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Who are the real law – makers in society?

KUNGWENGWE STAR CHARLES

Whose interest does this law serve? (PART 1)

On the 31st of December 2008 the Botswana Government hurriedly passed the controversial Media Practitioners Law (Act),a law which journalists fear(ed) has the potential of restricting their DUTIES in the sense that before commencing  work ,journalists are mandated to first obtain the consent of the new Media Council. The latter organ is a Government body which has power to impose fine and, even jail terms!, on journalists who (have) violated ‘standards’ such as failure to register. Strangely, Parliament, on behalf of the electorate, had asked for amendments, and had expected to discuss them in its Committees, for fine-tuning But the Government hastily enacted this media Bill into Law.


The questions to ask then are: Whose law is this and whose interest does it serve?. Who voted for this Bill, in the first instance, and who is Government in this context?: The Executive? Another sickening development is that ,though a relic of the Dark Ages or Early Middle Ages(6th -14th centuries),witchcraft is real in all countries and cultures alike, and this  is a common truth that is universally acknowledged, yet we have the Witchcraft Suppression Act in most jurisdictions(see S.A. Act 3 of 1957) ,an Act that has just been repealed  in  countries like  Zimbabwe  and Zambia and which makes it criminal for one to ‘accuse’ another person of being a witch! Are people really being sincere when making laws?


This writer repeats, for emphasis’ sake, that the above observation leaves everyone CONFUSED regarding the questions: Who really makes the law? and Whose interests does the law serve? Another alternative question is ‘Who determines the Nature and or Content of the Law?  We all along thought the Law iswas a product of people‘s initiative, through their elected representatives, and should therefore be people-centric. But if this were the case why are people usually ignorant or always mourning and grief-stricken concerning the existence of most Laws? Shading crocodile tears, I suppose!


(Note that the setting of this topic is mainly Africa ,though a comparative analysis with countries  drawn from other regions elsewhere will be made whenever necessary .Also note that Africa ,in general ,is neither Communist nor Capitalist  but a compromise of between these two extremes ,that is ,Socialist. Also bear in mind that this LAW in question has a strong bias towards LEGISLATION).


Similarly, we have such pieces of legislation as the infamous Public Order (and Security) Act (P.O.A. and P.O.S.A, respectively) in both Botswana and Zimbabwe and this law criminalizes the so-called violent demonstrations and other similar activities plus gives the police much powers. No doubt, that law is unconstitutional.  Additionally , there is a provision ,awaiting amendment, in the Zimbabwean Criminal Reform and Codification Act  of 2004 that allows a girl of mere 12 years to give consent to sexual intercourse(Section 64) ,a provision that is not only unconstitutional (see section 78 (1)of Zimbabwean Constitution )but contra bonores mores as well.

 

Which people, in their normal senses, would ever subscribe to the crafting of such laws which are not people friendly at all and which negate their culture? How about pieces of legislation which take away the powers of parents ,guardians and teachers ,while acting in loco-parentis, alike, to exercise the right of chastisement over a deviant child in a bid to instil a sense of moral values in(to) him?. And the concept of an all-powerful President? 

 

Lately we have seen the introduction of  Statutory Instrument  64 of 2016 of the same country ,a law that disallows the import of products which are locally available at a time when the economy is on its knees and almost all Zimbabweans are always seen swarming into neighbouring countries, like bees around a flower, to buy cheap items ,particularly clothes, known as mabhero ,to trade back home and eke out a living.

 

Even ,if for argument’s sake ,our constitutions condoned such draconian laws ,it would be a valid comment to assert that the Rule of law is there ,given that the powers- that-be would be drawing their authority from the law , but minus the spirit of Constitutionalism ,of course , that demands that an ideal  Constitution must provide for a minimum standard of human rights. More so ,this is the Natural Law versus Positivist Legal Philosophy.


Surely one does not need a ghost of Shakespearean tragedies to come and announce that the above laws protect the interests of a certain group of people. In the case of Statutory Instrument  64 ,for example, the law protects the businesses  of only a few pot-bellied bourgeoisie ,whose bums are always kissing the hypnotizing seats of luxurious ,State- of –the- art  ,vehicles ,and at the expense of the poor majority. These flawed laws are nothing but just a ‘microcosm of the macrocosm’


In the article entitled’ The Role of the Judges’ (see a copy of the Botswana WeekendPost dated 19 October 2015) Kungwengwe Star Charles  argues that ,contrary to the doctrine of Separation of Powers in which it is the Legislature that has the sovereign power to make ,repeal or amend the law, it is in practice Judges who make that law. They do this through ‘mis’interpreting statutes and therefore end up creating their own law, law never envisaged by Parliament.

 

The other implications are that the law reflects judges’ interests and that Judges use wrong premises (misinterpreted law) and ,on that basis, misjudge cases. In this article, however, this writer has a shift in thought and mostly blames the Executive for usurping these powers. The writer will go out of his way to briefly focus lenses on the Legislative process, which is a series of actions that must be taken before a law is formulated and considered, refined and approved by a competent Government body in order to be valid and have the force of law.


Judges also make law, judge-made law, through the doctrine of stare decisis et non queta movere (precedent) in which judgments on previous cases are binding on subsequent cases in future provided the circumstances are similar. But what really is Law? Though the term is quiet fluid, does not have a universally accepted definition, it can loosely be defined as a set of norms or rules which regulates human conductbehaviour. These rulesorms are ‘uniformly’ applied to all the members of society and are enforced by the State. The State in this context refers to the Executive arm of Government.  


We stretch the above discussion further by commenting that some of the laws we have were simply inherited from our former colonial masters. A classic example is the Public Safety  Act of Botswana .It is imperative to state that the Public Safety Act (Cap 22:03) was enacted by Colonial masters in 1907  through proclamation No 15 of 1907 and was adopted by the Government through legal notice No 84 of 1966 without any modification ,save for the insertion of the name “Botswana’.

 

In exactly the same manner ,was the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act during the ‘protectorate’ days  which has been baptized to   Public Order Act ,adopted through No 6 of 1967.Do these laws bring order or disorder? Most countries which are former colonies of Britain have this colonial legacy in their legislation. Examples are Zambia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, India and Tanzania.


 It is very ironic that these are some of the retrogressive and repressive laws which we were fighting against in the protracted war that culminated in the attainment of both ‘Independence and Majority Rule’, yet we have conveniently borrowed them .(Maybe our current leaders were not opposed to these laws ,per se ,but those who used them ,instead.

 

After all, dictatorship and or centralization of power has(ve) always been  a shade of African societies’ politics even before the advent of Whites: The KingChief made the law ,interpreted and enforced it. In addition ,he was the supreme religious leader and ‘Commander-in-chief’ of the Army and ,as is the case in the present day, Legal instruments of these powers have come from the Leader himself and his inner circle disciples. Swaziland is a living example of this arrangement).But so wasis the case with all other societies in the world .Others have since evolved from this political arrangement but Africa seems static in this regard).


The same comment also holds true for our so –called Common Law ,Roman –Dutch Law ,which we ‘ received’(from Europe via South Africa) in almost all African Countries, or was it super-imposed upon us?, in complexu (in its entirety) save for the fact that the slight variations are products of subsequent legislation and judicial precedent. In fact the Common Law  or uniform thread in African Countries ,as I see it , is Customary Law and not this  Uncommon Law.

 

Even the 1966 Constitution of Gaborone was prepared and given to us in its ready-made form by the British in London . This is also the case with  the Zimbabwean  Lancaster House Constitution of 1979  .The  allochtonous or exotic document represented the interests of the former colonial power and hence the inclusion of  provisions which protected them. See the Lancaster House document on the Right to Private Property and Willing –Buyer – Willing- Seller Basis clauses.


Upon the attainment of both ‘Independence and Majority Rule’, the new governments had to retain those laws which entrenched the sitting regime ‘s power ,as we have just seen, and amended their Constitutions and other Laws  in order to give the leadership lots of power. Sadly, people were not consulted at all.

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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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