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Corruption is burying this country


There have been concerns about the growth of corruption in Botswana, its effects for development prospects and whether anti-corruption efforts that are in place are effective and succeeding. Further, while prospects for the role of media as a major player in exposing corruption has gained international support, questions are being asked about Botswana government’s recognition of the effectiveness of free and independent media at holding power to account and expose corruption.


There have also been apprehensions regarding enquiries and reports thereof commissions of enquiry and/or task forces which are hardly ever shared with the public or in the event that they are released for public consumption, no action seems to be taken on the findings in the interest of the public.

A glance at some cases that have been previously investigated in Botswana show clear hallmarks of corruption that seem to give credence to such growing public concerns. Although there are many previous cases of this nature, three that are discussed in this article are Botswana Meat Commission, Fengyue Glass Project, and Morupule B.


The common thread about these particular entities is that they show a worrying trend of scandals pertaining to corruption and maladministration in which billions of public funds were investigated and alleged to have been unaccounted for. This is a disturbing trend indeed given that in all these cases there is propensity that the tax payer’s money might have gone deep into the pockets of corrupt officials who continue to go about their business without any evidence that they would ever be prosecuted for their criminal activities.

In an attempt to refresh the public’s recollection of the nature of corruption that bedevilled these organisations, I highlight some allegations that characterised them, beginning with Botswana Meat Commission (BMC). A report by Sunday Standard (19 March, 2012) revealed that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) had launched an investigation into the award of tenders to companies engaged in buying cattle for the BMC.


According to this report, this was precipitated by a motion passed by Central District Council (CDC) requesting the then Minister of Agriculture to set up such an inquiry to investigate BMC system that was alleged to be seriously flawed to deliberately favour a select few farmers. Further reported was a High Court case that alleged a great deal of corruption within this organisation.


Although the complainants who were farmers in this case were not successful in their bid to stop the rot in the organisation, it exposed the BMC as highly corrupt almost administered Mafia style. From media reports and subsequent investigations referred to in this article, it became evident that the BMC became free for all with some board members literally volunteering their services, which is unheard of and unethical where there is good corporate governance.


It was therefore not surprising that in the process some of these individual volunteers were also implicated in alleged corrupt practices. In one particular case there was also evidence of a very high post which was given to a guy whose only qualification was that of being a cattle ranger.  

There was also the Parliamentary Special Select Committee of Enquiry into the same BMC which established that some individuals and their companies had unduly benefitted financially from the Commission. Pulas in excess of P100 million were reported to have exchanged hands over a short period of time as payment for some dubious consultancies. It also appeared there was a cabal of a few feedlotters who were also exposed in these shoddy business dealings.


Reading through media reports one got a picture of some swindlers who used their feed lots with only one intention of looting the Commission. Further media report shows that one particular Cabinet was even accused by a witness during a Parliamentary Special Select Committee investigating the decline of the beef sector in Botswana for having gone out of his way to contravene the BMC Act not just once, but on many occasions by issuing export permits of live cattle to a company of his friends without approval of the BMC board.


We all know the BMC Chief Executive Officer was compelled to resign and the reasons for his mysterious resignation never came out very clearly. With all these damning accusations one would have thought that heads would surely roll, but as fate would have it, this is Africa and it’s business as usual.  

The BMC corrupt case is quite a complex one to explain, but what became crystal clear even to a lay person in corporate governance was that the rules of the game were deliberately circumvented and in the process huge amounts of public funds were swindled, including some reported unaccounted for in both South Africa and the United Kingdom. The most painful thing in this whole drama is that the BMC was de-listed from by the European Union lucrative beef market, and obviously the biggest loser was the farmer who for many years, especially under President Sir Masire’s leadership had a reliable market to sell their animals.  

The next scandalous and corruption related saga was that involving Botswana Development Corporation and Fengyue Glass Manufacturing (Botswana) based in Palapye. When the idea of this glass company was conceived the public mood went sky high because the impression given was that of a large scale factory that would create many jobs especially for the youth in Palapye and other parts of the country.


The job seekers hopes and dreams were soon shattered as the company collapsed and just like the BMC and others, evidence from MP Kesupile’s report reflected a great deal of impropriety due to deviation from clearly laid down international corporate governance standards and ethics. As further illuminated in the Kesupile report, a project that was initially estimated at P309 million all of a sudden ballooned to over P500 million. Abundantly clearly in the report is the extent to which conflict of interest was allowed to reign supreme in the company, and a series of reports by consulting engineers which went unheeded by the BDC management.

The moral of the story here is that, public funds in millions of Pulas were spent on a project that never even took off, and as one would expect of an African government those responsible for the rot went scot free when the youths of this country remain unemployed. What is really depressing in such cases that border on corruption is that individual officers who hold high moral ground such as whistle blowers and therefore question such malpractice sometime get punished, even to the point of being sacked for the simple reason that they exposed such corrupt and criminal deeds.


I recall opposition members of Parliament calling on the Minister concerned to take political responsibility and resign, which I also thought could have been the moral, compelling, and logical thing to do, but all this fell on deaf ears. I doubt if there is anybody in Botswana who doesn’t know about the notorious Morupule B. What was supposed to have come as a solution to Batswana’s desperate need for electricity became a malfunctioning monster of a plant that was just there to drain off public funds.


The plant experienced a range of operation and maintenance failures with so many shutdowns, and in tandem with this were conflicting stories from the ruling party politicians in particular regarding what was really going on at the most costly plant. As this comedy of errors was unfolding, media reports indicated that the Chinese contractor absolved itself from these failures, blaming the local plant operators who in their view were not familiar with the system.


They further blamed the operators for ignoring the manufacturer’s instructions, deciding to throw away the operating manual and opting to fly blind. Whether these reports are anything to go by or not, the fact of the matter is that whatever was going on cost this nation a fortune. Information derived from the independent and private media shows that the initial cost of the plant which was USD 905.4 million (P9.8 billion) escalated to USD1.660 million (P18 billion) in 2014. These are astronomical figures even by upper income countries standards.

The sad story about these organisations is that no corrective measures have so far been taken against perpetrators of these criminal acts that rocked this nation. In spite of so many questions that still remain unanswered, there is no pressure on government to act decisively to recover the money that rightfully belongs to the nation. All of us, the public, civil society, politicians, church and most of all, Parliament are dead quiet as if all has been rectified in these organisations, when in reality all those billions have still not been recovered.


Imagine what could have happened in South Africa had the public, politicians, civil society and others remained fearful and mum about the Nkandla scandal? They could have lost what legitimately belongs to them but because of their bravery, assertiveness and high level of sense of accountability, they made politicians to account and they are now getting public funds back to the treasury.

Another case in point, right in South Africa where freedom was only attained yesterday, a group of people who know their rights stood their ground to demand for delivery of text books in Limpopo and the government was by court order forced to deliver them with immediate effect. Here in our country we seem not to be conscious of our own rights to be able to demand what rightfully belong to us. As already mentioned in this article, public funds have been abused but we fail to demand that people implicated should pay back the money. Instead some of them have been rewarded with high paying jobs when they should be in prison, this is sad and absurd.

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021


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:

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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.

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


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.

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