Foot ‘n’ mouth causes tension

Lately there have been accusations and counter accusation by the two parties over the origins of the disease and on how to prevent its spread during outbreaks. The Botswana minister of Agriculture Johnnie Swartz told Mnegi newspaper that the government continued to talk to their Zimbabwean counterparts on the problems relating to the disease. Swartz said: “We talked to the Zimbabwean government following the 2002/03 outbreak of FMD at Lephaneng and Matopi near Matsiloje and we continue talking to them at relevant fora.” Botswana wants to have a joint arrangement of talking to its nationals and Zimbabweans living on the border villages. The minister said it would not be an easy task but that was what they were engaged in to ensure the villagers appreciated the efforts of both governments. He said at government level, he foresaw no trouble but explained that there were challenges at community level on both sides. Swartz disclosed that his ministry recently spoke to Botswana’s Ambassador in Zimbabwe, Pelokgale Seloma, to help them out in strategising. He expressed the hope that Seloma would do a good job. Director of Animal Health and Production, Musa Fanikiso, confirmed in a recent interview that it was possible that the Matsiloje outbreak was related to the FMD in Zimbabwe. The FMD strain isolated in the Matsiloje outbreak was found to be very closely related to the outbreak strain in Zimbabwe. Swartz was worried that their previous strategies to address the communities did not bear fruit. “Locals listen but the problems of FMD continue along the Botswana-Zimbabwe border given the current case in the Bobirwa area that Botswana is grappling with and previous cases,” he said. He acknowledged the fact that the cordon fence does not have convenient entry points for some villages on both sides, hence so some people came up with ungazetted points of entry. Swartz, has meanwhile, refuted some media reports that the Botswana-Zimbabwe fence is electrified. “Even now you can go to any point of the fence and you will realise that it is not powered at all, ” he said. The minister said that the 500km stretch of cordon fence with about 440km already completed is without electricity. The fence construction, which started in 2003, is yet to be fully completed because of problems of terrain and supply of material. The Botswana government is expected to cough up over 20 million pula to complete the project. Swartz indicated that the government did experiments at some points along the fence with low levels of electricity and people and animals continuously damaged it, thereby escalating costs. He was worried that the project has lasted longer than expected because of the problems experienced along the way. Meanwhile, the Bank of Botswana (BoB) has revealed that the rate of employment in the country remains sluggish, resulting in massive job losses in the construction sector in the previous year. “A significant loss of 4 400 jobs (15 percent) in the construction sector was the main source of stagnation in the private sector employment,” said BoB in its annual report. The report decries massive job losses in the construction and manufacturing sector ‘ main sources of stagnation in the labour market. The commercial agriculture sector trails behind with a decline of 0,8 percent. While the economic outlook suggests an annual GDP growth of six percent for the second half of the plan period 2006/07-2008/09, it is the rapid growth in the mining sector that remains an exception to this predicament. The BoB report suggests that growth will not be achieved easily in other sectors during this period. The transport and communication sectors registered a significant 4,1 percent job losses in the previous years, coupled with a further 1,1 percent decline in the manufacturing sector. BoB is of the view that these sectors require rapid restructuring to stimulate growth and achieve full employment. Recently the transport sector has been treated to a shock as diesel prices sky-rocketed, stimulating significant job losses in the transport industry. This led to significant job cuts in the sector. During his 2006 budget speech, Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Baledzi Gaolathe proposed that 5,8 billion pula would be set aside as development expenditure in which 97 percent would be used for government projects, 150 million pula or three percent for parastatal organisations’ projects and 55 million pula or one percent for drought relief activities under the Labour Intensive Public Works Programme. Gaolathe said a substantial amount of 235 million pula, which will be spent under the Tertiary Education Development Fund, on the Botswana International University of Science and Technology and UB expansion projects.

June 2006
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