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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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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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Opinions

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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