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WHERE ARE WE GOING?

When you consciously, with a clear sense of honesty, reflect on how our country is governed you will immediately realise that there are deep rooted political shenanigans and acts of political hooliganism going on in our country sponsored by the ruling party.

If you listen objectively to the political leadership in parliament at freedom squares at press conferences you will immediately see that what I am saying is nothing but the truth. It is clear that the opposition parties have no power to stop these political maneuverings and manipulations that are clearly driving our country steadily towards ruin. It is clear that the opposition parties can only talk against these and offer solutions which can only be implemented by the ruling party.

This can only happen if the ruling party had members of parliament with some modicum of integrity who can stand independently and firmly for what is right, not those who are driven by selfish interests, whose only desire is to please their president. The opposition members of parliament are truly toothless in parliament, they can only shout as much as they want but they neither have the mandate nor the power to implement any of their rightful demands or desires for the nation. It is the ruling party that holds the power, the keys and he sway to make laws and programs that can destroy or save this country.

The ruling party is willfully, with impunity taking this country on a free way to self destruction because it is blinded by selfish and relentless desires for self preservation. It is up to all of us who love our country to take a stand and speak out in support of the few sane voices in parliament.  Maybe the opposition ought to now develop extra parliamentary strategies to engage the public directly at their door steps or where they can be found to preach the message of change.

We must stop this slide towards ruin that even ordinary people in the streets can now see but are helpless in the extreme.
It is disheartening to learn that our president, who once called members of parliament ‘vultures’ when they called for their pay rises. He said this when he delivered his maiden speech in parliament in 2000 after which he abruptly left parliament giving parliamentarians no opportunity to engage him. 

He is the one who now wants to change the law in order to ridiculously increase his own retirement packages and benefits. It is the same president who has since drained our national coffers through his ill conceived selfish political motivated programs like the so called economic stimulus programme (ESP), the so called youth empowerment programmes that are not only wasteful, but will leave many youth permanently financially and morally disabled because many of these youth have not been trained to manage such funds.

Many of these youth will end up using these funds possibly for luxurious expenditure in the form of expensive cars, drugs and reckless lifestyles that will result in an unsustainable future whose end result could be laced with misery and shame.  We must state categorically that politically motivated youth programmes must be condemned and rejected. 

We need to do things the right way not for politically expediency. It is the same president who has wasted our money on the so called poverty eradication programs including backyard gardens and dishing out animals to people who never showed any interest in farming. Common sense will show you that in a drought prone country like Botswana only serious commercial farmers can survive.

How can the President be demanding increased retirement benefits for himself when he has refused to meaningfully improve the remuneration packages and benefits for the public servants who are earning income well below living wages? Instead he has reduced the benefits by allowing inflation to cut deep into these already very low salaries without any compensation for inflation.

He has cut the civil service by introducing ‘vultures’ to take over some services, like cleaning and security, ‘vultures’ who get fat cheques from government and pay their employees minimum wage set by government of less than a thousand pula per month with no other benefit whatsoever and very abusive and appalling work conditions for these poor people These ‘vultures’ do not give their employees any pension or any terminal benefits because the law which law is determined by the ruling party allows it.

Politicians cannot talk about increasing their remuneration when the country is economically bleeding; when the public servants are earning starving wages that drives them towards corruption and possibly wicked lifestyles. Politicians, I mean true politicians in my view are volunteers driven by their deep desire to serve their people and to protect all the national resources for the benefit of the rightful owners, the people; not to defraud the same people and misuse their resources.

It is indeed shocking that parliament instead of debating ways of stimulating the economy, creating jobs opportunities and improving benefits for their people, they are instead busy debating a bill to increase the president retirement benefits. 

As a side throw, they have also shamefully started debating and demanding increasing their security in parliament. They are now continuously talking about a harmless okapi knife found by their new found gadget, a detector that now scans people as they go into parliament. What pettiness from our parliament! Don’t they know that many self respecting Batswana men carry harmless knifes always in their pockets to facilitate some of their tradition pastimes.

Is it not surprising, that this has now taken centre stage in parliament, freedom squares, radios and general public discourse instead of national issues? Those who have found this to be such an important national topic do not even know that some of their own might be or are actually carrying hidden short guns to parliament for self protection. These political ‘vultures’ must open their eyes and research more about personal security.

Our hands, legs and heads could be used as lethal weapons by some crazy people; shall our hands, legs and heads be cut because they might be used carelessly for purposes they where never meant for?  Are our parliamentarians so crazy that they could engage in a way that knifes could be used as weapons of destruction in parliament?  Let us have a dignified parliament. Parliament is becoming a national disgrace, perhaps that’s why they cannot televise it, like other countries. Anyway, let me move on.

Where are we going, when with such a poorly performing economy still reeling from the impacts of the global economic down turn of 2008; the down turn that has seen dramatic fall of the global commodity prices resulting in many of our mines closing, some of them at the brink of closure and some having reduced production and their staff?

Where are we going when in the middle of all these challenges we are busy justifying in our parliament the increase of specially elected members of parliament and increasing the number of ministers? How is this going to address our increasing economic challenges we face? Where are we going, can someone who is objective see sense that I cannot see in the middle of this madness?

Where are we going when we have a population of around forty thousand (40 000) young people joining the job market each year with no prospects of finding any job? What are our politicians especially the ruling party doing about this growing number of unemployed people whose training has been paid for by the tax payer?  Remember during the last elections, the ruling party directly through the president issued a red card in which the president categorically stated that job creation was going to be the number one priority of his administration.

How many jobs have been created since that election and declaration?  I only know of thousands of jobs that have been lost in a number of operations around the country on the mines, the diamond factories, the banks and even the government.  I am not aware of any meaningful jobs created. Those who know please let me know how many jobs have been created in the country since October 2014 when the ruling party was re-election.

Where are we going when we are not able to execute any project on time and within budget?  Where are we going when we employ retired and failed politicians to manage government mega projects? Where are we going when we build a glass factory in Palapye for five hundred million Pula, we stop the project just before it is completed then we strip the factory and sell the equipment for about ten million Pula? Where are we going when we build an eleven billion Pula power plant in Palapye and then pronounce our intention to sell it because it was poorly built, because it is a maintenance nightmare and because it will not meet the rated electricity production? Who in his right mind would buy such a plant for eleven billion Pula or are we going to give it away at ten million Pula like the glass factory? Where are we going when we sabotage a private investor who wants to build a 700 MW solar power station in Jwaneng, a private investor who has done all the his homework including acquisition of land. Where are we going when we tell this investor that, go away, we are not interested we will build our own 100 MW solar power station at the same place?

Where are we going?  Where is the logic in all this madness?

Where are we going when we have a government whose sole purpose is to frustrate the private sector and at the same time tell the world that the private sector should drive the economy, the same government that is spending inordinate amount of money going around the world seeking foreign direct investment? We have to be serious and tell the world that we are not ready for private sector investment; tell the world that we are not ready for genuine foreign direct investment. Tell them we only want to do our own thing for our party and children using public funds.

Where are we going Batswana when we have a government that is using national resources for its own political campaigns against the opposition? Where are we going when the nation is daily bombarded with the ‘red’ political propaganda on our so called national television and radio, pure political propaganda in full party colours, where are we going? Our political leaders are leading this country astray towards our economic ruin. We need to wake up before it is too late. Soon, very soon we will hear that there is no money to sponsor our children to study at our public institution of higher learning, but those children going to private institutions will be sponsored?  Watch the space!

In conclusion, I repeat in part what I said last week. Our politicians need to realise that they must change and start serving the interests of their people. It is disappointing and disheartening that almost all the politicians in the ruling party have sold their soul to their party.  They have regrettably become spineless puppets on the string only to serve the interests of their party.

We need to raise the voice of consciousness and urge these politicians to pursue only their real political mandate regardless of their political affiliation. They must not accept programs and laws that will drain our national coffers without commensurate benefit to the country. We need politicians who will stand for principle, politicians who will champion the interests of their people.

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Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022
piracy

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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Opinions

Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022
Craig-Cloud

Putin Chose War.  We Remain United with Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Craig L. Cloud

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient.

They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world.  The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.  By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.

When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.

United in Our Response

This will not end well for Vladimir Putin.  Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable.  As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.

President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology.  After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.

Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.

By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime.  In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.

We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military.  We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy.  And we are prepared to do more.

In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.

We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies.  President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.

He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.  Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.  There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world:  NATO is more united than ever.

The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies.  We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.

Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War

This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.

He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.

Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do.  We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas.  We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine.  We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.

Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there.  We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.

We have been transparent with the world.  We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up.  Putin is the aggressor.  Putin chose this war.  And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.

Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever

Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed.  In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity.  We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.

Putin has failed to divide us.  Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies.  And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.

The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine.  Putin has unleashed great suffering on them.  But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.

The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

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