Technical challenges linked with the procurement and distribution of set-top-boxes has undermined the much hyped analogue- to–digital migration in Botswana. Government is struggling to get companies to commit to selling and distribution the technology that will ensure that the migration is successful.
At the SADC-SABA Broadcasting Forum held in Windhoek, Namibia recently, Botswana decried the lack of locally produced content as one of the reasons why the digital migration is slow. But on the sidelines of the Forum it emerged that potential distributors of set-top-boxes had approached government for tax rebates and or discounts should they import the gadgets for later re-sale in Botswana because of the costs involved. However Government is not keen on the proposals.
Just recently Government put an advert on the Daily News publication urging companies with the capacity to order and sell set-top-boxes to raise their hands and get free advertising in all government media. It is understood that Government wants to launch Btv 2 but the challenge is – who will watch it, where? The view of insiders at Mass Media is that 9000 demonstration set-top-boxes cannot validate a television channel launch. The 9000 set-top-boxes are not sold anywhere in the country, they could only be found at Mass Media and were distributed by means of call in competitions.
Botswana is said to be also still battling issues of limited manufacturing or assembling capacity of Set Top Boxes (STBs), economic challenges, unfavourable terrain requiring gap fillers in many areas and inconsistent disbursements of funds for digital terrestrial television (DTT) migration. The Windhoek Forum also established SADC countries that have not yet migrated to (DTT) and are facing a lot of challenges ranging from a lack of finance, shortage of expert human resources and lack of attractive local content.
In the last session of parliament, the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Governance, Eric Molale revealed that his ministry had wished for set-top boxes to be produced locally. “We identified a number of young persons who have the suave to do things that relate to technology, Information Technology (IT) and the like. All the time when they were ready to start production, they then gave excuses. We are still encouraging more to come forward so that these set-top boxes are produced here, so that they can even be exported to other countries in Africa.”
The minister highlighted that that set-up would have led to the funds being retained locally. Botswana delegates at the forum also submitted that there was serious lack of local content to fill in the broadcasting space. Currently Botswana Television viewership continues to diminish in the wake of new entrant, Kwese. Previously Multi-choice and South African television networks dominated local viewership.
Although it was launched 17 years ago, BTV continues to be heavily criticised for its lack of content and recycling programmes. The television station is viewed as lacking entertaining content, particularly for the youth who make up 60% of the population. However, the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports & Cultural Development has been in the process of setting up a commercial, sports and entertainment channel, BTV 2.
Albeit digital migration went live in June 2015, the new channel which was expected to feature on the Digital Terrestrial televised set-top box together with the traditional Botswana Television 1 have yet to beam any content. Reportedly, neither channel has content to air. The main challenge for Btv 2 is how it will be accessed by the population because there appears to be a problem of set top boxes.
This publication also established that an amount of US$2.5 million (approx. 21 million pula) has been earmarked to assist local producers in creating programmes for sports viewership and entertainment documentaries and native films for the 2017/18 financial year. This will add to over 180 million pula which has already been used in the entire analogue to digital transformation 2 years ago.
Officials continue to be aggrieved by the slow pace at which the transition is effecting, so far, a lot of households still cannot get hold of set-top boxes; there are delays in the release of the digital dividend and there is continued use of analogue TV frequencies, especially by neighbouring countries, which officials say delays the release of the valuable DTT spectrum. At least 50% of Botswana households run on analogue transmitters while only a few consumers in urban areas have already received DTT on satellite, according to the department of broadcasting.
PROGRESS IN OTHER SADC COUNTRIES
Meanwhile other SADC countries are also facing an uphill battle in the transition process of analogue-to-digital migration. Malawi is among the only four SADC Member States, including Namibia, Tanzania and Mauritius who failed to successfully migrate from analogue to digital before the set deadline of 17 June 2015.
According to Zadziko Mankhambo, Broadcasting Manager at the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority’s (MACRA), Malawi like Botswana is facing inadequate local content challenges on all channels, low uptake of STBs due to economic challenges, unfavourable terrain requiring gap fillers in most areas, slow growth of the network in other areas and poor operating standards by some content service providers (CSPs).
Other challenges include delayed rollout affecting implementation of final Apps Store Optimisation (ASO) for the country, a capital intensive process, resulting in slow progress in all areas. “SABA should find ways of enhancing local content production in the region. There should be ways of stopping developed countries from dumping analogue equipment to developing countries,” stressed Mankhambo.
Swaziland was able to successfully switch off analogue transmitters on the 31 December 2016 following a successful migration process. The country is now working on the licensing process for Digital Dividend 1 and 2 spectra to telecommunications service providers for broadband applications and the process is expected to be completed by the end of 2017. â€¨Challenges for Swaziland include the low uptake of STBs attributed to perceived high prices of the boxes and the lack of attractive content on the DTT platform. The Swazi government has, however, subsidized the price of STBs to citizens. Other challenges include limited content (local content) to fill up the channels that have been made available by the DTT project.
Among SADC Member States, Namibia was the frontrunner in terms of digitalization and offered 70 percent of its population a digital TV signal before the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) deadline of June 2015. South Africa missed the June 2015 transition date but has brought in the participation of the private sector, telecommunication companies and broadcasters to help expedite the implementation rollout. “We are working on an aggressive project plan to expedite rollout,” said Wonder Dlangamandla, chief director of technology in the Department of Communication
He added that they aimed to complete STB rollout by December 2018. A lot of challenges exist for South Africa as the country has a huge land mass and challenging landscape of about 1.2 million square kilometres. There is an uneven population distribution with big concentrations around urban metros with diverse cultural and regional make-up; varying living standards measures (LSMs), varying commercial interests and a tough balancing act.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.