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Motsamai’s departure: Others must prove themselves

THABO KEAIPHA

Because the media is already awash with the news that my leader, the President of Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU); Comrade Andrew Motsamai is resigning from his position that he ascended to many years ago, may you please allow me space to contribute to this discourse.  This discussion is important as it gives us an opportunity to look ahead of what will now happen to BOPEU.

 

What happens to be BOPEU will be a deciding factor in so many ways regarding the future of trade unionism in Botswana. This discussion rather will be continued in many other forums, I might want to consider myself a mere instigator of this discussion. I however make it clear that I am not expressing from the view of those who wanted the downfall of BOPEU, pundits, and have been humbled at the table. But this discourse is mainly about them, about expectations from their side.

From BCSA to BOPEU



Motsamai, who is the longest serving president of BOPEU since the inception of the organisation in 2007, is the inaugural president of BOPEU to this day.  We must be allowed to have a say in all these developments. Having been a part of this organisation from the Botswana Civil Servants Association (BCSA) era almost 13 years ago, I can proudly say that I have seen the growth, the challenges and the strength of Motsamai’s leadership. I must also add that I have also seen the weakness of pundits.

 

It is my experience with being in this organisation, side by side with these pundits, that upon news reaching me that comrade Motsamai’s is leaving the BOPEU presidency, I could not just pretend to not have anything to say. I do have something to say to these pundits, who have been the same since Motsamai’s inaugural leadership at BCSA; before it became BOPEU. Please allow me. 

 

In all these moments, there have been these persistent pundits vying to use every opportunity either availed to them by circumstances and in most instances, availing such to themselves to want to discredit gold in naming it waste. I must be allowed to celebrate that such pundits have never succeeded at all these intended ills. They have been humbled by the members of BOPEU who were and are still able to realise and distinguish good from bad, evil from purity and leadership from ‘chancers’. 

BOPEU as a Business Investor

BOPEU’s story is a remarkable history of trade union as it not only highlights a transition from a staff association into a trade union, but more significantly, and of brightened importance, the transformation of BOPEU from a mere labour organisation into a formidable force with an investment arm of repute; Babereki Investments.

Those who have traversed this path with BOPEU as members and those of us who have had an opportunity to actively participate will agree with me that the foundation of Babereki Investments is a key and primary legacy of Comrade Motsamai. It is through this particular resistance, sustained persistence that we shall see and remember all that is the Motsamai leadership.

Unless I am mistaken, no one is aware of any trade union leadership that has been able to pursue successfully investments at the pace, strength and resilience that the Motsamai leadership has done. We continue to pray for them that they find the wisdom and strength

Comrades must allow me to say these things because pundits have always had a field day in wanting to scrutinise every decision that was taken by Motsamai’s leadership. Pundits have never missed an opportunity to want to present Motsamai in a way they preferred, a way that we members of BOPEU have never agreed with or never saw as belonging with the realm of who we are. We can proudly stand up as BOPEU members and declare that we are the most progressive trade union in Botswana and possibly Southern Africa.

 

We have of course been saying this all along. We have received the wrath from pundits for refusing to agree with them, and for openly showing our support for the leadership of BOPEU. Some of us have been accused falsely over numerous things simply because we could not allow ourselves to support pundits at the BOPEU elective congresses, or at any of the numerous decision making platforms. I do not regret such; actually, I am proud to have rejected pundits.

BOPEU and Active Politics 
Pundits have the opportunity to now verify or rather, to vindicate themselves regarding the position that BOPEU took 3 years ago when we openly declared that we shall not engage ourselves in active politics. This was a decision that was coming from bottom to up. It was not from top to bottom. It was the membership deciding that BOPEU must be free from active politics. Pundits went out and blamed Comrade Motsamai for this position. He was labeled all sorts of names.

 

But as in the true nature of a leader, he took it well and understood that most dissenting voices were simply being misled somewhere, somehow in a corner by our well known and regular pundits. I remember well that those of us who publicly voiced our support in favour of what the collective BOPEU has resolved on, we were called names. I was in particular referred to as a boot licker. At one point some ‘chancer’ masquerading as an activist, questioned my membership status. Yet when he and his dancers were lobbying me for support, they saw in me a devoted member of BOPEU. This is just one of my many problems with these pundits.

We will all be watching now if the decision to not engage BOPEU in active politics was a Motsamai’s agenda or it is a BOPEU agenda. If it was a Motsamai agenda, it will be expected to be reasonably reversed upon his departure from BOPEU presidency. But if it is a BOPEU agenda, it shall continue to define the collective us who maintains that aligning a trade union to political any political party is suicidal.

 

It is not for me to prove that it is a BOPEU agenda. It is rather for pundits to prove that it was a Motsamai agenda. Whatever the relationship outlook that comes out of BOPEU and the active political parties after his departure, will inform us if the pundits were right or wrong in saying that he has pesonalised BOPEU. I already have my own answer.

BOPEU’s relationship with BOFEPUSU



With a reported average of 34000 members, BOPEU is the single largest trade union in Botswana. Not a single trade union in the country has been able to match these numbers. These numbers have been steadily growing and interestingly, they climbed the peak at an alarming rate after BOPEU opted to disaffiliate from BOFEPUSU yet pundits were saying such a move will render BOPEU irrelevant.

 

They have been humbled, and they must be told, and what a better time to tell them when we look back at the legacy of Comrade Motsamai whom we must thank for all the efforts, sacrifices and above all impartial leadership. These qualities are rare and unique and when one comes across them in practice as I have experienced them during this tenure of Comrade Motsamai, one has no choice but to say them out and loudly. This is so that pundits who try to deny them maybe asked to come out of the cocoon and accept that their quest to see themselves as leaders is not accompanied by what an institution as big and prospering as BOPEU needs.

Comrade Motsamai’s Successor

This brings me to my other point that whoever takes the fort as BOPEU president must be able to guide the labour agenda in Botswana. These numbers tell a story of success and whoever takes over as the leader of BOPEU must ensure that this success story is sustained for generations to come.

 

One must remember that pundits have been trying to take over BOPEU leadership, using all kinds of methods, and all those methods have failed. The methods failed because we the members of BOPEU refused to be sold a dummy. We insisted on the leadership of Comrade Motsamai because history was informing us of the future. And we have not been failed by our expectations. We have benefitted from our conscious actions and decisions to refuse a false prophecy calling by pundits.

Conclusion



But pundits now have an opportunity to take over. They may campaign for the next elective congress and take over BOPEU. We shall be watching and we shall remind them when the time comes that; leadership is not about planning a coup-de-tat, and that leadership is about planning for the future whilst taking care of the current. 

We shall as members continue to demand the best from the leadership, and pundits must be willing to accept that sore truth.  Let me close by wishing my leader Comrade Motsamai all the best in his future endeavors. He has served us, voluntarily and gave his all and I am amongst the thankful members of this visionary leader. He shall always be my leader. Long live Comrade Andrew Motsamai, long live! Long live BOPEU, long live!


Thabo Keaipha is a BOPEU Member in Moshupa
Thabo_keaipha@yahoo.co.uk    Thabo_keaipha@yahoo.co.uk

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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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