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“Architects Shun their New Law”

GOITSEMODIMO MANOWE

I have many questions that demand answers!

Who are these self-proclaimed “architects” in Botswana, the WeekendPost keeps on writing about who are in growing acrimony with the Architects’ Registration Council (ARC)? Why is their identity concealed, what are their academic credentials? Are they registered professionals and how many of them? Does the writer have proof that they are registered and are entitled to be called architects? Does she or he have vested interest?

When did these “architects” wake up to the reality that regulation is here and start organising to critique a piece of legislation that is nearly 10 years old? Surely it cannot be the more than 190 architectural professionals (list increasing) who currently appear on the register produced by the ARC and have found it fitting for their credentials to be accredited by the body established by an Act of Parliament. Yet the WeekendPost makes it seem like this is so- architects shunning their own law! Really?

 From the content of this article, the writer of the WeekendPost is incapable of comprehending the all-important difference between individuals masquerading as architects and those legitimately entitled by law to call themselves, practice and hold themselves as such.  Would the writer, for an example, call anybody challenging the relevant Act and not registered by the Health Professions Council in Botswana, a doctor? Why is the Weekend Post according those few individuals the credibility and legitimacy they don’t deserve? What happened to the questionnaire produced by the Weekend Post, on the same issues, that the ARC happily answered long ago and when will it be published for the benefit of the public?

The writer goes on: “It has come to the attention of this publication that excessive powers have been vested in the Architects’ Registration Council”. Precisely what powers does this Act give to the ARC that are excessive and different from those given to other similar regulatory bodies like the Engineers’ Registration Board (ERB), the Quantity Surveyors’ Registration Council (QSRC) or Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountant (BICA) for example?  Prior to regulation, engineering technicians were masquerading and practicing as professional engineers, nurses as doctors, accounting technicians as accountants, etc.

They no longer do and there are regulatory bodies to protect the integrity of those professions, in the national interest. Why should architecture be any different? If this is a mistake, then God forbid, the country must revisit all its laws regulating such professions. Why are we not hearing of a ridiculous argument, in the papers, that a nurse is to be permitted to act as a doctor simply because she or he has donkey years of experience and there is no record of a person who has died under their care when there was a shortage of doctors in the country and there was no Health Professionals Act? Should engineering technicians (not registered for that matter) be clamoring to be treated equally to professional engineers?
 

Would that be in the national interest? It would be interesting to know which stadium or hospital project in Botswana has been successfully implemented under the professional oversight, supervision and contract administration of a technician let alone a draftsperson? The ARC would be very interested in concrete examples.

Price fixing: Just how can price fixing (assuming he or she means lack of competition) exists where there is room for fee bidding. Fact: The framework that regulates the delivery of architectural service is available, to ensure value-for-money and to eliminate undercutting at fees that cannot sustain proper professional service, allows for competitive fee offers. Like with the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, such competitive fee offers must still be evaluated to determine if they are rational, because there comes a point where a competitive fee offer cannot result in value-for-money and may directly result in short-cuts in the delivery of professional services to the detriment of the client. The self-proclaimed architects obviously do not have a clue about the said framework and how the ethics of the profession work.

What the proponents of this misinformation about “price fixing” really want is a situation where a self-proclaimed technologist could continue to undercut an architect and claim, to an unsuspecting and innocent client, the ability to offer the same quality of service at a cheaper price. That is not value-for-money and that is not in the public interest! In that connection, public interest is not always and simply that of a client or owner of a building. It is also the interest of end-users and national interest regarding occupational health, safety, environmental issues, etc-things that the lowest fee does not always or necessarily guarantee, especially in a commercial environment.

The article on monopoly: Are there not enough draftspersons, technologists or architects in this country to compete amongst themselves such that this would create monopoly of architectural services by any group or category? What is wrong with competition exclusively between individuals of the same qualifications, professional standing and competency levels as in medicine, law, engineering and accounting, for example?

Is this not the foundation for our own Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act? What precisely is wrong with the provision, in the Act, to standardize the tariff of fees that is cost-based, like in Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, and many other countries in order to maximize competition on merit (maximize value for money) and where there is an option to that tariff table and for clients to invite competitive fee offers based on hourly rates, as the tariff provides? Does this law prevent competition between draftspersons or technologists at the exclusion of architects where building size and complexity is within the expected and established competency levels of such professionals?

The answer to this question, and for the knowledge of the general public, is a big NO! Is a draftsperson as competent as a technologist or architect? Is this the logic? Here readers can judge for themselves! How has the internationally adopted principle of alignment of the duty of care and skill to levels of training and qualifications, in any profession, ever impacted negatively on the economy of any country and society, and which country serves as an example? Is this not the principle that underpins the national qualifications framework, here in Botswana and elsewhere?

The article on fees for direct appointment; Fact: In terms of the current tariff, a building costing P180,000 or less would attract a fee, for the entire service from inception to end of construction on site (i.e. 7 work-stages in total), of P13, 302-75 to be precise. The portion of this fee, up and including submission to Town or City Council would be P5,321-10, and the client is under no obligation to appoint anyone for the entire service and need not do so. But then why would any client take this route, at all, if one can pay only P2,629-00 to a draftsperson for 8-hour work, up to and including technical documentation (all stages prior to construction documentation; stages 1 & 4) based on hourly rates, as the tariff provides, and seeing that an architect or technologist is not necessary, for that small building, and partial services may be selected? Is this not comparable to what people have been paying all along, by selecting the services and professionals they really need and can afford and omitting the rest? Let us be serious: how, then, has this tariff (both project cost and time based) negatively affected affordable housing, driven up costs, impoverished the ordinary Motswana or denied the public access to architectural services?

Who is misleading who, and is this not deliberate misinformation for personal gain and hidden agenda- the true agenda and open secret being that self-proclaimed technologists who have, by default, been practicing as architects should automatically be declared as such and draftspersons somehow also get dragged into the argument to help the cause? The Act permits anybody with the requisite knowledge and skill to apply for any category of registration. If such people possess the qualifications to register and practice as architects, why have they not come forward to apply for registration in that category?

Titles of degrees or diplomas are not important- the self-proclaimed professionals know that but would rather mislead the public to believe that they are competent and do not have to be subjected to the rigour of regulation. The public must believe that a draftsperson or someone just a notch above does not need oversight on large and complex projects. The public is also made to believe that a person trained over a period of 3 years of study (entry level for technologist) and sometimes through a City and Guilds diploma program deserves equal recognition to a degree holder from UB who has gone through 5 years of full time study; – soon to become 6 years. That is simply preposterous and a threat to the integrity of the profession.

Representation in the ARC: It is claimed that there in not enough public representation and the Architects Association of Botswana (AAB) is conflicted. Fact: The Act provides, to some degree, and not for wholesale self-regulation. Any institute that represents the majority of architectural professionals (architectural draftspersons and architectural technologists included), i.e. those registered by the ARC and recognized as professionals, elects 4 members to the Council. All that a rival institute has to do is prove that their membership outnumbers that of the one currently represented. The Minister (a public representative) appoints 2 members, one of whom does not have to be an architectural professional.

The Human Resource Development Council (a public body) appoints 1 member. The Department of Building and Engineering Services (yet another public organization) has representation in the form of an ex-officio member. How much more can this become public and democratic? The WeekendPost story will be more interesting and beneficial to the nation if the host of questions above are answered and facts stated cleanly disputed.

Goitsemodimo S. Manowe is a registered and seasoned practicing architect. he is the founding Chairperson of the Architects’ Registration Council.  He writes in his personal capacity.

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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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