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A ranger’s cry

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Wildlife ranger speak out on injustice

In the midst of the unprecedented rise in the poaching of rhinos and elephants, some of the frustrated Wildlife Rangers are beginning to speak up and shed light on what could be the main problem hampering the country’s conservation efforts.

A former Wildlife Officer 1, Thatayaone Lexion Mpatane, who retired from service in 2018 out of frustration told The Voice in an exclusive interview that the current poaching trend is likely to persist if issues affecting wildlife officers are not addressed.

Mpatane joined the Wildlife employ in 2010 as an Assistant Wildlife Officer and at the time of his resignation he had been promoted to Wildlife Officer 1.

The Francistown native who has a long running Industrial court case with the employer told The Voice that his trouble started when he was unprocedurally transferred from his work station Lone Tree to Gantsi.

“I was given a technical post in Gantsi while I’m a professional,” he said.

“This is not an isolated case. There are many of my colleagues who find themselves under the same situation. It’s a simple case of maladministration and a simmering issue at the heart of the civil service,” he said.

RANGER IN ACTION: Mpatane

“The biggest challenge at the moment is that you’ll find that a unit within the wildlife will only have one graduate and the rest are people who joined with very low qualifications many years ago. Any graduate who joins is sent to do menial tasks,” claimed Mpatane.

The soft spoken and highly eloquent wildlife officer said he had a long running case with his employer at the Industrial Court in Gaborone.

“I realised that I stood no chance at the Industrial Court after my union abandoned me. The only sensible thing to do was to withdraw the matter from the Industrial Court and seek relief from the High Court,” he said.

In court documents seen by this publication, Mpatane wrote his case withdrawal letter on 3rd February and requested a prompt meeting with the bench clerk to inspect the file.

“I needed material such as pleadings that’d be of use on the matter with the High Court because I’ll be seeking for additional reliefs, which the Industrial Court cannot grant,” he said.

However according to Mpatane while the court provided him with the documents the one he needed the most was conspicuously missing.

“The court order confirming that I withdrew the matter was not among the documents and when I inquired further I was told the Judge, President Tebogo Maruping had refused to write the order asserting that he had already heard the case and would write judgement,” he said.

“I found this shocking because according to rule of the Industrial Court a notice to withdraw is sufficient since the matter was yet to be sat down,” he said.

“The court does not have the discretion to decide whether a mater can be withdrawn or not, the rules are to that effect are prescriptive that my application alone is sufficient,” said Mpatane.

Mpate based his reasoning on rule 52 of the Rules of the Industrial Court which states that: “If a party wishes to withdraw a matter the party must file a notice of the withdrawal on the Registrar and serve a copy of the notice on the other parts of the proceedings.”

Efforts to get a comment from the Registrar were unsuccessful.

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ATN advocates for tobacco ban

A call to stop the sales to tobacco products during the state of public emergency to save lives from COVID-19: Anti Tobacco Network, Botswana

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The Anti Tobacco Network Botswana (ATN, Botswana) recognizes that tobacco use is an immediate threat to  the control of COVID-19 spread, and calls on Government to stop the sales to tobacco products during the state of public emergency to save lives.

We note  and commend the Government for approving a regulation prohibiting the importation into Botswana of tobacco or tobacco-related products during the state of public emergency.

This action is indeed a testament of the cardinal recognition by the Government and confirmation to the whole nation  that tobacco and tobacco related products such as  e-cigarettes, hubbly bubbly, (Shisha), vapes are non-essential commodities and that tobacco is a non-essential business that cannot be allowed to continue during the state of public emergency. 

ATN Botswana however, urges the Government  as a matter of urgency to issue further regulation to suspend all  sale of tobacco and tobacco related products during the  COVID-19 pandemic period.

Such a ban will reduce easy access to tobacco products and therefore save lives of many people.

People who smoke or use other tobacco products should be assisted to quit in our health facilities.

Our urgent call to ban the sale of tobacco products during this time of public emergency is informed by scientific evidence that smoking damages human lungs and other body organs.

Smoking also destroys the immune system hence weakening a smoker’s responsiveness to infections.

As COVID -19 is primarily a disease affecting the respiratory system, smokers are therefore more vulnerable to developing severe COVID-19 which may result in prolonged hospitalization under life support machines in intensive care units (ICU) or death. Persons with long standing chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are also susceptible to severe COVID -19.

There is compelling evidence from previous studies that smokers are twice more likely than non-smokers to contract influenza and have more severe symptoms.

While smokers were also noted to have higher mortality in the previous Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak, emerging data from patients hospitalized with severe  COVID-19 show higher percentages of current and former smokers among patients that have needed ICU support, mechanical ventilation or those that have died.

The findings show that a higher percentage of smokers are among the severe cases.

We argue that tobacco products are not essential commodities and their sales must therefore be banned.

Allowing tobacco sales will expose smokers to COVID-19 who will repeatedly be going to the shops to purchase tobacco products.

In addition, Government should completely ban the sale and use of the hubbly Bubbly (Shisha) which is usually smoked in groups using shared mouth pieces that are a channel for transmission of COVID -19 and other respiratory diseases including tuberculosis.

During such smoking sessions, it is practically impossible to maintain social distance to avoid transmission of COVID -19 as well.

It must be remembered that the sharing of tobacco products by its users pose the danger of  spreading COVID-19 through contaminated saliva.

Several countries in Africa including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Gambia have banned sale of use of shisha.

Recently, 17 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region have banned hubbly Bubbly (Shisha) as a measure to control spread of COVID -19.

South Africa banned the sale of tobacco products during its 21-day lockdown.

Botswana can join these countries, to further solidify its stance that tobacco is not an essential commodity and preventing its use can save lives.

We further call on the Government  to strictly enforce the provisions of section 13 of the Control of Smoking Act which bans the advertisement of tobacco products by the tobacco industry. 

ATN Botswana has noted with concern that recently, there has been an upsurge in advertisement, especially banners posted by irresponsible companies or individuals that boldly advertise and promote tobacco products in the face of COVID-19 and in full disregard of existing law prohibition of advertising and promotion of tobacco products in Botswana.

Such adverts even inviting  people to smoke shops when the Government of Botswana is urging people to keep physical distance, will negatively affect the effort to fight COVID-19 and also defeat other efforts by government to reduce tobacco use which is a known leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

By Professor Bontle Mbongwe, Executive Director, Anti Tobacco Network

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Francistown’s peaceful night

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On the first day of the 28 days of extreme social distancing, the city of Francistown has experienced one of the most peaceful nights in a long time.

Officer Commanding Number 15 District Senior Superintendent Kabo Badirwang told The Voice in an interview that despite a few isolated incidents the night went on with no worries.

The top cop said stopping the sale of alcohol two weeks ago was a stroke of genius that will go a long way in the combat against Covid-19.

Badirwang said they were worried last night as at around 10pm, they could still see long queues at Automated Teller Machines and some quick shops.
“We announced at around 11:30 that people should be getting ready to go home and what we saw was absolute cooperation. By 12 midnight, the streets were quiet. It was an absolute pleasure to see,” Badirwang said.

He said in an isolated incident they came across three ladies who arrived on a late bus at the Francistown bus rank. “They were heading to areas around Somerset, but as you know there was no public transport. They however finally managed to get a lift and were allowed to proceed to their destination.”

Badirwang said even troublesome locations such as Coloured and Bluetown were very quite at night. “People in Francistown have headed the message and this in turn make our task easy,” he added.

He however noted that while the Francistown nights go on peacefully, it is during the day that they experience challenges with people who still feel they have a right to walk wherever they want.
“We do receive reports of people who are not observing the health tips and social distancing. Those will be dealt with. I’m hopeful that in the coming days, people will understand what this is all about,” he said.

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