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Can Cyril Mend Fences?

The ANC is riddled with factional fissures that threaten its stability and prospects for yet another tilt at Mahlamba Ndlopfu. Is Ramaphosa its redeemer? BENSON C SAILI provides a perspective.

It is one of the most bilious and spiteful facial innuendoes ever captured by a video lensman. If looks can indeed kill, then this one qualifies by the truckload. When Cyril Ramaphosa, 65,  was announced as the new ANC President, Jacob Zuma frowned, glowered, scowled, pouted, pulled a face, pursed his lips, turned the corners of his mouth down. Practically every hint of rancour in the book competed for a slot on his now seamed but still telegenic face while those noxious seconds ticked away. If there was such a thing as giving somebody a black look, that was very much it.

But that was what we saw with the naked eye. What was going on in his mind as he trained such an obviously churlish and disapproving eye at his No. 2 who is now No. 1 in the ANC structures and No. 1 designate in the structures of government? Was it a foretaste of his own medicine that he self-seekingly administered to Thabo Mbeki when he staged that famous palace coup of September 2008? If only we could read minds!  

It is no secret that Zuma was rooting for a woman first president of the ANC not that he has that much regard for the honour, dignity, and psychosocial peace of women.  He has married six times, impregnated the daughter of a close friend, and raped yet another daughter of a deceased comrade-in-arms because she came into his presence, so he said, wrapped in a kanga, which to him was a tacit invitation to bed her.  To him, women are no more than chattels, a mere means to satiate an end of sorts, which Nkosazana Dhlamin-Zuma apparently has been of late, and not to genuinely and impassionedly  love.

Nkosazana as we all know is  Zuma’s ex-wife, his third.  He was married to her from 1982 to 1998.  Zuma, who has 22 official children and as a atypically virile 75-year-old counting, has four children with Nkosazana, 68, meaning the two retain a tangible and enduring bond. Recently, they entered into a political marriage which was consummated when Zuma closed ranks with her as his  preferred future president of the Republic of South Africa.

If the truth may be told, Nkosazana was nudged to contest by Zuma, or Zuma’s children with Nkosazana, on behalf of Zuma. Why?  Because in her, Zuma saw his insurance policy against possible, in fact likely, prosecution once he constitutionally stepped down in 2019. With those 783 counts of corruption and fraud ticked against him on the rap sheet, I can swear by Gerrie Nel that at least one will stick fast, like Super Glue, and land him smack-bang behind bars for a lengthy stretch. That, folks, is the reason why Zuma threw his hat into the ANC presidential ring in the guise of Nkosazana and why he eyed Cyril with such glaring malice aforethought at the Nasrec Conference Centre.  

MANDELA’S BLESSINGS FRUCTIFY AT LONG LAST

Addressing the press the day after an election in which only one woman made it in the Top Six of the ANC echelons, ANC Women’s League President Batlabile Dlamini lashed out at the continued patriarchy within the 105-year-old party. She regretted that Kaizana OR Tambo, to whom the 54th National ANC conference was dedicated, must be turning in his grave to this virtual misogyny. Kaizana had in his gentle, mild-mannered way lobbied for women to be put on an equal footing as men in the ANC.   

Maybe Dlamini had a point, but what she overlooked was that there was another departed icon who unlike Kaizana must have been wreathed in smiles from the great beyond for a result that mattered the most at Nasrec. This was Nelson Mandela. It is common knowledge that Cyril was Madiba’s No. 1 choice for the post of vice president and therefore future president when he himself had rode off into the sunset. Madiba had a lot of question marks about Thabo Mbeki’s political rectitude but the factor that principally disposed him toward Cyril was his being a non-Xhosa, whereas he and Thabo both were Xhosas. Mandela was wary that the body politic might view the ANC as a Xhosa fiefdom.  Yet it was not his own rethink that made him sideline Cyril in the final analysis:

it was the powerful voice of the so-called Exiles, who had taken on the apartheid government from the trenches. The Internals, who were rallying communities largely behind the United Democratic Front (UDF) and Cosatu and to whom Cyril belonged, were not seen as having been pivotal enough to the struggle to take pride of place in the corridors of power.

In the event, the political leap forward for which Cyril had poised himself did not materialise, outmanouvered as he was by the shrewder and more calculating  political opponent that was Thabo. Cyril, who was the ANC secretary-general at the time, was so miffed by his losing out to Thabo that he boycotted Madiba’s inauguration ceremony as president in 1994. Ordinarily, that should have politically alienated him from Madiba, but the president took the snub in his stride and even courted Cyril with the foreign affairs portfolio, which Cyril declined so irrevocably disaffected was he.    

That,  now, is water under the bridge. Madiba must have beamed from ear to ear from his perch in the hereafter when Cyril was handed what is without doubt his greatest Xmas present ever at Nasrec. The parcel, however, can only be unwrapped in 2019 and even as many expect it turns out to be the key to   Mahlamba Ndlopfu, the official residence for the South African president,  will it be the magic wand with which Cyril could reinvent the ANC and mould it into a cohesive and harmonious whole? Is Cyril the party’s long-awaited breath of fresh air since the halcyon days of Madiba the Great?

WOULD CYRIL RECALL ZUMA?

There’s no shortage of cynics who aver that with his election to the helm of Africa’s oldest party, Cyril has been handed a poisoned chalice given the factional fault lines that rage within it. That the party is so worryingly polarised was evidenced by the fact of the Top Six, who effectively run the party, being split crisply down the middle. Tony Leon’s barb of a tweet that, “A House Divided Cannot Stand: 3 against state capture versus  3 captured” spoke volumes on this comedy of strange bedfellows.

The captured ones (that is, those infected with the highly venomous Gupta bug and who are fanatically pro-Msholozi) are David Mabuza (Deputy President), Ace Magashule (Secretary-General) and Jessie Duarte  (Deputy Secretary-General). They hail  from the Nkosazana  camp. It does not bear emphasising that the three will exercise significant sway over the NEC’s  decisions.  They are certain to be the maverick executives sworn to see to it that the Cyril camp’s constructive designs to take drastic steps to burnish the image of the party through,  for example,  recalling  the catastrophically corrupt Zupta, are thwarted at every turn.    

To unite  the party, Cyril will have to tread a fine line between pandering to the agenda of either side of the factional divide. The problem is that in order  to radically reformat the ANC and endear it to the broader electorate, Cyril will have to cauterise it of its multiple tumours, which entails spearheading decisive action against the Guptas and upending the system of patronage and clientelism that is abroad in the land. That he cannot do without withdrawing  Zuma from the presidency given that he will be under pressure to demonstrate that he is made of sterner stuff, that he has what it takes to apply shock therapy to restore the country’s long-lost glory. That,  sadly, he cannot do with a neck-and-neck mix of the party’s top-brass.     

Cyril not only  has been presented a poisoned chalice for sure: he’s between Scylla and Charybdis, teetering  precariously between a rock and a hard place. Maybe it is the main reason he shed tears when he was declared the new ANC president as he cut a ponderous figure on the rostrum.

CYRIL’S BLACK MARKS


Coming into the Nasrec contest,  Cyril Ramaphosa had the support of that rarest of all alliances – business, labour,  and the South African Communist Party. It is not that  he was the ideal candidate: he was simply the lesser of the two devils vying for the top job. That Cyril has far from won the hearts of South African was laid bare by the wafer-thin margin by which he edged Nkosazana – only 179 votes.

For all  I care, Nkosazana is hardly electable material. She has no charisma, no glittering  accomplishments to her name as a former minister or head of the African Union Mission, and is far from a rousing speaker. Yet she took a charismatic, well-spoken, and politically stellar opponent that is Cyril if his role in  crafting the constitution of a democratic South Africa is anything to go by right to the wire.

Cyril’s ineradicable stain, which still haunted many  of the delegates at Nasrec, was Marikana. To some people, Marikana has become his middle name.  The spectre  of the Marikana massacre, in which 34 striking mines were shot dead by the police on August 16 2012,  has hovered over Cyril ever since, being a director in Lohmin, the company that owns the mine. The day before the massacre, Cyril had sent emails to the mine management describing the strike as a “dastardly criminal act”, this coming from a former secretary-general of the National Union of Mineworkers. To his detractors,  therefore, Cyril was effectively culpable in the ensuing shootings.

Cyril also has his share of ideological naysayers, who receive him as a capitalist first and foremost and a politician only secondarily. According to the highly respected US-based magazine, Forbes, Cyril has a net worth of just under R6 billion having benefitted from the talismanic Black  Economic Empowerment programme. As much a as he reportedly taps into this wealth to  assist in redressing the plight of the need, he has also been panned for  flaunting it.    For example, he once placed a R18 million bid for a buffalo, a gesture which drew howls of outrage from the masses.  

EYE OF THE NEEDLE FOR CYRIL?

 At Nasrec though, it was not only Cyril who had loads of unsavoury political baggage. David Mabuza presides over a private army in his native province of Mpumalanga. Magashule has been described by the National Education‚ Health and Allied Workers Union as “the Robert Mugabe of the ANC” for his penchant for despotism as the Free State’s ANC chairman, not to mention his shady associations with the villainous Guptas.

Duarte has been expressly implicated in the Gupta scandals. It is a pity that in Africa, we vote on the basis of regionalism, palm greasing, and sheer  blind loyalty as opposed to objective, well-thought-through criteria. In the more archetypal and politically savvy democracies, hardly any of the faces of the Top Six would have featured on the ballot paper.  

Meanwhile, in the chatter over the Nasrec results, it was EFF’s deputy Floyd Chimbavu’s tweet that momentarily transfixed me. It said, “It will  be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for you (Cyril) to become president.” Will Zuma mount a spectacular rally and a uncork an explosive  punch that will send Cyril down for the full count? Will he somewhat scupper Cyril’s prospects to replace him at Mahlamba Ndlopfu?

Once when Julius Malema was a vociferous Zuma imbongi, he repeatedly served notice that he and fellow youth leaguers  were prepared to kill for Zuma. Is there someone among   Zuma’s legions of  acolytes who has a similar mindset? Watch your back Cyril. This is not to mention your food, your movements vehicularly,  and your airspace jaunts.  Despite Marikana, I still hold you in reasonable esteem. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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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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