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BATTLE OF THE DOCTORS

Keletso Thobega

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DOCTOR BAE: Dr Pheko is already raring to go as she prepares for battle at Gaborone Central

A few days after she was confirmed as the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Parliamentary candidate for Gaborone Central, Dr Mpho Pheko is ready for what could be a fiery race of the intelligentsia.

This is a constituency that was won from the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) president Dumelang Saleshando in 2014, by Dr Phenyo Butale who was then representing the UDC. Dr Butale has since decamped to the Alliance for Progressives (AP) and he will be among the candidates vying for the constituency later this year at the general elections. A few weeks ago, there was brouhahaha when Dr Pheko, a member of the BCP, was announced as the constituency candidate, with many seeking to know who she was and her “claim to fame.”

By virtue of being female, she also had to contend with sexist jabs as well as questions clearly based on her gender. Some weeks back, things had heated up when after being announced then, the Gaborone mayor Kagiso Thutlwe publicly stated that Pheko was not representing the UDC in Gaborone Central as claimed. This attracted a barrage of criticism her way, with members of the BCP exchanging unpleasant words with their counterparts at the Botswana National Front (BNF).

The two parties are contracting partners in the UDC and Mayor Thutlwe is a BNF member who along with his party activists had wanted a candidate of their own in the constituency. The leadership of the two parties met to deliberate on the matter and following what was described as an amicable conclusion, she was allocated the Constituency. Last week there were many congratulatory messages and well wishes sent to her.

Now that the air has been cleared after the fracas, Pheko remains calm and graceful, evidently unperturbed by what could be regarded a “storm in a teacup” considering the long battle ahead for the hotly-contested Gaborone Central constitjuency. In an interview with The Midweek Sun this week, Pheko said she hopes to bring visionary, issue based, solution-orientated and clean outcome-based politics.

“Basically accountable leadership that recognises that MPs are given a five-year mandate and at the end of that period, they need to account to the people who voted them in,” she said. She said it is imperative for Batswana to introspect and figure out exactly what they want. “I wish Batswana could objectively evaluate the status of their personal lives, community lives, national development status and determine if they want to give the current government or those they have elected a renewed mandate,” she said.

She will subject herself to the same assessment in 2024, should she clinch the Parliamentary seat in the coming elections.“I have already committed to be a voice of the women, youth, education and community building,” she said. Pheko said that her political awakening was in 2008/2009, when the former president Ian Khama took over from Festus Mogae. “I believe that I am one of the Batswana who noticed or predicted then that his leadership style would not be suitable for the nation of Botswana.

At the time, I also realised that it was my civic responsibility to stop complaining about government and be part of a political home. I then applied for membership in the BCP – where I have been an activist.” Generally, in Botswana politics appear to be a hostile terrain for women. Pheko is however not naïve to the reality of politics. She is aware of how women are often undermined and discredited by virtue of their gender.

When asked on the supposed prevalence of sexual harrasment in political circles and the problem of women who supposedly date and sleep their way to the top in their political careers, she noted that it was a difficult issue to dissect particularly when one considers that it is birthed by several factors including socio-economic conditions, patriarchy and intimidation, the stereotypes about women in politics and pure propaganda aimed at discrediting women.

“It is a systematic problem – meaning that the solution ought to be scientific. Some solutions can be found in political education by civic society and political parties. Leaders ought to realise that they need to capacitate and facilitate women participation in both political and leadership roles.” Political funding is another key issue in politics and affects women more, because some of them might have the vision, skills and work ethic but lack the financial resources to fund their campaigns.

Pheko also noted that government should consider party funding if it is serious about being inclusive of women. She added that introducing quota systems and effective affirmative action could also shield women in politics from abuse. But the reality does not discourage her. “Beyond this, for now, as women, we will just need to toughen up.”

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BATTLE FOR MMADIKOLO

The MidweekSun Admin

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University of Botswana students are bracing themselves for the Student Representative Council (SRC) elections. Contenders are fighting tooth and nail to appease the electorate. Three camps are in contention to fill the 13 council positions.

Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) Moono-wa-Baithuti has the onerous task of defending all the 13 seats which they hauled at the last elections of 2018. “As Moono wa Baithuti, we have lots of achievements. We are on the verge of getting the student bar open, so we need to go back and fix what we started,” said UDC’s Tumelo Legase who is vying for the position of Vice President.

He said they have advocated for student empowerment policies and are also proposing a third arm of student representation. “We have the SRC and the Judiciary, what we need is the student Parliament so that we have a large number of leaders who can independently attend to problems across the university.” The dark horse in this race is the University of Botswana’s Alliance for Progressive (AP) which will take another leap of faith despite their loss in the previous election.

They are rejuvenated and redefined. Candidate for Vice President Karabo Bokwe said central to their mandate is making the welfare of the student community a priority. “We want to help eradicate school policies that border on oppression, and through new polices call for initiatives that come with enterprenuership benefits to students.”

AP candidate for Information and Publicity, a first year Criminal Justice student Gracious Selelo said they are more united than other parties even at national level. “We don’t have internal squabbles within our party, we are more focused and can deliver our mandate easily,” she noted.

However the ruling party’s BDP GS-26 will come with all guns blazing after an embarrassing defeat in the previous elections. Preparations have been made and the GS-26 is looking to take the elections by storm.

According to their Presidential Candidate Boniface Seane, they come with the message of hope that addresses the current status quo at the University.“The university is not functioning so we drew three policies that embrace inclusiveness. We want to lead collectively with the students, through the student body meetings which the previous SRCs have failed to do. “We will consult with the students with no discrimination.”

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Healthcare system to improve

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The Health ministry has developed a seven-point programme to guide the country in improving the healthcare system, says Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Rabashemi Madigele.

“The seven priority areas will serve as a roadmap and a guardian angel towards improving the overall healthcare system and increasing access to health care while fighting the burden of disease that confronts us,” said Madigele at Masa Square Hotel on Tuesday.

The focal areas include decentralisation; Universal Health Coverage, Tertiary Care, Strategic leveraging on the Private sector; Supply Chain; Research as well as Staff welfare and accountability.
Point-one of the seven priority areas according to Dr Madigele is about empowering the District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) and transforming them into fully fledged Regional Health Authorities.

“In this case, they will be rationalised from 27 to 18 and have the authority to hire A and B Scales, promote up to C1 and manage micro procurement,” he said. Point two is about improving the quality of healthcare services. “The main causes of mortality and their risk factors in Botswana are Primary Health Care issues,” Dr Madigele said.

He added that “Our efforts for the attainment of Universal Health Coverage should thus focus on: Prevention; Comprehensive screening; Early treatment; and Surveillance at the community.”
This he said, would require revamped grassroots efforts in which adequate numbers of community health workers through partnerships with the non-governmental sector will be deployed as necessary.

According to Dr Madigele, the top five causes of death in Botswana in 2017 were HIV/AIDS, Ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and Diabetes. He said compared to 2007, NCDs among these had increased in burden by an average of 34%. The top five risk factors related to these causes of mortality were unsafe sex; poor diet; high blood pressure; alcohol abuse and tobacco use.

Improving the quality of care, Madigele said will also include the safety and security of patients; attitudes of staff as experienced by patients; time taken in queues either before seeing a health worker or receiving medication and the availability of drugs.

Meanwhile, the health minister revealed that the commissioning of Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) is ongoing with the facility scheduled for opening on April 24th. “This will be a phased approach commencing with some services including paediatric oncology, internal medicine, rheumatology and endocrinology, diagnostic radiology, laboratory services and pharmacy”.

A phased commissioning of SKMTH will reduce overdependence on South Africa for referrals, reduce costs and also institutionalise provision of super specialist services within Botswana.

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