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Sibanda’s views on FOIA shocking

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Former Chairperson of Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC), Louis Sibanda says Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) does not want to open floodgates of secrets by passing the Freedom of Information Bill. He was speaking at a panel discussion organised by Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO), Fredrich Ebert Stifung (FES) and the troubled Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).

Sibanda was representing BDP, while Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) was represented by Gaborone Central legislator, Dr Phenyo Butale. The panel discussion was held under the theme; Access to Information. “Every country has secrets and must be kept to protect the citizens. I do not want a journalist to rock up in the morning and demand information about me,” he said.

According to Sibanda as a party they agree in principle that Freedom of Information is very important but there has to be a gate somewhere to withhold some information. “Let us protect our data. Let us guard against fraud. Let us make a balance to protect the interests of our citizens,” said Sibanda adding that they want to know what will be required in free access of information.

In 2012 members of the ruling BDP threw away a Bill on Freedom of Information that was tabled in Parliament by former Gaborone Central MP, Dumelang Saleshando. “As a country we cannot open floodgates of information. We are not at a point as a party to publicly issue secrets,” said Sibanda. MISA Director, Modise Maphanyane said it is important for Botswana to have a law on freedom of information. “We have a right to be told the rules that govern us and if they disadvantage us we can challenge them. Or if they affect us unfairly,” said Maphanyane.

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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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Know your Candidate

BNF’s prodigal son, Koosaletse is back

The MidweekSun Admin

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ASPIRING MP: Otlaadisa Koosaletse

As 2019 is a year of the country’s General Elections, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) aspiring parliamentary candidate for Kanye North Constituency, Otlaadisa Koosaletse advises Batswana to be serious with their votes and vote legislators who will represent them well.
Koosaletse will be contesting for the area with the Botswana Democratic Party candidate, Thapelo Letsholo. The Midweek Sun reporter, Onneile Setlalekgosi interviewed the UDC candidate.

Q. Good Day Rre Koosaletse. Kindly share your political background.
A. I started politics at a very young age around the1970’s. I became instrumental in forming Botswana National Front (BNF) youth chapter which was called Botswana Youth Federation in 1976-1977 in Lobatse.
My breakthrough in politics was in 1994, when there were problems within the BNF. I ran for position of area MP under the opposition ticket and won comfortably. When BNF split in 1998 I left with others to form Botswana Congress Party. In 2001 I was elected second president of the BCP, which I led for four years.

Q. Why did you decide to stand for Kanye North Constituency?
A. One of the reasons I stood for the constituency is that I have a general belief that the whole area has been neglected by the ruling party for a long period. The culture of side-lining developments has triggered me to stand for the constituency.

Q. You are contesting to be a legislator representing Kanye North. In your view what are the duties of an area MP and what should your constituents expect from your representation?
A. Duties of the area MP involve being able to live closer to the constituents so that you are able to address their problems. There is an issue of developments and distribution of services, it is sad that there’s special economic zones and there is none in the area I am representing.
Special economic zones can foster and nurture developments which can create jobs. I will ensure that the area gets a fair share budget of the developments. Kanye North has no access roads, Moshana, Lekgoloboto, Ntlhantlhe and other surrounding areas are not connected to the clinics or schools, and the role of the area MP is to fully represent constituents in all aspects.

Q. What are the national priority issues you would want to take to parliament?
A.Issue of corruption, if we do not fight corruption in this country, we will end up being like any other republic that were once rich but now poor. I believe in the levelling of the playing field in politics, I think it is time that Botswana joins other 14 SADC countries which have political party funding.
It is sad that Botswana with its economy and Zambia are the only two countries in SADC without political party funding and that deprives people of good representation from their MPs because of financial instability if it does not happen, it will end up in whoever being financially stable going to parliament even when they are not right candidates.
The other priority is agro-based, that is our produce from the field. I do not believe in food security, I believe in food self-sufficiency, Batswana should be able to produce their own food.

Q. There has been an outcry from the Kanye community that they need a hospital. Do you think Kanye needs a hospital and if so why?
A. Yes, Kanye needs a new hospital. The old hospital (Kanye Adventist Day Hospital) has no room for expansion and it cannot accommodate the growing Kanye population anymore.
Even if the government can pump money into the hospital, there is no way it can ever expand due to many buildings near it. My contention is to fight for a district hospital if it happens that I win during the upcoming elections.

Q. What is your view on corruption and institutions put in place to fight it?
A. Corruption has been rampant in the country. Agencies put in place to fight corruption are now after petty issues such as arresting people for similar vehicle number plates, than focusing on fighting bigger issues of corruption such as economic crime.

Q. There has been a general problem of youth unemployment, how are you prepared to address it?
A. Unemployment is a very serious issue, but our economy is a jobless economy. The way to fight youth unemployment is not a way to throw a carrot at the youths and say they can all do tenders. I do not think enough has been done to help the youth. Even the shopping complexes are not youth friendly as they are expensive to rent.
Things have to be changed first. The economy does not cater for the youth. There are many graduates and skilled people and Botswana is not fully known in exporting skilled labour to other countries. Youth are exploited in such a way that at times multitudes of the youths compete for one tender job, which only generates revenue for the government by buying the tenders.  But I am going to address it seriously if I get to parliament.

Q. Education results have been declining throughout the country, how are you going to address the low pass rate in your area?
A. It is very serious that at this time we still have declining standards in Education results, by now the country should have learnt from the past mistakes which I believe will bring good results in Education.
I will ensure Education is taken seriously within the village, parents should be able to understand academic strength of children and make sure they offer them support where possible.

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