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UDC calls for P1 billion cut from air assets budget

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This procurement won’t create jobs- Saleshando

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) intend to table a motion demanding that the P1.5 billion budget for Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security’s set aside for procuring of air assets, be reduced to P500million.

When addressing members of the media this week, the Leader of Opposition- Dumelang Saleshando, who was accompanied by other UDC MPs said that the cut P1 billion will be split between the Ministries of Education and Health and Wellness.

“The increase in military expenditure is worrisome, government has set aside P1.5 billion to procure air assets.”

Saleshando’s worry is that the air assets will not be procured in Botswana but imported from other countries.

“This is against what Dr Thapelo Matsheka said during his budget speech where he mentioned that he was going to reduce the Import Bill and increase exports.”

The Maun West legislator said the Minister of Finance and Economic Development knows well that this exercise is not going to create jobs or have any impact on the domestic economy.

“It is going to create jobs and demand in foreign economies. So we will be moving an amendment to the current budget as UDC, proposing that the P1.5 billion budget be reduced,” he pointed out and added: “We hope the military will work around what will be left as we move to prioritise things.”

Meanwhile the UDC MP who is tasked with issues of Basic Education, Climate Change and Environment, Carter Hikuama, said that if allowed such money, the Ministry of Education will use it to improve the poor standard of education as some subjects demand specialised classes.

“We have to move away from buying books and provide schools with internet and tablets for use.”

On the other hand, David Tshere who is responsible for Health, Infrastructure and Housing Development said the MOH will use the funds in buying more equipment for hospitals.

“Waiting periods for patients to be operated takes long because of shortage of manpower and equipment.”

He added that even the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus needed manpower but there are no funds.

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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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