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UDC, BCP: jealously guard the positive camaraderie…

DR PHILIP BULAWA


The coming together of UDC and the BCP is surely a welcome development in respect of Botswana politics. The recent launch of the UDC has brought about some hope to this nation that come 2019, their livelihood might change for the better.

That is, the expectations by Batswana that their hopes and dreams of a new system of governance that would possibly result in among other things, a diversified economy, real job creation, improved standard of living, free and quality education, regulated private education, a corruption free society, a truly independent judicial system, an independent electoral system, a free and independent media, as well as the long overdue overhauling, restructuring or demise of the current intelligence service will ultimately be realised. The mood in the country is clearly that of a nation just waiting for 2019 to get rid of the current regime that has been in power for more than fifty years and has certainly become obsolete and therefore a serious liability to this nation.  


As indicated in my previous articles to this publication, this public mood has revealed itself in some joint party activities where members now constituting UDC have worked collaboratively to exhibit some spirit of commitment, comradeship and cohesion as if they already belonged to one single entity.

 

Although sceptics especially the enemy the BDP, and some in the media have painted a bleak picture about new UDC, there has been clear indication in some constituencies that work not just to win by-elections, but to prepare for the upcoming elections in 2019 started in earnest even long before negotiations were concluded. The mood has always been that of people who long embraced the UDC formation, and for them the launch was just more of a public relations exercise.   


But even with this positive camaraderie, naturally there is bound to be some confusion and apprehension once the public domain flourishes with alleged evidence of cracks and disunity within the UDC. Whether or not such allegations are credible is another story. The reality however, is that in as much as a concrete agreement has now been sealed, it must be noted that in any political deal of this magnitude that involved diverse negotiators there will always be challenges.

 

Although the sole purpose is to ultimately come to a consensus, my experience with political talks involving different parties; negotiators, including party leadership, would not always agree on issues on the table, but also find themselves having to seriously and emotionally engage in robust debate on a wide range of pertinent issues of divergence. Fundamental in negotiations is to bear in mind that even as you do your utmost to reach a consensus it’s not always that all actors would be completely content with the final outcome.

 

Without suggesting that there are never any instances of points of convergence, in many cases it’s sort of a fragile matter of give and take than decisions arrived at unanimously, and of course it is also in this spirit of give and take that individual parties can thereafter request for certain resolutions be revisited, something some may describe as portrayal of evidence of a major division amongst negotiating partners.


It would therefore be naïve of all of us to conclude that, just because a deal has been reached, the challenges will also cease to exist. Although one cannot cite a particular and peculiar reason as to why challenges should continue to exist after what seems to have been a successful deal such as is the  case with the UDC, there could be a wide range of probabilities.

 

  These would include a high possibility that even after a deal has been concluded, some might still continue to express their reservation about the manner in which things would have turned out to be, and as democracy and justice would dictate, these people have the right to be given a hearing of some sort for the agreement to work.

 

Rumour mongering also has the potential to adversely affect the stability that the opposition needs to achieve its intended goal of not just unseating the BDP, but also to turn around the economy. As it stands media stories that all has not been well since the launch including allegations that the very same leaders who collaboratively and collectively presided over unity talks that delivered UDC have since fallen out could easily rock UDC.  


As can be expected these turn of events, some of which may have been deliberately twisted for different reasons, would certainly reach inter alia, opponents of the deal within and outside the opposition.  When they lay their hands on such news of alleged disunity, they would do everything to ensure that they as much as possible make it go viral, shaping public perceptions such that the information is ultimately misconstrued as an accurate reflection of the situation on the ground.

 

Admittedly, some of the stories including those coming from the media for instance, maybe an exaggeration deliberately intended to mislead and course maximum damage, and in other cases just unsubstantiated insinuations that border on personal series of same stale attacks we have heard before. Here I’m referring to stories not firmly rooted in the journalistic tradition and ethics.

 

By the way the establishment of some media houses has to do more with entrepreneurship and therefore their main reason for existence is to as much as possible maximise profits through writing of stories some of which are grossly unethical. In a democratic dispensation such as ours, political opponents will also have a field day twisting the information for political mileage.


The reality though is that this is what constitutes freedom of speech and democracy, something that the opposition should cherish and embrace at all times, regardless of whether or not what they report is its favour. It is my contention that the media is not the main threat to the new UDC establishment, but instead what would threaten opposition’s intended long term resilience and tarnish its good name are its own people.

 

Many of the stories that reach the media, political opponents and others are leaked by opposition members themselves, and what usually happens is that some of the recipients of the leaked information may just twist them a bit to suit their agendas. Imagine a situation where the media would have been completely bared from attending what should have been a private meeting of leaders, and a few hours before an official media statement can be made public, the information is already on radio, television and newspapers.

 

Other instances of indiscipline on the part of some opposition members have revealed themselves in their utterances about their own comrades, including that of their own leadership. Further cause for concern are insinuations of possible and even imagined infighting in the four political parties that constitute the UDC which could also turn out to be a key factor that contributes immeasurably to instability in UDC.


Of course it is fine for Comrades to critique UDC or each other within the organisation as this helps to introspect, but deliberate badmouthing to criticise and disparage other Comrades has a huge bearing on possible instability in the UDC and therefore stifle and delay concerted effort by the opposition to ensure regime change in 2019.

 

Further, even more toxic could be fights for existing or anticipated positions, a situation that may completely obliterate the organisation before it could even commence the journey to attaining its intended vision. It is profound that people do understand and accept that not all of us will get an opportunity to represent the organisation as Members of Parliament and Councillors, or that only one person will become President, or else UDC’s journey to attainment of power would be tough. My argument is that it is only when we lack discipline and make explosive utterances to the media that are sometimes misleading and dangerous, as well as cause unnecessary incidents due to power struggles which could have the greatest propensity to sow seeds of discord in the entire UDC family.  


We therefore have to commend efforts that have been made to address people’s concerns arising mainly from media reports, thanks to the manner in which both Cde Keorapetse and Cde Mohwasa have handled the situation to weather the storm.  They have been quite level headed in their responses and managed the situation with a great deal of aplomb. I also listened to Cde Mangole and Cde Rammidi on radio clarifying a number of issues that had engulfed UDC to the utter dismay and confusion of its members.

 

This definitely complemented both Keorapetse’s and Mohwasa’s efforts and further allayed fears pertaining to unpalatable media stories about UDC since its launch a couple of weeks ago. It must however, be noted that even these officially sanctioned efforts by Comrades will not bear much fruit unless all in the opposition exercise restraint and solidly rally behind UDC. In political parlance this obviously calls for discipline that requires members to adhere to and uphold UDC’s code of conduct which in turn should give the party moral high ground to speak to the nation as a genuine government in waiting.

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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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