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Don’t antagonize the unemployed!

Dear Mma Majelantle,

Before 17,7%   lie becomes the truth, please take a moment to realize the office that you represent and that I, among the masses of the unemployed who will hold you accountable.

Hypothetically speaking, does it mean that this trend will be observed every year, say it becomes 14% in 2018, then 11%  in 2019, wow, that will be a stretch! As to what informs this trend is the Mmamashia ghost mystery we will never know. My concern is; if we fail to acknowledge the fact that Ipelegeng has no place in the just released statistics; then we have a serious problem.  We cannot allow for your statistical perceptions to become part of our reality. It is wrong to entertain “alternative facts” here. Alternative reality can be dangerous in the long run, especially if the hypocritical lie is pervasively preached in place of the real truth. You could be treading on thin ice here when your professional integrity can be questioned by the public.

I guess you wouldn’t understand when a woman queuing after you at the shop counter is holding minced bones for dogs under the guise that she is going to feed her dogs. I also assume that it’s been a while since you had “menoto” as part of your radish, right?. Well, ma’am, for us, it’s part of our daily reality As a graduate, and a son of a domestic housekeeper, I believe I’m in my rightful place to speak my heart. Sadly her dream to see her seemingly educated” children live fulfilling lives is still a farfetched given that we hardly have enough to buy groceries at the end of the month. The scenario of waking up next to your younger siblings holding a degrees is a common reality these days.

The government programs which we were asked to enroll for have not got us anywhere, be it internship, tirelo sechaba. The worst thing is that we have not had an honest talk over these issues with the key stakeholders because of fear being reprimanded. We are mostly sanctioned over what we should say and how we should say it, and that is the problem. Most Batswana have been witness to the roll out of ESP, diamond story/diamond beneficiation schemes which are no longer part of everyone’s conversations these days. Are we ever going hold ourselves to be a countable for the national projects that have been mismanaged in the past? Which leads to believe that the rich will keep getting richer while the poor will keep on poorer.

I am so gravely disappointed in the way you continuously turn a blind eye to the reality of the unemployed youth, and now you have conjured up some glossy figures to make it look as if Botswana is performing above par. As to why you have concocted those figures, I may never know. Sadly, I do qualify within the morphed 17,7%   category. If this figure reflected the atmosphere in Botswana, maybe it would have been worth it parade it to your employer or the international arena. However, I’m very skeptical as the figure stands. Figures aside, mma, let me tell you, the experiences of most young people, especially graduates. We have to bust tables in restaurants and retail shops, endure long hours only to get paltry pay at the end of the month end.

The fancy degrees can’t do much because they can only go as far as getting the trappings of what the employer can give. Most economists will tell you that the current minimum wage in which we are supposed to get by is unsustainable like Ipelegeng. This is in consideration of the rent, utilities, and other monthly expenses one has to deal with on a monthly basis.   It’s was not by choice that we settled for such low paying jobs. This is the grim reality among the youth that I interact with at the department of Labour hoping for a “messiah” to rescue them from the desperate hunger just to give them a P50 piece job. Guess what, these people are not stupid as your office may want to imply, they are university graduates. They converge at the Department of labour just to be hopeful, not that they are awaiting their dream job.

The one thing they already know thus far is that they have succumbed to the reality that the dream jobs are already occupied in these offices and there is no “deadwood employee” who will voluntarily make way for a university graduate. It’s a struggle just to go around asking people for jobs these days. By the way, have you ever observed the lawlessness that is brewing in the streets lately? You can only count yourself lucky if you don’t get mugged stepping outside your yard. Remember; this is a group of youth that is angry, hungry and frustrated, and it is proving difficult to control crime these days.

Now stepping away from that reality, here are my concerns about the statistics that you released on Tuesday. I may not understand the justification for qualifying Ipelegeng as some form of formal employment other than a temporary government relief program. Your office tried that last year, in which you concluded that the unemployment figure stood over 20%   and we dismissed you for a joke and now you want to go back and introduce Ipelegeng as part of the instruments in assessing the level of unemployment in Botswana. I am ashamed of myself for letting you get away with the ill-advised justification last year by including Ipelegeng as part of the formal employment, and now you have it reflected in the current statistics. This ill-informed survey cannot become a reality in the day and age.

We can’t let you get away this time. You among other academics may understand that Ipelegeng is unsustainable as one (if lucky) is employed for just a month on rotational basis. In densely populated areas, it can take you more than 6 months because all the Ipelegeng hopefuls are subjected to a raffle or “khupelekhupele” as they are called in kgotla, so one is guaranteed to secure their job only for that month. Trust me, I have been through the Ipelegeng system, and sometimes you can wait your luck for a year. The other issue is the social security benefits that come along as part of the temporary employment program. The last consultative gathering in April by ILO, hosted by Business Botswana indicated that Ipelegeng is ill advised, and this program was vehemently criticized by Dr Jeffries.

What they have also alluded to is the fact even the most employed Batswana do not have safety cushions after they retire because there is no pool of finance to provide this group with social security. Exceptions can be made for those working for bigger companies, but most SMEs would mostly tell you that business is not doing well, hence they cannot afford to make gratuity pay outs for their outgoing employees. So for a lot of the productive age groups, who are either employed as Ipelegeng beneficiaries or those holding piece jobs, it can be realized that most families rely on the breadwinners for their dear survival. In a family of 5, the eldest breadwinner can support both the parents and the siblings, leaving little for him or her at the end of the month, for contributing to their social security.

The last time, I checked, Ipelegeng beneficiaries, walk away with nothing. Which brings me to the one last question, since the program can only absorb less than 60 at a go for that month, how do you justify the mass that is not absorbed for employment that month, because I can assure you, they are many. I’m appalled by the lack of social conscious displayed by your office when the unemployment issue is sensitive for most youth graduates. It should be understood that unemployment is rife across the globe, so this is no talking point here, and this has nothing to do with the BDP government, nor the opposition. The reality is that unemployment is here to stay and we really need to address it, and the only way we can do that is by properly designing research frameworks, assigning relevant areas scope to which you make assessments as well as testing that hypothetical theories so that research case does not become questionable.

Mma Statistician, please get the basics right, no organization, such as International Labour Organisation (ILO), with the lose definition of “unemployed” can substitute for the reality on the ground. Let’s get define the issues for what they are, and then address them appropriately. Just to be fair, the skills mismatch has been some of the issues that can be brought to light by the Ministry of Education and the Human Resource Development Council, and I will be the first to admit that the education system needs a serious revamp.  As far as dusting off those figures to suit the government or those who will govern after 2019, I will implore you to release appropriate figures we can work with. The bottom line is that I’m not going anywhere, much less is my lack of employment.

I will be awaiting for you to tell us what influenced this significant drop especially that the mining industry took a nose dive in 2015/16 followed by massive retrenchments by other industries such as banks, utility companies, and mind you this has the same ripple effect on the small businesses and auxiliary industries. Even those that have been queuing up for the Gender Affairs fund these days hoping to get funded for their projects have had it tough as the department is still assessing the previous proposals. As the head of the office that has the power to influence policy and decision makers across government, private sector, please be candid, and as painstakingly uncomfortable as it is, let’s call out raw figures as they are and  announce them for what they represent.

Mothusi is a concerned unemployed youth

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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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The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

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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Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022

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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