It was pomp and fanfare for staff of the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) on Thursday as choral and traditional dance fused in a celebratory mood to push forward the theme of ‘A United and Proud Nation’ ahead of the 50th anniversary commemorations.
To mark the first day of the independence month, HRDC kicked off the countdown in style by recounting highlights of past celebrations to trigger enthusiasm for the golden jubilee commemorations. For the younger generation that might not treat the celebrations with strong national sentiments – they got insight into the meaning of independence.
The event was punctuated with the use of Setswana in the place of English as an official language to deliver speeches, while song and dance were rooted in the idiomatic diction of the mother-tongue to showcase the idiosyncrasies of a united Botswana.
The younger generation benefitted from translation of important messages embedded in the lyrics, or uncommon expressions employed by their seniors. Dipapisa-puo (figurative speech) was favoured over common speech to display the pride of mastering Setswana as a national language.
Masego Mokubung – director for Statistics, Research and Innovation reminisced her teenage days during the tenth-anniversary celebrations that were characterised with song and dance.
“In Setswana – the poetic licence enjoyed by composers is something to marvel. If the singer or poet had an important message to convey to the leader – be it the traditional chief or politician, the admonishment was best encapsulated in the song or poem. Leboko ga le na bosekelo (there is no offence in artistic composition). Nowadays, our praise-poets and singers are restrained by laws that govern freedom of speech and expression. Radio stations no longer play lyrics deemed to be obscene, whereas the artist would have done nothing but to employ the rich language to convey an important message to the larger society. During independence celebrations back then, these were things to look forward to. I did my part as a teenager – if they wanted a watered-down ‘Sebodu-ke-nnenekwane’, the national stadium had me as the centre of attention for the rendition of Speech Madimabe’s folk-song,” She fondly remembered.
Ralph Maganu, acting Chief Operations Officer said the twentieth-anniversary was a poignant milestone that he has cherished the rest of his life.
“I haven’t celebrated and enjoyed independence greater than this time. The torch of unity truly stitched this nation together. I guess it was the creative manner in which it was thought out – you had the young and elderly alike running with the torch along our highways, short and long distances just to participate and pass it on to the next person to show that we are united. I hope the golden jubilee can achieve some excitement as the 1986 celebrations,” he recalled with nostalgia.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Raphael Dingalo – recollected the rare moment of seeing world leaders at close range as school children lined up the streets in a march to the national stadium for a beehive of activities.
“I saw Dr Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, and many others. Vividly, I remember the football match between Botswana and China for the tenth-anniversary celebrations. Unfortunately, we lost two-zero to the giant nation, but consolation was convenient as they looked the same and we justified our loss on the assumption that they [likely] kept substituting players without us noticing each time there was a throw-in, thus running down our boys to clinch a victory,” Dingalo said, amid cheers.
Dingalo reminded the gathering of the relevance of the theme for the 50th commemorations – a ‘United and Proud Nation’ as signifying the diversity in the many languages and cultures across the country, yet bonded into oneness as Botswana.
“The colourful tapestry of our nation is what we are celebrating. It does not mean that we will always agree on everything, but in our disagreements, we must recognize that what unites us is far greater than what can divide us as a nation called Botswana. Let us join together in commemorating this year’s independence with the understanding – celebration of diversity in unity,” he underscored the theme.
The BOT50 Representative, Kagiso Seloma who was the guest of honour reminded the gathering that it was significant for each citizen to uphold national symbols that define us as Batswana. Seloma was mesmerized by the national colours upon entry – a gesture that suggested HRDC had pitched the bar high for creating hype around the celebrations.
“It felt like walking into a Government Ministry and the ambiance was just perfect. I applaud you for the efforts. However, I need to also implore you that in prepping up for the golden jubilee, we must watch out for the correct symbols that define and represent Botswana. The royal blue of the flag is not the national colour – ours is sky-blue. Similarly, I noticed people were walking up and down as the national anthem was sung. We must be in absolute attentive mode. It is sacred. Our national symbols are the coat of arms, national anthem, and the flag – we must give them respect and honour,” he emphasized.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.