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Intellectuals and Politics in Botswana

Teedzani Thapelo
 

Institute of International Education Fellowship Award Winner, and runner up national poet to the 2016 Share Botswana Tourism Fiction Award, Teedzani Thapelo*, argues that BDP has declared war on intellectuals, students, and workers in the country, noting that the present crisis at the University of Botswana and Selibe-Phikwe are symptomatic of a political culture of distrust and entrenched loathing that has prevailed within BDP for many years, and that should BDP fail to bridge this gulf between it and the national intelligentsia before 2019 then it is clears UDC can, will, harvest more than twenty new constituencies in the coming election. Is, this, he asks, rhetorically, what BDP wants?


BDP has never been a political home for students, youths and intellectuals. This is a historical fact. Bessie Head, Kgalemang Motsete, L. D Raditladi, Kenneth Koma; it alienated and declared its hostility to them all. No wonder they now want to close down the University of Botswana, the national highest institution of learning. The education system has collapsed principally because BDP is a party of business, and not moral, social and intellectual development of society. They do not care about the future of the nation.

 

There is this misconception that if you feed the stomach, and the economy continues to do well, then you are on the right path to development. What a self-delusion. What naiveté! How in the world of God can we create a dynamic and self-sustaining capitalist economy if we declare war on intellectual culture? No country has as yet accomplished economic development by encouraging its people to live in perpetual ignorance; speaking with tongues, and barking like dogs. Economic development requires national cultural growth and intellectual awakening in society.

 

This is how Europe abolished mediaeval society and set on the road to industrialization, how America abandoned barbarian slavery and rose to affluence, how Japan and Russia overthrew feudalism and set on the path to sustainable economic development, and this is how the whole of Africa will eventually rise above disease, poverty and illiteracy to be a part of global historical culture.


But BDP does not understand this process of development. No, they hate culture and intellectuals. The distrust of intellectuals and ideologists is evident in the history and structures of BDP. The reason for this is simple; once the principle of thinking rather than obeying is accepted, the end will have come for the BDP. In BDP obeying is applied as a binding rule.

 

Not even the press is to be trusted. It is a party that does not self-introspect, self-critique, self-evaluate; its conventional conservatism, spearheaded by a rapaciously greedy and conceited senile brigade operate on the principle: if all fails, then God shall provide. Oh, really? You cannot build a modern economy and society on the conception that within a brief time we will somehow find our way back to God and Truth. This is pure political folly. Not even a truly Christian society is constructed this way. I would go further and say even purely barbarian societies like the DRC, for instance, do accept the need for enlightenment.


BDP is the first, the true, the only source of all the vast evils under which we groan today. All the talk about unfavourable external constraints may have a bit of truth in it, in so far as these are momentary and passing, but the real evil in postcolonial modernity is this cavalier acceptance of ignorance as a permitted form of religion in public life.

 

In this I doubt many Batswana will disagree with me. As to whether this shocking refusal to admit argumentation as a fact rooted in human nature makes sense, I leave that to these angels of darkness. What is regrettable is that we are all paying a heavy price for this folly. How we came to be saddled with this obscurantist monstrosity is something I will never understand at all. But what is the relevance of this observation to politics?


Let me explain. Knowledge is the bedrock of modernity. In economic terms we live in a world of striking net improve in the standards of living. In Botswana much of our social development is an offshoot of South African industrialization. Of that there can be no doubt. Without this remarkable economic history down south this country would have been nothing. In social terms we live in equally one of the most striking and disorienting change.

 

The material conditions and habits of people have altered more profoundly and rapidly than ever before, and a mood of puzzled introspection and self-criticism has seized the literate parts of the population. What has happened, what is happening to this country? These are questions that intellectuals grapple with on a daily basis; writers, journalists, academics, artists, priests, teachers, students, and BDP hates and despises them all.


Why, asks BDP, are they concerned with such silly questions? Why can’t they just gobble food and keep quiet the way we and our children do? The critical question is: will eating food, going to the toilet and sleeping solve the problems of modern society? I don’t think so. They certainly don’t think so at the UDC. Here are some simple facts. The life of this country depends on its articulation with global society. The lives of our entrepreneurs depend on profits, and whatever the sources of these profits, they are not at all remarkably healthy.

 

The lives of our workers depend on their employment and wages, and both are horribly lower than ever before. The lives of our professional classes and intellectuals depend on their employment and scope, and both have declined radically in the last twenty years. The social and political malaise that has become so obvious, leading to the birth of UDC, are certainly due to material discontent and economic hardship. The social and economic landmarks that my own generation took as permanent have been dismantled.

 

Social safety nets have collapsed throughout all social scales. Poverty and unemployment have become the new normal. The proverbial country of morals has become a country of unusually permissive sexuality and venereal damage. The education system has collapsed. A nation that once prided itself on abiding by incorrupt law has become celebrated for the daring and impunity of its robbers, and began to suspect the integrity of its politicians, policemen and judges.

 

What we call the middle classes are really salary earners just about all of whom fall into poverty 3-5 years after retirement. The few rich see themselves as being taxed and oppressed out of existence and, excerpting the thieves that feed with the BDP, most are moving their investments elsewhere. Radical income inequalities have become the norm rather than an exception. We are not by any measure a property-owning democracy. Investment capital continues to elude us.

 

The economy is run by government, and those who fail to adjust to a state-influenced economy suffer. Wealth does not go to the virtues of enterprise and hard work but depends on theft, lies, corruption and immorality. A life of comfort is inconceivable among all workers. Modest easy has already become the limit of middle class aspirations, eroding purchasing power in the economy. The majority of Batswana remain pinching and resentful, a perplexed and angry army of the suburbs and massive supporters of political change at any cost, and the rage of disappointment is spreading to the countryside at an appalling rate-no nation has ever been so angry, no people have ever been so frightfully agitated.


This is the Botswana we live in. This is the Botswana I am writing about. And BDP tells us that old, uneducated men from Serowe are the finest candidates for our political system, and intellectuals can go to hell! Oh, really? Do these illiterates really know what is happening in this country? Can BDP really deal with all these problems? Yes, they do hire consultants, at terribly huge expense, to lecture them on these things, but is that the same thing as solving these modern social problems? I don’t think so.

 

One thing I am certain about; five more years of BDP rule and Batswana will find themselves drinking water from South African boreholes. This is a fact, and BDP does not care. It is all too clear to every Motswana right now that their situation has changed for the worse. We all feel even the possibility of moral annihilation. People who live off wages and salaries feel this sense of ruin.

 

People who live off fees and profits; essentially business and small entrepreneurs, feel the same sense of ruined expectations. People who live off the soil and land; essentially farmers and rural peasants, are on the same boat. Not one person ever dreams of hitting the jackpot of wealth and social recognition in this country. The path to social peaks is so narrow only thieves go through.


You think I am exaggerating? Give me one person, who is not corrupt, who enjoys ample supplies of domestic comfort, excellent education for his children, a sense of being the backbone of the country, and an adequate provision of travel and cultural life that makes him feel a truly living part of global society? There are no such people in this country. Yet, only twenty years ago we took all these things for granted. What happened?

 

People in suburbs are so indebted, and so desperately poor, they use bath tubs to store firewood! Who can blame them? Without electricity and water there is no other alternative. Look at the heavy burden of mortgage, insurance, payments for schools, transport, food, and other corresponding private outlays-like money sent to starving and sick relatives in rural areas; it is hard life; and both wages and salaries have stagnated for donkey years. Middle-class monopoly of domestic comfort has crumbled. In a society in which status is measured by money and the pressure for conspicuous consumption, nothing now remains as a distinctly secure status symbol.


People are terribly depressed. Even entertainment has become ruinous. What is more, sexual intercourse, that biological and social equalizer, is no longer safe to indulge in; even leisure-time wear has disappeared as a status symbol. The only resource remaining to the few who still wear the garb of middle class status is snobbery, and BDP politicians monopolise at it. In brief, an entire way of living is becoming obsolete, and the most reliable way of maintaining a separate style of existence, namely intellectual and cultural activity, is not to the taste of the middle class majority.

 

I want to argue that the malaise of the middle class is due to pauperization and the shifting in the structure of and function of the middle groups in Botswana society. It is a double malaise of those who have not adjusted readily to postcolonial modernity, social innovation, preponderant public corruption, and more significantly, those who have found no adequate and secure place for their talents because of bad policies and a weak and poorly directed educational system. All Batswana must unite to blame BDP for this rotten state of affairs.


The malaise of the workers, on the other hand, is due to economic hardship. I don’t think anyone can say there really are any affluent workers in our society. It would be even a more terrible exaggeration to say the majority of them are free from the struggle for elementary daily necessities and the fear of unemployment. Add to this the fear of old age, with its combination of poverty and emptiness and you truly come face to face with the wretchedness of the Botswana workers.

 

The very insecurity of their already low-paying jobs is a reflection of their social isolation. Botswana workers are pariahs of both economics and politics. They are totally ignored by business, industry and commerce, which supply their wants. The contracts between workers, and the largest employer, government, are so shabby they amount to patronizing attitudes BDP politicians typically reserve for prostitutes, and most private sector employers treat Batswana workers exactly the same way. The attitude is: you are selling your stupid body, not your labour value, so just take what I offer and shut that foul mouth!


This is how workers are treated by the BDP and friends in the private sector. In fact most institutions of the working-class world remain separate and created within it. Even movements from mixed street to single-class suburbs are a rarity. Townships in all cities and towns have intensified this class division in the last couple of years, and the 2008 depression has welded all those who live in their immediate shadow, in Gaborone, for instance, Old Naledi and Mogoditshane, even, Tlokweng, and parts of GamaLete, together into a grim bloc.

 

This partially explains why UDC made such swift gains in all areas around Gaborone in 2014. They are bound to do the same in 2019, and not only in Gaborone. Francistown, Lobatse and Selibe-Phikwe are going the same way. A new class consciousness and sense of exploitation on one side, and fear of an uncertain future, for both families and children, on the other, is being strongly felt throughout Botswana, more specially around urban centres, and it is not surprising Batswana are already waking up to the devastation brought into their lives and homes by an uncaring BDP in the last fifty years.

 

A collapsing education system and a shaking economy are increasingly confining workers and their children to their own world. Go to Tutume, Molepolole, Tswapong, and Bobonong, and you will find parents expostulating angrily against these things, and their children learning to weep for missed opportunities in life. It is a most sad picture. UDC can, and will, easily harvest twenty new constituencies in 2019 if they want to. I repeat, if they want to. Political organization is the only thing that now matters. Much of the mobilization has already been done for them by the BDP-through appalling political failure.


I find it hilariously cynical for BDP to recommend that business take over the task of filling the worker’s world. At this point in time? With the world economy doing so badly, and poverty refusing to slacken its grip on the national population? What’s really to diminish the constant collective battle against unemployment and want?

 

Does BDP really think it can absorb the strongest organ of working-class separatism, the labour movement, into its political routine this way? Isn’t this pure madness! Whatever they say and think about workers in their comfortable private homes, BDP must accept the reality their policies continue to treat workers as outsiders. I know they have tried to enmesh the labour movement in the web of business and government but this still remains, at best, a theoretical proposition.


The reality is that the labour movement, in alliance with UDC, already sees itself as an alternative government. All that remains is for UDC to demonstrate a political willingness to work with it, to adopt a modern and progressive ideology of labour, and the path to political victory is theirs for the taking. Workers will help it decampaign stupid and arrogant BDP loyalists from within government careerist structures; former permanent secretaries, directors, soldiers and many others. T

 

hey have already shown they can do this if they want to, and I think they do; badly. Truth of the matter is BDP treats the labour movement as children, bana ba goromente; as stupid old-style civil service associations. And this rankles, badly. Strike is always associated with unofficial action. Some handpicked labour leaders still regard calls for strikes as signs of rank-and-file revolt. Wage rises are still dependent on the whim of wickedly arrogant senior officials and politicians. Membership to workers unions is not even automatic. In fact there is a marked sagging in workers’ unions, a terrible trend in the face of increasing economic hardships.


This is not the time for the fires in the labour movement to flick out. Workers must be allowed to organise, mobilize and influence the public agenda of the political system; not simply depend on elegies by young intellectuals to survive. What is more serious is the fact Batswana must realize that rapid economic change has eroded, and continues to radically eat at, the foundation of the working-class as traditionally understood, that is the men and women who get their hands dirty at work, mainly in mines, factories, or working with or around engines.

 

It is hard to even talk seriously of industry these days in Botswana. Both manufacturing and commerce are stubbornly refusing to take off throughout the economy thanks to misguided BDP policies and administrative ineptitude. What we see is a slow movement of workers towards tertiary employments like distribution, transport and various services, and there worker mobilization is facing serious problems. Manual labour, always exploited, is declining within government and the private sector.

 

Out in rural Botswana there remains huge demand, mostly piecemeal and seasonal, for both men and women without any qualifications except strength and willingness and these people suffer terrible hardships. The tertiary sector is increasingly becoming a refuge for unqualified labour, particularly in self-service stores and supermarkets like Choppies, and these poor people remained largely ununionized.


Of late BDP has been calling for technical training, by which I hope they mean high specialization requiring a certain amount of training, intelligence, and above all, prior formal education; but for all we know they might be talking of bringing zombies in the fledgling labour market. Fact of the matter is professionals like engineers, chemists, and artisans have throughout history been the vanguard of the labour movement, effectively managing to bring labour right into parliament through strenuous struggles in countries like Britain. Labour must move out of government and organize as a force to contend with in the private sector where real struggles of workers begin and end.


We really have a long way to go in Botswana as far as the labour movement is concerned. UDC has a big role to play here. BDP government, with good reason, regards workers as enemies of the state. UDC must embrace them as colleagues in the struggle for freedom. This is a national duty. It is a crying scandal that our workers continue to face considerable disadvantage in intellectual and semi-intellectual regions.

 

This is not acceptable. There is a terrible anti-egalitarian bias in our education system. The children of workers are caught up in a vicious circle that gives them a worse chance of education, and progressively cuts down their capacities to benefit from what education is available. Education determines access to mostly highly paid wage-work, that is salaried posts, and indeed to most positions of social respect and authority.


Just how many kids and toddlers has BDP thrown off the education system still illiterate in the last ten years alone? Thousands. Hundreds of thousands. And these people are voters. All of them know they have deliberately been debarred from ambition. UDC must mobilize these poor citizens, people who in reality have lost their moral citizenship through political neglect.

 

The youth of this country have no future under the BDP government, and they now know this to be a fact. Many tell me so everywhere I go in the country. It is a sad story. These marginalized youths know that even their children will not do better than them in life; not if BDP remains in power. Like their mothers and fathers these children’s fate will be casually and carelessly determined before puberty.


They may expect better wages than their parents; forgive the optimism of youth and inexperience, but the reality is if they ever get good wages, even with low living costs, almost as soon as they leave school, marriage and their own children will in turn reduce their standard of living again. This has happened before, and it will happen again. It is a terrible circle.

 

Even the youths whose education has continued will not do much better. I am one of them. I know this for a fact. Nothing good ever lasts in this Godforsaken country, and it is BDP that has turned the country into a toxic dump. Born in this country you sign up for the badge of permanent social inferiority at a pretty young age, and this BDP calls democracy. It is the way to go. The best the country can ever do.


But is this what Batswana want? I don’t think so. I think we can do better. But first we must get the major national obstacle, BDP, out of the way. UDC has a lot of work to do. Intellectuals must also play their part. This social group is small, smart, and largely disinterested. They are distinct by their lack of involvement in management and government. For the most part engineers, lawyers, academics, writers, artists, priests and journalists, they lack traditional status.

 

These are the people who declared war on the BDP right from its birth. It is not necessary they focus their political dissidence in universities only. They must work with society, particularly workers, peasants, youths and alliance movements like UDC. Batswana must learn never to underestimate the capacity of brilliant men and women to radically effect change in society.


I don’t know how many people realize this but students in this country are already a political force to reckon with. Ignore them at your peril. The youth, another recognisable group, largely through their poverty and social exclusion from public life; and more than half the population of the entire nation, are the political market that will determine the 2019 electoral outcome.

 

Rapid and unprepared change in the general pattern of society has widened the divide between them as a generation and all other national social classes combined. They are angry, articulate and most want nothing but the ultimate prize: government. Who between UDC and BDP will win their political loyalty? Who between UDC and BDP has a political programme robust enough to carry their political aspirations? Who between the UDC and BDP has the political will to concretise their vision of tomorrow? Who between UDC and BDP can tame the passions of these roaring lions and lionesses?


In their brains this social group carries the fire of life, in their hearts the burden of hope, and in their hands that decisive factor, the voting card, and the future of this blighted country. My message to both organizations is simple. Ignore workers, the youth, students, and intellectuals at your own peril.


Novelist, poet and historian, Teedzani Thapelo*, is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science and the School of Oriental and Africa Studies, University of London. He is author of the forthcoming books; Battle Against the Botswana Democratic Party: the beginning of the point of departure, Politics of Unfulfilled Expectations in Botswana: a dangerous mess, and Philosophy of Death and the Ruin of Selibe-Phikwe: abandonment and revolt.

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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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