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Open Letter To Professor THABO FAKO: Your Resignation Is Good Riddance!!!

Kago Rapula Mokotedi is a former UB student and SRC President
Writing from South Africa

Receive my revolutionary greetings Professor. I hope you still remember me. I am your former student whom you terrorized for four years of my five year stay at the University of Botswana. I am penning this open letter to you to finally find closure and to heal the emotional wounds you have afflicted on me. I received the good news of your resignation while I was in Hartbeespoort, South Africa. Good riddance!! Good riddance!! I shouted at the top of my voice to the surprise of my colleagues. 

 

I then informed them that you have finally done the honorable thing by resigning as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Botswana. Please pardon my manners for writing this open letter whilst you still licking your wounds. Yours has been a brutal fall, but I could not contain my excitement to celebrate your downfall. After all, you have finally realized that you are a mere mortal like the rest of us. The only difference is our CVs. While you possess the highest qualification known to men, I am just a nobody in the academic circles.

You managed UB as a personal fiefdom and you brutalized anyone who attempted to remind you that the University is public property.  Just like the gods condemned Sisyphus, I long condemned your leadership style.  As expected, your leadership suffered a Sisyphean failure.  


I vividly remember in 2012 when I together with Richard Khumoekae led a student demonstration at the University of Botswana. We were protesting for the reinstatement of supplementary examinations and the improvement of learning conditions of Medicine students who were being taught in an abandoned factory near the Bus rank. By any measure, these were legitimate issues. Instead of calling for dialogue with us as the Student leaders, you pounced on us.

 

Your administration suspended us for six months from the University without being afforded a hearing. Your ill-thought decision angered the student community to rise against your maladministration. In the end University property was damaged and classes were suspended. You must take responsibility for that strike and the resultant damage which occurred.  You must take personal responsibility for that rapacious and nefarious decision to suspend the SRC. I remember how I and Richard Khumoekae were victimized and isolated by your management after the strike. We were the only student leaders who were arrested and detained for a good two days without any charge.  


After you suffered a defeat in Court, you were itching to avenge the embarrassment after the Court interdicted the suspension. You later instituted afterthought charges against us to justify your desire to expel us from the University. I remember that after the Disciplinary committee finalized its proceedings you conveniently postponed announcing the verdict until examination time.

 

I remember that Richard Khumoekae was a final year student who was due to submit his final year project. You cared less Prof. On the eve of the examination you pounced on us early in the morning at round 530 am.  We loitered the streets of Gaborone and a Good Samaritan housed and fed us. Our parents were terrified and anxious. Their hearts were bleeding!!


We were emotionally strained. We wondered what will become of our futures. While you fed us to the lions, you were relaxing at that spacious VC official residence. You even went globe-trotting at one of those European countries.  Fast forward to 2014, I led a strike at UB protesting against the Bookstore monopoly and the sponsorships of students with retakes. I still maintain that we pursued legitimate demands and I am proud to have led the strike.  


Given your authoritarian leadership style, you failed to engage with us. Instead you kicked us out of the University. Your administration even instructed our sponsor, DTEF to cease sponsoring us by reason of our involvement in the student demonstrations. The letter from DTEF was clear that they are acting on the advice from the University. You once more threw my future in the doldrums. I was later rescued by Hon. Duma Boko. Prof you have planted a seed of hate in my heart.

 

I carried this seed until the day I learnt of your ignominious   departure.  I had carried this burden for almost 5 years. No matter how much I tried, I failed to forgive you. The harder I tried, the harder I despised you. You were ruthless and merciless to me. You treated me like a second class citizen who did not deserve to complete his degree. You later suspended me together with one Tiro Diepo for reminding you that in our view, Professor Brian Mokapakgosi would have made a better Vice Chancellor.

 

You see Prof, something that my poor parents taught me as a young boy was to always speak my mind openly and freely. That’s what I did and it annoyed you.  I had to drag you to Court again to interdict your whimsical decision to suspend me when the Examinations were just around the corner. It does not end there. You pounced on me once more a day prior to my final examinations. Hon. Boko had to go to Court at 2am to challenge your decision and you lost. It must have angered you big-time!  I just want to know; why did you treat me in such a degrading manner?  


Back to my celebratory open letter. After learning of your much awaited resignation, I immediately contacted all the former student leaders who suffered your wrath. I hope you still remember the likes of James Mathokgwane, Muzila Muzila, Richard Khumoekae, Tiro Diepo, Callistus Ramasa, Larona Selala, Katlego Mosiane and many others who were abused by your administration. Unlike these comrades, I could not forgive you for the emotional pain you inflicted on me.

 

At some point I even dreamt about you. Believe me, in all my dreams which you appeared on, it was a nightmare. That’s how torturing you have been to me. I tried counseling while I was studying in South Africa to deal with what my counselor referred to as ‘the Fako Syndrome’. Despite my counseling sessions, the nightmares still occurred more vicious. I wondered why u hated me that much. What pleasure did you derive in seeking to destroy my future? I am excited to inform you that since your resignation, my nightmares are all gone.

 

I can now dream about my future wife, and other pleasant scenes. Finally, I have closure. Your resignation has uplifted the burden I carried for 5 years on my tiny heart. I applaud you for affording me closure. Your resignation has uprooted the seed of hate which you planted and nurtured inside me. I have forgiven you Prof. Believe me. I guess we all deserve a second chance.

 

I hope and pray that all students who felt like me have forgiven you. I hope and pray that all academics whom you brutalized will forgive you. I remember how you dealt with Prof.  Happy Sephambi and dethroned him of his Deanship. Many of us were deeply hurt. But that’s all in the past now. Let’s begin a new chapter characterized by love, tolerance and pleasant dreams. In all honesty, your resignation is good riddance. Many of us will not miss your leadership style. Goodbye my professor. Goodbye my professor.

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Opinions

The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosis actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as international waters.

Pelosis visit to Chinas Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqus. In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to Chinas position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The Peoples Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijings position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwans administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Bidens words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region. The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as Taiwan independence. The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for Chinas Peoples Liberation Army to safeguard Chinas national sovereignty, security and development interests. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard Chinas overseas investments, projects and personnel. It then follows that President Xis administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector Chinas sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part. Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The Peoples Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces. This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijings military exercises will certainly shake Taiwans confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwans central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As Chinas military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit Chinas Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to Taiwan independence separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the Peoples Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

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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 Botswanas 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, Mogaes 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 theBulela Ditswedispensation, 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 Ditswewas 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 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 consumers piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswanas, 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 dont imagine that their one download will do anything to the production houses 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 musicians 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 Botswanas 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 Africas 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 Botswanas economy are being diverted.

Why cant our local creative industry grow? Why dont 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 Botswanas 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 countrys 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, its 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 economys growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artists 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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