Botswana's 800m star Nijel Amos this week revealed that he has lost approximately P1 million in earnings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Amos who recently qualified for the cancelled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has not competed for the bulk of this year. Amos, fondly known as 'Zoro' made this revelation during a live social media broadcast with his fans this week.
The reserved and enigmatic track and field star was surprisingly candid and introspective during the live broadcast from Oregon, USA where he lives and trains. “I want to get married when I get home after the coronavirus pandemic,” a jovial Amos said responding to questions from his live audience.
Amos who is now a father revealed plans to marry a lady from Serowe but could not reveal her identity. Until today Amos remains Botswana's only Olympic medal winner after finishing behind David Rudisha of Kenya during the 800m final at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Since then Amos' career has been a mixed bag of spectacular highs and lows with injuries his greatest foe. Meanwhile Amos hinted on the future of his track and field career when he suggested he may retire if he does not win another medal during the Tokyo 2021 Olympics scheduled for next year. The runner who hails from Marobela village has since been nominated in the prestigious Forbes 30 under 30 list.
The University of Botswana has developed three computer software tools that will assist the Ministry of Health and Wellness in the management and monitoring of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The development of the tools was a collaborative effort of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology (FET), Department of Computer Science and Faculty of Medicine.
FET developed a Web map visualisation and live tracking dashboard that records data to illustrate real time trends of information on COVID-19 cases in Botswana. The dashboard was developed in collaboration with the Botswana Institute of Geomatics (BIG) and is manned by the University of Botswana personnel from FET. The dashboard can be accessed on the government portal www.gov.bw under the Maps and Statistics tab.
The platform is live and already receiving positive feedback from the members of public. Meanwhile, the Department of Computer Science has developed two self-assessment applications for the remote monitoring of those in and out of quarantine as well as frontline health workers. The self-assessment applications will drive data received from the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) Department of Monitoring and Evaluation for assessment and analysis and will assist in real time decision making.
The instruments were developed with expertise from the Department of Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine. All the systems have been set up to interface with the MOHW information system (DHIS2). UB team leaders are Dr. Lopang Maphale from FET and Dr. Audrey Masizana from Computer Science.
The Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation has announced that the Chinese philanthropist Jack Ma, has once again through his Foundation, donated medical supplies and equipment to Botswana to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. A press release from the ministry’s public affairs department said the consignment arrives today - Thursday 16th April 2020 - at the estimated time of 19:00 hours at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (CARGO).
On 28th March 2020 the second batch of emergency medical supplies donated by the Chinese government arrived at the SSKIA, comprising 1, 000 face masks, 500 personal protective equipment (PPEs), 300 infrared thermometers, goggles, gloves and shoe covers for medical use. Botswana’s frontline workers in the health, security and customs and immigration departments are in dire need of personal protective equipment (PPEs). The consignment that arrives this afternoon - although not quantified at the time of writing - will go a long way in bridging this deficit.
China, the world’s second largest economy, also the epicenter of this pandemic, adopted radical measures to stem the tide of the epidemic at home and has continued to share some of its best practices including financial assistance with the rest of the world through the World Health Organisation (US$20million) and the African Union Centre for Disease Control. In an earlier online briefing with local journalists, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Yambo assured that the embassy in Gaborone has regularly shared epidemic control updates with Vice President Slumber Tsogwane and various ministries since the onset of the pandemic.
He also reiterated that the embassy has shared the Diagnosis and Treatment Protocol for Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (Trial Version 7) with the ministry of health and wellness. The donation by the Chinese business magnate, investor and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, which is a multinational technology conglomerate, to Botswana comes in the backdrop of Tuesday’s announcement by United States president Donald Trump that he was stopping his country’s annual funding of $400million to WHO, over the world health body’s handling of the Coronavirus.
This decision has attracted criticism from world leaders including Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat and WHO’s director general, the Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
In a matter of weeks since extreme social distancing kicked in, an alarming number of children across the country have fallen prey to sexual predators. Acting UNICEF Representative Sarah Ng’inja noted that since the beginning of lockdown, rape cases have risen, and it is displeasing that even minors have become victims. “It is heart-breaking to hear that out of 22 rape cases reported, seven of them are children aged between two and thirteen years old,” said Ng’inja.
She said during the same week, Botswana Police Service has also registered 23 cases of defilement. UNICEF, she said, condemn sexual exploitation and abuse of children and therefore urges all stakeholders to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children. She emphasised that the ‘Eseng mo ngwaneng’ campaign which was launched in 2018 was part of efforts to raise awareness of the sexual abuse and sex exploitation of children in Botswana.
“The message is still clear, Eseng mo ngwaneng,” said Ng’inja. She believes that school closures and movement restrictions are disrupting children’s routines and support systems. “Some parents are struggling to care for their children and the protection risks for children are mounting,” she said. UNICEF therefore urges all stakeholders including; authorities, families, caregivers and communities to take concrete steps to ensure that protection of children is an integral part of COVID-19 prevention and response measures.
This, she says include training health, education and child services staff on COVID-19 related and child protection risks, including sexual exploitation and abuse as well as how to safely report concerns, training first responders on how to manage disclosure of violence against children and collaborate with healthcare services to support violence survivors and engage children, particularly adolescents in assessing how COVID-19 affects them differently to inform programming and advocacy.
Botswana Police Service is also looking into this issue and has introduced a toll free number for victims to report at the comfort of their homes. The expectation is to curb the alarming rates of gender based violence.
The toll free number is 0800 600 144.
The Law Society of Botswana has written a hard-hitting letter to the Minister of Defense, Justice and Security complaining on how the Ministry is handling the issuance of COVID-19 permits to their members.
In the letter titled 'LAW SOCIETY OF BOTSWANA’S DISAPPOINTMENT WITH IMPLEMENTATION OF COVID-19 REGULATIONS BY MINISTRY OF DEFENCE, JUSTICE AND SECURITY', addressed to Minister Kagiso Mmusi released yesterday by LSB's secretariat, the Society says after a series of engagements to get clarity in respect of the process for issuing permits to legal practitioners (who in terms of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020 are classified as essentials), the Ministry has through a press release issued on 14 April 2020, directed that the issuing authority in respect of permits for Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security (“the Ministry”) shall be the Registrar of the High Court in respect of litigation matters, and the Ministry as regards other non-litigation urgent matters.
The release limits the issuance of permits to legal practitioners who are seized with matters that the Registrar deems to be extremely urgent and those dealing with non-litigation matters that the Ministry deems to be urgent.
LSB contends that the Ministry’s release shows complete disregard of the Regulations by introducing additional requirements that run contrary to the clearly expressed intention of the lawgiver. It says the clear intention of the lawgiver was that legal practitioners are essential service, and it did not confer discretion on the authorising officer to introduce additional requirements for the issuance of a permit.
"These Regulations were passed by the President and approved by Parliament. To now introduce other conditions post facto is to undermine the legislative process that was followed in passing the Regulations". LSB contends further that the issuance of permits by the authorising officer to legal practitioners should be "purely administrative" with the only questions to be considered being whether the person who seeks the permit is a licensed legal practitioner, and whether the form that has to be completed, has been properly filled-out.
"Many state-sponsored abuses of freedoms and liberties take place under the cloak of state of emergency; we believe it was partly in recognition of this that the law-giver declared legal practitioners an essential service". During such periods, it becomes critical that those who may fall victim to these abuses have unhindered access to a legal practitioner.
Subjecting the grant of permits to instances which the Registrar or the Ministry, in their wisdom, deem to be urgent therefore "chills the right to legal representation" which freedom is more critical in a state of emergency, says LSB. “As a result of the Ministry’s absurd implementation of the Regulations practitioners are unable to meaningfully consult with their clients until they have been given permits”.
However, in many instances, it may be impossible to determine whether a matter satisfies the urgency requirement until there has been an opportunity to consult. The requirement to seek a permit from the Ministry in respect of non-litigation matters that are urgent requires legal practitioners to violate the common law duty of confidentiality that they owe their clients, reads part of the letter.
"We further have grave doubts as to whether the Ministry is competent to express a view as to whether a matter is urgent or not, as it has no internal expertise in the practice of law." Such requirement, contends LSB, also undermines the independence of the legal profession, which is an important feature in a democratic set-up that recognises the separation of powers between the judiciary, legislature and executive.
A legal practitioner should never have to depend on the subjective assessment of his legal matter by the executive before being given a permit to continue with it, says LSB. “In our view, the natural home for the processing of permits is the Council of the Law Society of Botswana, which maintains a record of all compliant legal practitioners.
"The Council of the Law Society will continue to urge our members to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19 by only leaving their homes to go to the workplace for matters that deserve their urgent attention". However, it says the call as to whether a matter requires urgent attention should be that of the legal practitioner and not the Government; in as much as a doctor and not the Government makes a determination as to which patients need to be attended to.
"It is an insult to the independence of the legal profession, and overly paternalistic to leave it to persons with no experience in regulating the profession to decide which legal matters warrant permits. We call upon the Ministry to reconsider its position. We hope and trust that the rule of law will eventually prevail, and the Ministry will see the light and revise its position,” reads the letter. It reads further that, "We do not believe that there is any reason the LSB should not be able to regulate its members as regards the permits or indeed to suspect, as the Ministry seems to, that practitioners want to abuse the permits.”