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Gaborone was initially built for 5000 people!

In deliberating the site of the new capital there were obvious differences among the members of the Legislative Council. The deliberations were thorough and protracted. At the end of it all a vote decided that of the 33 members of the Legislative Council, 22 voted for the capital of Botswana to be located in Gaborone and 11 wanted it located in the center or where there was an abundance of water supplies in places like Mahalapye, Palapye, Shashi or Francistown.

Looking at the circumstances of the time, what appears to have persuaded the majority of the members of the Legislative Council to opt for Gaborone were several advantages found to exist in Gaborone. First there a guarantee of ‘adequate’ water supplies after ‘thorough’ investigations. Second, there was the availability of Crown land which meant that the administration would not have to buy or request land from any of the nearby ethnic groups. Thirdly there were a few humble infrastructural developments in Gaborone such as police, former Assistant Commissioner‘s and Fort Gaberones buildings, running water, a Post Office, railway line and roads. Fourthly, Gaborone was located not too far from six ‘principal’ ethnic groups considered to constitute the bulk of the population of the BP and by that virtue it would be understood to stand for centrality. These factors, together with the time available to identify and build a capital as soon as possible prompted the administration and Legislative Council hurriedly settle for Gaborone.

Persuaded by the arguments of the few members of the Legislative Council of the time who argued against Gaborone as the capital, this paper takes the position that the choice of Gaborone was a grave and expensive error. Obviously, the members who opposed the location of Gaborone were in the minority and that being so, were out-voted, but that did not mean the majority was right, indeed the majority is not always right. A close examination of the factors that led to the establishment of Gaborone as the capital reveals that some these factors were questionable. Perhaps at the time these factors were straight forward, but even then some of the members questioned them at the tme. It is even worse so on hindsight, or fifty years later.

The administration, its Investigating Committee, and the majority of the members of the Legislative Council were convinced that Prof Midgley’s investigations had revealed that there was adequate water in the Notwane dam and that some additional dams could be built in and around Gaborone. Examining other sites, could it be realistically said that the little Notwane River could be found to have more water than say, the Mahalapye, Shashi or even the Tati Rivers and therefore suitable to sustain the capital of a country? Messers Taylor, Shaw, van Gass and predicted at the time, that the water was more in the north than in the south and that in fifty years time the north would supply the south with water. But at what cost it may be asked.

Another advantage that attracted the administration and the majority of the members of the Legislative Council to the Gaborone site was the availability of crown land. How much crown land was available and what consideration there was for expansion in the future was not immediately clear. The minority members of the Legislative Council did point out that Gaborone as a capital had limited land in terms of expansion, predicting at the time that in the future it would not be able to expand to the north, east, south, or west without encroaching on ‘tribal’ lands. Today, fifty years later, that prediction could not have been more on the mark.

The decision to locate the capital in Gaborone was in part influenced by the fact that it was accessible to the six ‘principal’ groups which factor assumed that most of the population of the country was in the southern part of the country. That assumption appears to have been erroneous as the table below gives a picture of what the population of the south compared to the north was like in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Related to the population factor was that the administration’s Investigating Committee had suggested that the capital be built for 5,000 people out of a population less than 600,500 people for the whole country. Granted at the time it could have been appropriate, but 5,000 was an awfully small figure especially that there was no indication or specification that the capital would move any time soon. It is baffling that a capital of any country should be planned around a small figure such as 5,000 as if its population, and that of the country for that matter, would forever remain dormant.

The infrastructure and communication did not make Gaborone particularly stand out as advantageous compared to say, Lobatse, Mahalapye, and Francistown. All the three were accessible by roads and rail. Small commercial and industrial centers were available in these places. Also available in all the tree places were humble buildings which included police stations and running water. It would appear that communications and infrastructure were not peculiar advantages to Gaborone.

The decision to find an appropriate place for the location of the capital of Botswana appeared to have been taken in a rush on the part of both the administration and the members of the L egislative Council.

In their deliberations about the site of the new capital, member after member talked about the short space of time within which the location of capital had to be identified73*. The apparent ‘ hurry’ was tied to the financial issue. Botswana then was known to have been one of the poorest countries in the world, dependent on subsistence farming and agriculture and to a very large extent to the British government’s grants-in-aid. It goes without saying therefore that by 1964-65 the country had no money to absorb the expenses of the movement from Mahikeng, let alone build a new capital. Mention has already been made that the British government had pledged the sum of R4 million for the movement of the capital. If the administration and the Legislative Council members delayed in identifying the site for the capital for anything from one to three years, then there was no guarantee that the British government would hold its pledge for that long. Fear of losing that opportunity, compounded by the fact that the movement of

Head Quarters was long overdue any way, were in the minds of the administration and members of the Legislative Council. In those circumstances, the possibility of hurriedly making a decision on the site for a new capital could easily lead to miscalculations and ‘grave and expensive errors’.


The choice of Gaborone as a capital, like other capitals of the world, was influenced by several factors.

Top among those was the availability of water. In the case of Gaborone sufficient water was found in the Notwane River where, by 1965, a dam had been built and ready to supply the new capital. Land was also a determining factor in the choice of the capital. Gaborone had crown land, which meant that the land would not have to be bought, lent, borrowed from, or given by, the ethnic groups in the precincts of Gaborone. It also was thought to be close six of the eight principal ethnic groups suggesting that the location of the six ethnic groups determined the density of the population of the whole territory. The capital was built for 5,000 people. At the time it could be argued that it was practical, considering that the population of the entire country was less than 500,000. Related to the population was the issue of centrality and accessibility of the capital. Given the situation of the time, the presence and locality of the six ethnic groups, determined, to the extent possible, the centrality of Gaborone in relation to the population of the country. Communications and infrastructure also determined the choice of the capital as Gaborone had a few administrative buildings set up during colonial times, the Post Office, a rail line and roads although they were not paved.

Taking into consideration the above factors, the recommendations of the Investigating Committee were taken to the representative body of Legislative Council for deliberation and owning the decision to locate the site of the capital. The deliberations were protracted and thorough, but not overwhelmingly unanimous. The majority of the members approved Gaborone as the new capital while one third, eleven out of thirty three, opposed the capital ‘s location in Gaborone citing several disadvantages about Gaborone and doubting the thoroughness of the Investigating Committee, suggesting other places where the capital could be located.

This paper takes the position that while the choice of Gaborone as a capital was dictated by the circumstances of the time, it would appear that that decision was somewhat rushed. It is difficult to be convinced that the waters found in the Notwane River could have been more adequate than those of the Mahalapye, Shashi and Tati Rivers. The crown land that was available in Gaborone appears not to have had a long term plan for expansion as presently it is difficult to expand to any direction without infringing upon ethnic rights; in addition, it baffles the mind why a capital of a country could be built for 5,000 people only as if it was guaranteed that its population would forever remain dormant. The paper has demonstrated that the population of the country was not denser in the south because of the location of the six principal ethnic groups, and that the assumption that the population was more in the south was inaccurate. By the same token the location of Gaborone could not be said to have been central and therefore accessible to the rest of the population. Located in the south eastern part of the country, Gaborone’s centrality and accessibility are not conspicuously obvious. The infrastructure and communication lines were available in other places other than Gaborone. Lobatse, Mahalapye, Palapye, and Francistown were linked by rail and roads so that that prerogative was not only for Gaborone. Finally the finance issue put pressure on the members of Legislative Council to hurriedly locate the capital at the expense of investigations which would take a little bit more time but nonetheless thorough. Some members of the Legislative Council did mention that they preferred thoroughness than rushing to take a decision that would not only be a miscalculation but ‘a grave and expensive error’. It is arguable whether if the capital had been located elsewhere other than Gaborone so much monies would spent, and are continuing be spent, on ferrying water supplies to sustain the capital.

this presentation by Prof Part Mgadla on the topic: 'A Very Grave and Expensive Error'? : The choice of a new site for the Capital of Botswana 1958-65 to generate interest in you as we celebrate 50 years of independence. Thepresenters are coming up with arguably new information about Botswana.

The paper was presented and discussed at the University of Botswana on Thursday as part of the ongoing BOT50 lecture series

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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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