In the past ten years Botswana has experienced a steady decline in its governance standards. A corruption perception report by Transparency International shows a slip from 2008 to 2017. Botswana is now fifth in the Mo Ibrahim Index of Governance in Africa, down from second in 2014. The country has also shown a decline in some governance indicators by other international rating agencies. This state of affairs should neither surprise nor shock us but rather make us take stock and re-assess the governance situation in our country.
We are constantly, on a daily basis, confronted with reports in the print and social media of serious allegations of corruption, impropriety and abuse of office by individuals in positions of authority and power. These reports are met with disbelief as nothing is seemingly done against the alleged perpetrators. On the face of it, only a few of those alleged to have committed these misdemeanors are thoroughly investigated, prosecuted and/or convicted. Investigations into these alleged transgressions go on forever with no prosecution and/or conviction in sight.
Members of the public are up in arms, accusing those who are mandated by law to investigate and prosecute these individuals of ineptitude, bias, toothlessness and outright “capture” by political and business interests. Members of the public are asking questions such as: why is it that none of the “big men” who are alleged to have been involved in corrupt practices are prosecuted and convicted?
why is it that our leaders, at every public gathering, make solemn platitudes about their commitment to fight corruption, impropriety and abuse of office, but no serious action is taken? Why is it that we see “petty criminals” being paraded on Btv daily, accused of petty theft, stock theft, possession of marijuana, etc and not the “big men” who are alleged to have stolen public servants pensions, looting of NPF and funds allocated to poverty alleviation? Are the institutions mandated to fight corruption and malfeasance not working against the interests of the people by protecting these alleged criminals?
When ordinary people ask the above questions, you realize how low the level of trust and confidence they have in our institutions. Therefore, if correct measures are not urgently put in place to address the public’s lack of trust and confidence in our institutions our democracy, governance and the rule of law are in serious danger.
In order to address the above concerns of our people it is time for us to reassess the checks and balances that we have put in place to limit situations in which corruption, impropriety, conflict of interest and abuse of office may thrive and have a negative impact on our society. By re-assessing our institutions, systems and procedures that are meant to safeguard our society against these social ills, we endeavor to come up with better and more sophisticated institutions to fight corruption, maladministration and abuse of office. The fight against corruption cannot be the sole preserve of anti-corruption agencies alone, but needs active collaboration between government, the private sector, civil society and all other sectors of society.
Experience demonstrates that no single approach to curbing corruption is likely to be effective. A range of strategies, working together in an integrated fashion, is more likely to bear success. These strategies must include measures that reduce the opportunity for and benefit of corruption, increase the likelihood of detection and punishment of transgressors. First, appropriate administrative, financial and economic reforms can minimize the opportunities of corruption and secondly, building capacity to strengthen the institutions, i.e the media, parliament, watchdog agencies and the judiciary, amongst others, would raise public awareness about corrupt behavior and its costs and/or investigate and punish incidences of bad behavior.
The above measures are designed as part of a national effort to reduce corruption in the public sector and they constitute what is normally referred to as national integrity system. The national integrity system creates a system of checks and balances that limit situations in which conflicts of interest and inappropriate behaviour may arise and involves both prevention and penalty. This integrity system is anchored on the following eight pillars: political will, administrative reforms, watchdog agencies, parliament, the judiciary, public awareness and involvement, the media and the public sector.
There has to be a political will to stamp out corruption and prevent its manifestation. Successful anti-corruption initiatives require a visionary leader, or “champion” who recognizes the high cost of corruption on the economy and the well-being of citizens. Mere platitudes about the fight against corruption are not enough but more concrete action is absolutely necessary. Creating popular opposition to corruption is a function of the political leadership’s willingness to make corruption an issue and ensure that incidences of corruption are fully investigated and perpetrators prosecuted irrespective of their positions in society.
Legal and administrative measures should be put in place to minimize corruption within the public service. Good administrative practices and regulations governing conflict of interest in the public service are directed at maintaining an administrative system that protects public decision making process. Curbing corruption requires a clear ethical commitment by political leaders and senior public officials. This is usually achieved by the establishment of a public sector code of ethics which sets out the ethics that should guide those in management and leadership positions. The code acts as a reminder to public officials of their responsibilities to the public.
The adoption and implementation of Leadership Ethical Codes ensures that leaders account for their unethical conduct. These leadership codes have been put to good use in a number of countries e.g Republic of South Africa and Rwanda, to enforce integrity and accountability in public administration. It is also common nowadays to require all persons in position of authority/influence to periodically declare their income, assets and liabilities to maintain integrity in the public sector. In this respect, the long awaited law on the declaration of assets in this country is well overdue.
Watchdog agencies such as the DCEC, Ombudsman, and the Office of the Auditor General should be adequately resourced and afforded the space to execute their mandates without fear, favour or prejudice. By exercising oversight on the executive branch, a function that they perform on behalf of the legislature, these institutions reinforce transparency, accountability and financial integrity in the public sector. For these institutions to perform optimally, they should also enjoy some form of arms-length or independent relationship with the government and not be part of the public service.
Parliament should be afforded the necessary space to fully exercise its oversight role on the executive arm of government. Parliament exercises an oversight role on the executive branch of government in the development and implementation of legislation, policies and programs. Therefore, the executive arm of government should guarantee the independence of Parliament and respect the legitimate role of the opposition in Parliament. Moreover, Parliament and its committees should be adequately resourced and supported with independent professional staff and not be made to rely on government officials.
The judiciary must insist on high ethical standards within its own ranks and jealously guard against the erosion of its independence and integrity. The public must be confident that Judges are chosen solely on merit and for their individual ability and integrity. Allegations of impropriety, corruption or abuse of office against a sitting Judge has not only a damaging effect on the independence and integrity of the particular Judge, but also the entire judicial system. A judiciary that is not itself corrupt makes it possible to successfully prosecute corrupt officials. Therefore, it is imperative that both legal and administrative measures are put in place to speedily address issues of corruption and ethical lapses as and when they occur within the judiciary.
Public awareness and involvement of ordinary citizens is very critical in the fight against these social ills. It is of utmost importance to enlist the support and cooperation of civil society and the general public in the fight against corruption. They can play a useful role in developing and strengthening ethics and practice in the public sector; reducing public tolerance of corruption; making the unaccountably rich into figures of contempt rather than role models and encouraging citizens to actively report and provide evidence of corruption whenever it occurs.
Many civil society organizations have a fundamental interest in achieving effective integrity system in our society. There are principled individuals in business and the professions, religious leaders, the press and, most importantly, ordinary citizens who have to bear the brunt of corruption on a daily basis.
The media is a very important watchdog and a useful tool in the fight against corruption. Through balanced and responsible reporting by journalists, a culture of freedom of the press develops, and this culture is the guarantor of the ability of the free press to be a watchdog against abuse by public officials.
Effective freedom of information laws are required to guard against the executive branch of government concealing corruption, maladministration, incompetence and waste by doing things in secrecy. It is therefore, of utmost importance that the long awaited Freedom of Information law be passed by our Parliament as a matter of urgency.
The private sector is a critical partner in the fight against corruption. In the private sector, professional bodies such as legal, accounting and engineering associations and organizations should insist on the observance of laid down procedures of public procurement and high standards of ethical conduct from their members. These eight pillars are interdependent and when working together in harmony create a robust national integrity system, an effective tool for curbing corruption, maladministration, and abuse of power in the public sector.
The perception by members of the public that nothing is being done to curb corruption is a matter that should be seriously addressed as it has a serious effect of eroding the trust and confidence of the people in our institutions and government’s commitment to fight corruption. A lack of trust and confidence by the people in our institutions and systems undermines and even destroys political stability. Therefore, we should continuously re-assess and recalibrate our system of checks and balances to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness.
In addressing this matter, our strategies should be anchored on the eight pillars which should be embedded in appropriate and sound financial and economic reforms.
Augustine N. Makgonatsotlhe is Botswana’s OMBUDSMAN
This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.
The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.
The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.
Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.
We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.
More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.
The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the market.
Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.
We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?
Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?
Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?
They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?
What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?
They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?
We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?
To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?
Batswana must be made aware that the end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.
For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with the arduous imperative of analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.
Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.
Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute in Botswana is overdue.
If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.
Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.
Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.
Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication
Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.
Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.
Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.
Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.
The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.
So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.
The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.
We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.
They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.
As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.
Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme. WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org
The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.
As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.
I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.
I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?
Counting the cost of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.
It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.
Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.
The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.
Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.
By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.
Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org