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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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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

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: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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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. www.womeninnews.org

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

MELANIE WALKER

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. www.womeninnews.org

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