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In defense of political remuneration


MOTHAPELARURI MAXWELL MOATHUDI


Every man has a right to fight for what they believe is rightfully theirs. You might be a voter,  a politician, or just a nobody – as some seem to think the rest of us are- but fight you must! I have been observing, for quite a number of years now, how voters and politicians fight for what they believe they are rightfully entitled to, a good salary and impressive conditions of service and living.

What bothers me though, is that, hard as the voter must fight, s/he is always, at the back of her/his mind, hoping that someone else will be backing their fight. I have just about given up on anyone backing my fight or any voter’s fight for that matter. Just recently, I think as recent as 2014, salaries and allowances of Members of Parliament were increased, and I mean massive increase. I am writing this as a “voter”, and a Motswana in Botswana. I am writing this as a man who fights to nurture democracy with his vote, though not enough, it is something.

 

This vote can either be for the ruling party or for those who oppose; who I vote for is not important in the interest of this article. What is important is my belief that politicians are there to represent the interests of those who voted for them, and of course, in the broader interest of the “country”. You see, the “country” is more important than the voter and the politician and even more important than the self.

 

There are about two (2) million Batswana. Out of this two (2) million Batswana, pardon me for I do not have the statistics, I can maybe say a million or so are  humble men and women who are capable of making choices. Some have made choices I cannot mention here, but there is only a few of those. These men and women have made choices, and humble as Batswana are, I can maybe say the majority of them made those choices in the interest of the “country”.


Some have made choices to serve the “country” as servants of the public (the Public Service) and are under the indirect control of politicians; nothing bad or wrong with that, at least in as far as this write-up is concerned. Some have made choices to serve the public in an indirect manner (the Private Sector). I am not mentioning the Parastatals, as they are public service officers anyway, the only difference between them and the direct public service is the salaries and other pecks that go with having been employed there.

 

Now, we have some who chose to serve the public as politicians; I have just recently learnt that they are not considered public service officers, though mostly they behave as such. All of these environments (the Public Service, the Private Sector and Politics) under which we have made choices to serve are pretty hostile, that is, in comparison with other countries which we can reasonably compare with. Politicians are the peoples’ representatives and as such are elected, “not hired” (otherwise we (the voters) will “fire” them, even before they complete their term(s))).

 

They, like the rest of us, have made a deliberate choice to serve their country in that capacity. Like the rest of us, they were not forced. Now it bothers me that they have made the “self” part of their mandate. When they stood for election it was never part of their manifesto to represent the “self”. The recent increase in their salaries and the continued justification for such really boggles my mind; it is all about the self, as oppossed to being about the voter and the country. Is it real, I ask myself, that a man, or woman makes a deliberate choice, fully knowing the conditions under which they are going to serve and, without negotiating with the “boss” (the voter), changes those conditions. Is the voters’ conditions of service and living not imperative anymore, as promised prior to elections?

I want to, as a voter, look through some of the justifications for the massive salaries and allowances increases our representatives put forth.These were carried in some newspaper a some months bak. Justification 1: Some politicians become destitutes after their term of office expires and they are not re-elected


Should this be the tax payer’s problem? If you had watched the movie “Where were you when the lights went out?”, then you already have the answer. First, there is something called “investment”. Our politicians, like the rest of us, must invest their meager earnings, in other words, “make hay while the sun shines”, unless our politicians beleive the sun will shine forever; and for a while it did seem so. This justification on its own should shed light on the kind of people our politicians are.

 

How does one lead people, in these present times of hardship, and not invest for the future? I believe leaders are in a way  like teachers; the rest of the people look up to them for guidance. Now, if our leaders cannot advise themselves … it tells a different story. Should the tax payer be burdened with politicians who fail to invest while they made deliberate choices to enter politics? If politicians believe higher salaries guarantee a life out of destitution after leaving office, then why do they not extend the benefit to the rest of us poor souls who have made choices bereft of self enrichment? If our politicians believe heftier salaries are a guarantee to a life of grandeur after political office, then they are in for a pretty nasty surprise. It is simple Mathematics actually.

 

If you do not invest while you can, no matter how much money you pump out of the system, you will still be a destitute after office. The advise to our leaders is to start investing now and those who do not know how to invest or what investment is are surely in the wrong place for we need leaders who are wise enough to invest or at least know what investment is so that they can advise us. A high salary is not the answer, it is simple looting of the public coffers, period.

 

One interesting observation is that politicians are the ones charged with ensuring that there is life after retirement, for every Motswana, not destitution. In other words they are charged with making sure that there are good investment opportunities for the masses and of course themselves. If they cannot coordinate such, then they are in the wrong place and the rest of us poor folks will be left in limbo.


Justification 2: Some politicians work for “Ipelegeng” after  their term of office expires and they are not re-elected. Uhu! So Ipelegeng is for a certain group of people? I have all along thought, though not necessarily approving of it, that it was for all Batswana who cannot find reliable and gainful forms of employment. Why should a man who does not know how to invest not work for Ipelegeng? If Ipelegeng is for a certain group of people, then I think those who occupy political office for five years, and even more, and end up destitute belong there.

 

So, stop worrying, at least you will have a job, or the semblance of one, and start putting aside P50-00 of the P600-00 or so aside for when Ipelegeng ceases, as at least you have learnt a lesson. And remember, politicians are the ones responsible for ensuring good investment opportunities and  a comfortable life after retirement. If they cannot work for Ipelegeng, who do they expect to?

Justification 3: Politicians should be paid hefty salaries and allowances beacuse they offer us a clean environment. This is the sentiment of one Councillor in Mochudi. Uhu! Pardon me for having thought that that is part of a politician’s job, providing a clean environment that is. And then again, that might be happening in Mochudi, and I have not been there for quite some time, maybe they have improved. In Selibe-Phikwe at least I know people live with their refuse, what with the dogs, donkeys and cattle opening the gates and tipping over refuse bins while foraging for a meal. Please extend such services to Selibe-Phikwe dear Councillor.


Justification 4: Politicians in other countries are paid handsomely.  Now, now, now! Just what countries are we comparing ourselves with? Corrupt countries where politicians loot public coffers? And did our politicians look at other non-political officers’ remuneration, while they were at it? Or did they just look at theirs? I wonder. Why is it that we are so fond of wanting to adopt bad practices. I am confident the countries our politicians are comparing their salaries to offer very unfriendly salaries to the rest of the populace. Why can’t our politicians maybe compare our country with countries like Singapore. In Singapore the Government ensures or at least strives to ensure that;  they find jobs for their people


they put a roof over their peoples’ heads (Singapore has one of the world’s highest home ownership at 90-%; we do not see that in Botswana) they raised the GDP from $500 in 1965 to $6500 in 2015 and much, much more .I think our politicians should strive to achieve for us what we yearn for mostly; good jobs, good working conditions, good salaries, affordable housing, affordable medical aid, affordable investment and business opportunities, the list is endless. With a happy people, our politicians can then go ahead and reward themselves, maybe no one will notice, or if they do, they might not think it a bad idea. Go ahead, make us happy, give us good salaries, give us good housing, avail the land, the list is endless; and no one will complain.


Justification 5: Politicians use their money to champion democracy
My my my!…pardon me for thinking politicians made deliberate decisions to be politicians. And again I am wondering, why regret such a grand contribution; promoting democracy; and why should anyone complain or want to be paid for doing good? Let me remind our politicians that they are not the only ones championing democracy, or maybe they only think the others only jump onto the wagon when we “celebrate our democracy (vote)”.

 

No! If you remember our first President’s words “Democracy, like a little plant, does not grow or develop on its own. It must be nursed and nurtured if it is to grow and flourish. It must be believed in and practiced if it is to be appreciated. And it must be fought for and defended if it is to survive”…Sir Seretse Khama…opening of the 5th session of Parliament in 1978. No need to simplify that.


If our politicians want to stake a claim to nurturing democracy at the exclusion of all the others, then we have another think coming. Why, in the name of God would you want to exclude us? The Public Service, the Private Sector and all the other informal sectors out there contributing to championing democracy. Let us have respect for each other and not justify looting of public coffers, in the name of promoting democracy. This country belongs to all of us and each of us, in their own little way, contributes to nurturing our democracy.


The list of justifications is so enormous it cannot be covered in one article, and actually does not need to be. One just needs to look at all these justifications to find just what kind of people we are burdened with. Why should we trust someone who cannot take care of  his/herself, to take care of us? Why should we trust people who think they are better than us? Why should we trust people who think they are the only ones responsible for protecting and nurturing our democracy? I think it is time Batswana woke up from their slumber and start advocating for their place in Botswana’ democracy.


Yes we will always have politicians, but we need politicians who will take care of us, not those who think they are better than or deserve better than us. We need politicians who will remove the “self” from serving the people. And yes, we need a strong and vibrant civil society that will keep the politicians in check. Left to themselves, as is the case in Botswana…bad recipe. So Batswana, let us not only “celebrate our democracy (vote)”, let us live it, every day of our lives. Nurturing democracy is every Motswana’s right and responsibility.


Now, the Weekendpost of Saturday 10 – 16 December, 2016 carries another story where MP L. Kablay of Letlhakane/Lephephe is advocating for another salary increase and other special incentives such as constituency vehicles and the like. He is reported to have said that democracy is expensive to justify the demands. Yes, “democracy is expensive, very, very expensive,” but it should not be “wasteful”. Again, democracy is not like beauty, “it does not lie in the eyes of the beholder”, it belongs to the masses. Ao! Ba gaetsho! In the midst of massive job losses.

 

Nnyaa the betsho. Let us, before we think of ourselves, think of the multitudes of BCL miners and other such who have just lost their jobs. These are people who work theirselves out in very unfavourable and mostly unsafe environments. These are people who dug out copper to make Selibe-Phikwe what it is today, trusting that someone will sell that copper so that they continue surviving…for ours is survival, not living. Let us think of the masses who cannot find jobs and still others who are under-employed. Please, ladies and gentlemen, halt the cry for bigger salaries and think of these people.

 

You must be in Selibe-Phikwe to appreciate the sad, harsh and inhuman reality we see everyday, where the former miners congregate by Area two gates in this simmering heat, supposedly waiting for “change” from their very little terminal benefits. The situation is tantamount to parading these desperate miners for all to see. Please, please, let us think of these poor souls who are guaranteed a future without jobs, who are guaranteed a futureless future. At the very least, let us excise a little conscience of humanity. And please, remember, you made a deliberate choice to be representatives of the people, please do that. Is there any difficulty in that?

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Opinions

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

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 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 Pelosi’s 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’.

Pelosi’s visit to China’s 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 Communiqués.  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 China’s 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 People’s 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 Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwan’s administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the People’s 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, Biden’s 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 Pelosi’s 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 China’s People’s Liberation Army to “safeguard China’s 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 China’s overseas investments, projects and personnel.  It then follows that President Xi’s administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector China’s 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 People’s 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.

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

As China’s military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit China’s 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 António 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 People’s 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 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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