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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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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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