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Another alternative economic model is possible

DR COSMOS K. MOENGA
GUEST

 

The economic system or mode of production that dominates the contemporary world today is seldom called by its proper name.  We hear of the market economy or free enterprise system.  It is true that in all modern economies markets are critical and ubiquitous’ institutions nearly all aspects of production and distribution involve buying and selling, the activities that define markets.
 

The phrase free enterprise is still less informative.  Certainly not everyone is free to begin an economic enterprise, except in a completely abstract sense.  The economic system or mode of production that dominates the world today is capitalism.  It is not a very old mode of production, although debate rage, over how old it is and where it began.  Most historians believe that capitalism originated in what is today Western Europe.  The economic system it supplanted in Europe is known as feudalism which was land based mode of production centered around large agricultural estates called Manors. 


These Manors were controlled, though not owned in a modern capitalist sense, by a group of nobles and the work of growing food and producing everything else was done by force, the manner in which feudalism collapsed and capitalism arose is complex and a matter of considerable disagreement among scholars. However, we can make four general comments on what is called the transition from feudalism to capitalism, which occurred roughly from fifteenth to the nineteenth century. First, as capitalism developed the feudal manors gradually became private property, in the modern sense that the property could be sold and no social obligations went along with its ownership.
 

Second, as land was transformed into property a new class of persons with no access to property was created.  This landless class was the working class and its members were able to live only by selling their ability to work, their labour power to those who did own property.  Third creation of both private property and working class was everywhere accompanied, indeed made possible by massive force and violence.  Serfs had to be compelled to give up their long standing right to use land.  The more powerful class of property owners either used direct violence against serfs or secured the power of newly created central government to do their dirty work. 
 

Often times, government, enacted laws that amounted to legal coercion.  Before capitalism, serfs had the right to use manors common land, those parts of the manors not planted with crops and often used to gather firewood and water or hunt and trap animals. In the interest of property owners, governments enacted laws that converted common land into private property and made the use of land by non owners a crime, sometimes punishable by death.  A peasant who formerly had trapped animals for food on the common land might now be hanged for doing so.
 

Fourth and of great importance capitalist economies were from the beginning expansionary from English, Holland, France and the other early capitalists nation, capitalism began to spread around the globe. Michael D. Yates is right to argue the capitalism was born in theft and would not have been possible without it. Simply, stated those who are interested in capitalist mode of production want to steal. Today this theft is carried out through multinational co-operations. After the collapse the Soviet Union, Western propaganda machinery was all over informing the world that socialism has failed.      
 

What their handlers deliberately hide from them is the fact that it took North America three hundred (300) years of free slave labour to be so rich and is still stealing natural resources from African, Middle east and Asia to grow its economy. Did socialism really fail? Although this is a discussion for another time, Socialism as Nyerere has rightly argued is an attitude of mind, like capitalism is an attitude.  An attitude never dies! We shall always have people with capitalists’ attitudes and Socialists attitudes of minds. 
 

What happed was the collapsed of the union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) scholars differs on factors which led to the collapsed of the USSR but agree on three main ones, namely first economic and psychological war waged by capitalist countries against the USSR. Secondly, lack of ownership of personal properties like houses and third lack of freedom to travel.  My argument which is the subject of this paper is that there is a third way for economic development.  And this third way can borrow what is required from capitalism and also from socialism. 
 

 This anti-greed economic system is African and Christian.  This system should replace consumer economy of market with the anti-greed economy of sharing.  When I grew up as an African Child, I knew what belong to the family belong to us all. And a family here I am talking among more than fifty or even more, bo malome, bo rakgadi, bo mangwane, ditlogolo, bo  nkuku, jalo jalo. Sharing is in our DNA as Africans because we belong to one family.
 

Ka Setswana, Bangwato ke bo ntsala Bakgatla, Balete ke bo ntsala Bahurutshe.  Bayei ke bo ntsala Basarwa, Baherero ke bo ntsala Bambukushu, Batawana ke ditlogolo tsa Bakwena, Bangwaketsi ke bo ntsala Barolong.  Setswana sare motho ga nke a tima ntsalae! Gape sare setlogolo ntsha ditlhogo! Sera ngwana malome nnyala gore kgomo di boele sakeng!  All these are source of our anti-greed economic of sharing.
 

From a Christian point of view, Christ teaching is the source of anti-greed economic system.  The story on Mark 10:17-22 says it all.“A man ran up to him, and asked, Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?  And Jesus said to him why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” you know the commandments:                                                                                                    
 

Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother, and he said to him, teacher all these I have kept since I was a boy and  Jesus said to him you lack one thing.  Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor and you have treasure in heaven and come follow me. At this word the man’s face fell and he went away sad because he had great wealth.  For us in Botswana who live in a society where conspicuous consumption is a sign of status and is believed to be the source of all well being, this story of Mark can be a profoundly disturbing text. 

 

You lack one thing Go, sell offers everything you have and give to the poor.  In doing this Jesus as Fernando Belo points out, the young rich Messianic reading of his practice.  Here, the ethic of the law he has been following is found to be inadequate. Leaving/following are the dialectically related negative and positive moments of the appropriate response every call to follow Jesus.  Jesus invites us to leave the security offered by wealth, status or achievement to trust solely in God’s providential care. 
 

This risk the young man is unable to take his inability comes from his attachment to money and comfort, status and security it brings.  It is the outcome of a system which has instilled and which continues to nourish it.  A Belo put it: the dominant codes of his society and ours have gained the upper hand over him. Jesus does not say go and give them blankets or diphapha.  He says go and sell everything you have and give to the poor not what you have been given by the business community but sell what you have and give to the poor!
 

What we need is not only the socialists or capitalists attitudes but ant-greed attitude.  The anti-greed attitude which Jesus requires is an expression of trust in the unique good way of God, to which Jesus refers in the very first words he speaks in the story, no one is good except God alone (10.17). Such an anti-greed attitude is nourished by a concern for the poor.  Jesus’ option for the poor, conspicuous in his life and teaching – for his life we know, was lived out in a progressive identification with the needy and the out cast, an on going journey from the centre to the periphery cross, beyond which no further movement was possible, for Jesus, was here locally outcast and wholly poor.
 

The Christians ethos is an ethos of anti-greed.  The African ethos is an ethos of anti-greed.  In my view it is not enough to say as Rre Ntuane always want to remind us that BDP is a member of socialists international or what Rre Moetsi Monwasa always tell the nation that UDC has adopted a social democratic programme.  What Batswana want to see now is concrete realities, a change of mind set, a paradigm shift, a new way of doing things.
 

There is a need for change of mind. Fear of change and loss is not necessarily a response that gives proof of people natural conservatives for in spite of the unemployment many people have found within consumers capitalism real relief from an older poverty. This  predisposes them to look upon the system as progressive, and they are the more inclined to accept its version of common sense , its logic in pursuit of ends which unlike, perhaps, at earlier time. The system has not been slow to make advantage of this more general public acceptance of the exigencies of capital.
 

The most argent purpose of any real alternative must be to demonstrate the necessity of disengagement from these processes, and in such a way that it can be slow to be not impoverishment or loss, but liberation. For we are dealing with what Rudolf Bahoro has called the occupied regions of our consciousness.
 

What does this means is that we must liberate ourselves from the chains of wealth. To think that without wealth we are nothing, otherwise we shall continue to accumulate wealth at the expense of others and we remain greedy. And even if we give others diphaphata and give ourselves aeroplanes we are not ashamed because part of consciousness has been occupied by greediness. 
 

The first step in this direction is for all leaders, starting from Councilors, members of parliament, central committee member of all parties to declare their assets and liabilities and most importantly declaration of all gifts which are more than one hundred pula. What Batswana don’t like to see is BDP rule beyond October 2019, or UDC to win and Batswana losses.
 

Batswana must win not BDP or UDC in 2019.  Batswana must be given a chance to debate about their future.  We are talking about our lives, our country and the future of generation to come, so we got nothing to fear.  People should know that we are here not to do anybody any favour but our country. The under informed and misinformed African leaders think that capitalism is God created system and to opposites it is to oppose God’s will, and thus other systems cannot work.  They are told that capitalism is the solution, a key to prosperity.

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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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