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Queen of reinvention

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Bursting with fresh inspiration after bouncing back from a major set back, the 42-year- old ignimatic Motswana woman who left the country as a young and inexperienced teenager to explore foreign lands has reinvented herself yet again.

For many children from middle class families in Botswana, carting off teenagers to boarding schools in neighbouring South Africa and Zimbabwe, which are perceived to offer better education has been a right of passage for years.

At a tender age of 12, Sela Motshwane was sent to boarding school in South Africa.

After five years at Woodmead School in Johannesburg where she met and interacted with many students from different backgrounds, Motshwane returned home to serve what was then a mandatory National Service before heading to University back in SA.

“I was posted to the department of Parks and Cemeteries in Francistown for one year and then awarded a government sponsorship to study Horticulture at Cape Peninsula University,” Motshwane explains.

Excited but unaware of daunting challenges that lay ahead, Motshwane went back to South Africa where university years would prove more difficult than she had imagined.

“The racism in CapeTown was unbearable and I fared poorly. I had been used to engaging freely with friends from all racial backgrounds and never in a million years did I think I was not deserving of where I was. The treatment was horrible and made one doubt themselves,” Motshwane said.

Pushed by circumstances she waited for the right chance and made a leap to migrate to London.

“We engaged our sponsor, the Ministry of Education to provide us with the necessary support documents enabling us to obtain internship visas on arrival at Heathrow airport,” she explains.

In London, Motshwane immediately put her creative skills to good use by volunteering at the Chelsea Flower Show for Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.

For five years she worked for the gold star acclaimed national treasure. To supplement her income, she also worked for the Plant Breeders Institute in Cambridge.

After a few years, she met a visiting English Professor who advised her to apply for a course at Cambridge University and she did, choosing Archaeology.

However her excitement at being accepted at the elite institution quickly wore off when she was confronted with the ugly side of the reality within the institution.

“The environment was extremely high pressure. Compound that with icy tensions between learner and supervisor then one was in for a really bad experience. In my case, I felt there were stereo- types that led to me not getting along with my supervisor. People have a vision of what a successful academic should look like, and I did not fit that mould. I was treated like I didn’t belong and I was bullied,” she reveals.

To escape the toxic learning environment, Motshwane reinvented herself into a businesswoman in the fashion world.

“I had shared an idea with one of my lecturers who suggested I sought advice from the business school. They advised I apply for a short course they funded and subsequently I received £3 000.00 Stirling towards my business idea. I spent all the money in Botswana buying fabric and paying local tailors towards my clothing line, Touch of Africa Fashion. I appreciated the uniqueness of Cambridge University and the pool of resources one can access including willing parties who made my dream come true,” she says

The ambitious young woman however quickly found out that just like academics business was not a walk in the park.

DEDICATED: Motshwane (middle) at fashion show

She recalls a time when she had scheduled a fashion show and then couldn’t find Tswana print material in shops.

“I borrowed Tswana Print clothes from a designer friend, Lesego Malatsi, a friend booked a hall at Jesus College, Cambridge for the fashion event, I asked Virgin Atlantic to fly the clothes consignment for free in the spirit of supporting a start-up and they did. The fashion show went on with the support of all those involved of course and to date I still have the UK based Leteitsi fashion business going,” she says.

Motshwane however lost her UK Residency visa and had to leave the country, which meant adjusting once more to a new set up of setting up base back in Gaborone where she spends most of her time but travelling once a year to the UK to check on her businesses.

Instead of lamenting the set back, she chose to look at the positive side of things and decided this should be an opportunity to explore new business ideas.

She used her experience in making travel arrangements for her friends and interns who helped with the business at Cambridge to visit Botswana, to set up a new business as an online travel agent.

Talking about her new platform at www.holidayinbotswana.com, Motshwane says, “In every dark cloud look for that silver lining.”

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Elephant mortality in Okavango rises to 110, Anthrax ruled out

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Wildlife and National Parks department has ruled out Anthrax as a killer disease for elephants along some villages in the Okavango delta.

As of Friday last week, at least 110 dead elephants were discovered in areas of Seronga, Gunotsoga and Eretsha in the past three weeks and were suspected to have died from Anthrax.

However the Anthrax laboratory tests have come back negative, leaving the government departments searching for more answers. 

“Laboratory results have ruled out Anthrax and we are awaiting more results,” explained regional Wildlife coordinator in Maun, Dimakatso Ntshebe.

Ntshebe said his department through the help of veterinary department services are still conducting further tests to find out whether or not this mysterious disease is not a result of poisoning.

The disease according to Ntshebe causes the giant’s front legs to weaken and therefore the unwell animal walks in uncoordinated manner and ultimately drops to its death.

“We don’t know what could be the cause of this disease but we are working around the clock to find out and hopefully work on the cure,” added Ntshebe.

Some samples are to be sent to South Africa for further testing. “We could have taken other samples to the neighbouring Zimbabwe, but because of COVID-19 that brought everything to almost a standstill, we could not send them,” Ntshebe explained before adding that, “before coronavirus outbreak, Botswana and Zimbabwe were in talks and have entered into some agreements including exportation and importation of certain medications, but we have not yet concluded the matter regarding samples, that is why we have not been able to send samples to Zimbabwe.”

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SADC Executive Secretary disturbed by obstacles in movement of goods

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The Executive Secretary of SADC, Dr Stegomena Lawrence Tax, has cautioned member states that any lack of cooperation among then during the COVID19 era has potential to reverse the gains made in the last decades.

Addressing a virtual SADC Council of Ministers meeting this week, Lawrence Tax said that the regional ministers approved Guidelines on Harmonization and Facilitation of Movement of Essential Goods and Services across borders early April. 

She said that whilst the guidelines have played a critical role in facilitation of movement of essential goods, there are notable obstacles that have been noted by the Secretariat.

The obstacles include non-compliance/non recognition of regional legal frameworks; uncoordinated operations at the port of entry among border agencies; lack of harmonization and synchronization of policies and procedures among, and between member states; unilateral decisions outside agreed framework; as well as different approaches to deal with epidemiological challenges,” she said. 

She added that; “all these are resulting in increased cost of doing business, and negatively affecting the implementation of national and regional programmes”.

She advised that there is need to have measures, and coordinated approach in place since the region is in a post lockdown period since the transportation of non-essential goods and services will be resuming.

Lawrence Tax added that COVID19 is a global pandemic and that the SADC regional approach should expand to COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite and eventually to other continental blocs.

“The Secretariat is already working with COMESA and EAC, specifically, in terms of harmonizing and synchronizing regulations and procedures for movement of goods and services under the Tripartite arrangement. We need to move in unison and avoid unilateral decisions, specifically with regards to cross border movement of goods and services,” she said.

According to the Executive Secretary, the regional office has already conducted a socio-economic impact analysis of COVID19 on the region and the results have shown that the pandemic will impact negatively across many socio and economic sectors.

“The decline in the global economy is projected to lead to a decline in commodity prices, increase in debt and significant contraction of the SADC economies in 2020. This will reverse the gains on industrial development and trade that the region has made in the last couple of years,” Lawrence Tax said.

On the flip side,  the region’s International Cooperating Partners have made pledges to mitigate the impact of COVID19 pandemic on its economy. 

“To date, the Secretariat has secured Euro 7.3 million from the German Government; Euro3.6million from European Union, Euro 190,000.00 under the GIZ/Africa Union Commission, whereas the African Development Bank (AfDB)  has considered a support UA 7 million. Engagements with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) are also at an advanced stage,” the Executive Secretary said.

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