Traffic has increased so we need wider and more sophisticated roads. I hope government prioritises investing in road infrastructure because we honestly don’t have good roads. Maybe this Boatle road will be a start.”

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U=U campaign packaging a headache for BHP, Ministry

Rachel Raditsebe

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TRICKY AFFAIR: Dr Joseph Makhema is still cautious on the matter of declaring the Undetectable to be Untransmittable

While there is no denying the proven science that an HIV positive person whose HIV viral load cannot be detected cannot transmit it to an HIV negative person, it is how that message is packaged and delivered to the public that is proving to be a difficulty.

This is according to the Chief Executive Officer of the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) Dr Joseph Makhema.Internationally, the Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U) campaign, has gained ground as scientific consensus has united around the concept that being undetectable means being unable to transmit HIV. The campaign has been endorsed by more than 350 HIV organisations from 34 countries, including leading scientific and medical organisations such as the International AIDS Society (IAS), UNAIDS, and the British HIV Association (BHIVA).

By taking HIV treatment consistently and on time, the HIV virus in the blood (also known as viral load) and other bodily fluids gets to undetectable levels. The drugs work by controlling the replication of HIV in the body by reducing the virus’ ability to make copies of itself.

“The drugs slow down the damage that the virus does to the immune system and allow people to live long, productive lives like everyone else without succumbing to the disease. These drugs are tremendously valuable in giving an excellent quality of life and preventing HIV transmission. There is absolutely no doubt that HIV treatment has revolutionised AIDS,” Dr Makhema explained.

However, he said for now BHP and the Health Ministry are still looking at the context and messaging of U=U and how to package it for the public. This, he explained is because, there are situations whether of illness, for example if someone has flu, they can get an exacerbation of viral rebound.

Or somebody gets a gastro intestinal disorder and they have diarrhoea or vomiting, they cannot keep the medication in their system. This would mean they are not fully able to keep the virus fully supressed and they can rebound.

“So we really don’t know at this point in time, we really need to have research done so that we are able to know how we are going to package and share the U=U messaging with the general public,” stated Dr Makhema.

According to Dr Makhema, the only time he would ever give anyone the go ahead to have unprotected sex is only if there was a test where before each sexual act, a person can check their viral load.
Until then he insists on condom use even with the other HIV prevention tools currently available like Safe Male Circumcision and more recently, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

“While we have got the tools to not only end the fear of HIV, but to end it as an epidemic, it’s important how we package that information so that our people really understand how they work,” Dr Makhema said.

Citing the condom as an example, Dr Makhema said that new infections are still high even though condoms are cheap, readily available and have been proven to be over 99 percent effective if used correctly at not only preventing HIV infection but also other sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

Overall, Dr Makhema said there was need for clear guidance on how individuals should be advised on using “treatment as prevention” as a safer sex option and this should be combined with renewed efforts to encourage condom use.

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