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Cry My Beloved Country

MAXWELL MOTHAPELARURI MOATHUDI

I am deeply concerned my brothers and sisters. I am deeply concerned about my country; makes me remember Alan Patton of “Cry my beloved country” novel, during my teenage years at “Swaneng ke Swaneng”. Go diragala eng ka hatshe la rona betsho?

 Since 2014 or there about, I have spent sleepless nights asking myself this very question; albeit with no answers. Our country has been inundated with streams and streams of arguments and counter-arguments aimed at nothing. Nothing because it seems the arguments and counter-arguments are not providing any answers. The newspapers have been choke-filled with articles concerning politics and corruption, with no end in sight, though this is something (kudos my brethren in the private media industry), at least.

We have been busy cultivating corruption and corrupt people and making them part of our culture. Yes! Culture is man-made; but do we have to inculcate corruption into it (our culture)? Our clinics and hospitals are without the requisite drugs, to a point where, in a bid to cover up for our failures, we have started categorising drugs as vital, necessary and so on and so forth.

A drug is a drug, and its purpose is to save and/or preserve human life; no matter how we try to classify it. So! Let there be drugs, vital or whatever, for our people need them. But, is this possible with this rampant corruption? Hardly! The decade up to 2018 saw unabated and unprecedented corruption in our midst. Let us draw a list (even if I tried or anyone tried, the list cannot be exhausted: corruption has been made part of our culture):
 

  1. Morupule B Project (P10 billion +)
  2. Fengue Glass Plant (P500 million +)
  3. National Petroleum Fund (P250 million)
  4. Botswana Public Officers’ Pension Fund (BPOPF) – P400 million))
  5. Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development (MYESC) – BOT50 Independence Celebrations (millions of Pula)
  6. e-Government (P500 million +)
  7. Digital migration (P180 million +)
     

The list goes on and on … and I am not going to attempt to address all the above incidences; I leave it to you to conjure-up what effect this will have on an ordinary Motswana’s livelihood. At the least, these are some of the scandals that made major headlines and have an everlasting impact on the lives of us, the ordinary citizens.

Do we have any recourse? I doubt; for we are a very humble people and believe all will come to pass. Come to pass, my foot, whilst the majority of well-meaning, hardworking citizens die of hunger and disease. Come to pass, my foot, while the majority of our citizens do not have portable drinking water, accommodation, electricity, you name it. What in God’s name happened to this beautiful country and its humble people? The answer lies somewhere in the just past decade.

We need to be reminded that, with the disappearance of the pension funds, and mind you, this affects the whole public service, a hundred thousand (100 000+) and counting; people are going to suffer. Let us remember that these are the very people who the Unions, Medical Aid Funds, Banks and so on and so forth pester during their active life and avoid like a scourge once they are out of work (pensioning).

Some might ask; but what is the direct impact of this on society? The question is very appropriate, and I will attempt, from my lay-man’s point of view, to hazard (just on the surface though) the impact this unabated corruption has or will definitely have on the masses; I take two or three examples.
 

Morupule B Project

How many of us depend on electric energy from Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) for a living? Oh! Is it living or survival? I guess the question should be; how many of us depend on BPC electric energy for survival? You might not recognise it, but for us to just survive, we depend very much on electric energy. How many of you ever considered how life “will be” if there is no telecommunications? Just telecommunications, nothing life threatening.

I am saying “will be” because the electric energy fiasco is far from over, and all because of the rampant corruption. Mascom, be Mobile, Orange and even the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) fixed lines and associated services will go down in the absence of electric energy from BPC. The services will go down since all these entities do not have back-up systems, or if they have, they are entirely unreliable. If you think I am lying, just wait and see.

Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) depends on BPC electric energy to pump the very water the lucky few who have access to portable water rely on and if they have any back-up system to talk about, it is not reliable enough for our survival; just wait and see. The hospitals and clinics; do they have any reliable back-up systems? Just wait and see. What use will be our mobile phones, our lap-tops, desk-tops and all such goodies, in the absence of BPC electric energy? Just wait and see. We still import basics like candles, and they are going to be in demand, and expensive; who can afford paraffin with the ever rising cost of fuel? Another by-product of corruption.

Do not let anyone lie to you that our electric energy problems are about to be a thing of the past. I learnt very recently that the sale of Morupule B is on the cards once again. Will this be in the interest of Batswana or we are just opening another avenue for corruption. “Ke a bona madi a motho a saa berekelang, madi a bogodu, a monate thata”. Are these few ladies and gentlemen permanently wired for corruption? Is corruption part of their DNA? It seems, otherwise how does one start to explain their insatiable appetite to destroy “the people’s lives”. In Phikwe we are left in the dark every time the wind blows or it rains. I assume there is no money to repair the very old electrical infrastructure. And where has the money gone? The corruption route; where else?

Fengue Glass Plant

This is yet another project where we failed as a nation, because of the rampant corruption; and we remained and still remain silent. The loss of a job by the then Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) chief accounting officer was not a solution. A thousand prospective jobs disappeared into thin air. These jobs will have gone a long way in alleviating the growing unemployment and attendant poverty. These one thousand people, who would have been employed at the plant, would have assisted us in fighting the growing poverty; we still depend on the extended family structure mind you, and now more than ever; we just might not realise it.

Botswana Public Officers’ Pension Fund (BPOPF)

This one is really heart-breaking; how exactly does one explain stealing from one-self? I thought maybe we could hide behind a finger and claim the government money we steal is not ours; but stealing pension funds, how absurd! So! We steal from ourselves; how shameful! We are talking of money belonging to more than one hundred thousand people, the majority of whom are innocent, hardworking family men and women. In short we are talking of stealing directly from more than three hundred thousand people; that is a sixth of the population. Re bolaile sechaba! I keep saying we; yes it is us because we are as guilty as those with their hands in the cookie jar. We are not making the right noises and therefore we are as guilty as the real culprits.

I mentioned earlier that we still depend on the extended family structure and as such we need to factor in three or more people per “one” of the more than one hundred thousand plus directly affected and we are talking of more than a sixth of our population. Shameful, isn’t it? But here we are, silent as ever. These corrupt fellas take our silence as motivation. We should be making a lot of noise, this despite the legislation denying us the right to peaceful demonstration.

Geez! Fifty years on and we are still not allowed to go into the streets to protest, and it is as normal as going to sleep on an empty stomach, in a dark, little house without portable water! Yes! We are the real cheer leaders! Go on guys, loot the country, there is no one watching! I do not know, “gongwe re tshaba di-sjambok! A mme gone thupa ea bolaya?” On a serious note though, are we willing to subordinate our rights on the basis of fear of being beaten up? Are we willing to let a few individuals enrich themselves at the expense of more than two million people on the basis of fear? Come on!

This deafening silence is amazing and leads me to think that maybe we are all involved. Are we lurking in the shadows, to pounce, in the event that an opportunity presents itself? Or maybe, just maybe, from the extended family perspective, we all get kick-backs from this incessant corruption. I fail to understand how a people, robbed in broad day light, can afford to sit back and relax and think this milking of our economy will come to an end.

You see, corruption is like an infectious disease, it permeates society to a point where everyone is infected. It seems we might just get to that point, a point where every jack and jill is involved in corruption. I call upon you Batswana, let us stand up against corruption, that is, if we are not all involved. We cannot leave it to state machinery like the DCEC, they cannot fight it alone.

As if the above is not enough, our Chiefs are at it. I wrote in one of my past articles that our Members of Parliament (MPs) will soon be demanding luxury, chauffeured seven series BMWs. Before the ink has even dried on the paper, members of the House of Chiefs (Marara), are up in arms demanding chauffeured seven series BMWs. Come on guys! Where will the money come from? The above list represents roughly P12 billion of wasted/looted public funds and you want to add more to these losses. I have just enquired on the price of a brand new BMW seven series (P1.2 million), and from the top of my head we have roughly forty (40) members in the House of Chiefs. So! Our dear esteemed Marara want to take at least another P48 million from the public coffers, and for what, absolutely nothing!

I wish we could take ourselves more seriously. Where is the P48 million coming from? A total of 46 432 candidates sat for this year’s Primary School Leaving Examination, with a 99.9-% pass. Assuming they will all be admitted to Junior Secondary school, we are looking at nearly 50 000 pupils who will need classrooms, well paid and motivated caretakers (teachers, cleaners, cooks, etc., etc.), stationary and the like. Where do you think the money needed to take care of these poor fellas’ education will come from?

These are your very own children, your very own grand-children, ladies and gentlemen in the House of Chiefs, please think of them. It is required of you to be selfless. It is required of you to serve this nation, please be reasonable and stop comparing yourselves to Government Ministers. What will happen to this beautiful country and its humble people if everyone else wants to have what others have? If at least you had a reason for wanting luxury chauffeured cars, besides comparing yourselves to Government Ministers, I might just, just might, be on your side, not now! What value does a chauffeured BMW seven series add to the job you do? Absolutely nothing! You will still be expected to carry out your duties diligently even if you had to drive yourself to work in a “MaoFit”.

Some of us are working very hard to acquire such BMWs for ourselves, without asking the tax payer to foot the bill; why can’t you? Some of us are trying very hard not to be wasteful of public resources, because they belong to the future generation. Let us all, dear Batswana, strive to make this, our country, a bastion of selflessness. We have a future generation to think of. A generation of innocent children. Let us think of them!

Maxwell Mothapelaruri Moathudi writes from Selebi-Phikwe 

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Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022
piracy

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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Opinions

Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022
Craig-Cloud

Putin Chose War.  We Remain United with Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Craig L. Cloud

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient.

They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world.  The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.  By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.

When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.

United in Our Response

This will not end well for Vladimir Putin.  Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable.  As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.

President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology.  After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.

Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.

By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime.  In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.

We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military.  We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy.  And we are prepared to do more.

In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.

We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies.  President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.

He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.  Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.  There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world:  NATO is more united than ever.

The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies.  We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.

Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War

This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.

He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.

Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do.  We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas.  We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine.  We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.

Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there.  We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.

We have been transparent with the world.  We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up.  Putin is the aggressor.  Putin chose this war.  And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.

Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever

Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed.  In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity.  We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.

Putin has failed to divide us.  Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies.  And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.

The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine.  Putin has unleashed great suffering on them.  But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.

The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

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