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Co-operatives 101 (iv): An Olive Branch to Stakeholders (ii)

“…Drops in separation could only fade away, drops in co-operation made the ocean“ -Mahatma Gandhi

Dear reader, welcome to part ii (two) of part iv (four) of this series, Co-operative 101. This installment is an extension of part i (one) of part iv (four) -‘An Olive Branch to Stakeholders’. Part one started the journey of extending a Co-operative olive branch to current and potential Co-operative movement stakeholders. It spoke to the following stakeholders: Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture (MYSC) –Youth Desk; Poverty Eradication Programme; Gender Affairs Department (GeAD) – Women Economic Empowerment Programme; Legislators and Policy Makers; and the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC).

It addressed these stakeholders distinctly and in some cases collectively. It fundamentally showed the relevance of the stakeholders in Co-operative development, as well as the relevance of the Co-operative movement in the respective stakeholder’s aims, objectives and mandate. Furthermore it called for swift and strategic partnership in advancement of identified common objectives. This installment continues the same spirit and purpose. It extends a Co-operative olive branch to other strategic partners, namely: Bot50; The Fourth Estate (media); Business Development Centers, Research Institutes and Think Tanks; VLIs (Village Level Institutions); Framers Associations; Funding Institutions and; Motswana ko lwapeng.    

1. Bot50;

Dear Bot50, we know it hasn’t been long since your established and you will probably not been in existence post the 50 years celebrations. We also acknowledge your existence this far has not been an easy one, actually it has been one the most difficult and consistently criticized establishments in our life time so far. ESP (Economic Stimulus Programme) and the Vision 2036 council had their fair share of tribulations and criticism but they are far from matching the Bot50 level. Nonetheless, some of us earnestly believe Bot50 is a noble establishment; its establishment was necessary and monumental.

Its mandate is essential especially in this spectacular year -as Botswana celebrate 50 years of independence and relative prosperity.  I assume Co-operative enthusiasts, like every other sector, wish Bot50 well in their mandate and associated obligations. It is equally important to acknowledge that a lot of work has already been done and probably at an advanced stage. However we would like to plead and remind you that Co-operatives have amazing stories to tell and prove regarding our country’s fifty years of independence. Furthermore; Co-operatives have a seemingly promising and inclusive future to offer Botswana and Batswana. A future centered on redressing shortfalls of the past fifty years whilst preserving and escalating our country’s gains this far. Based on this brief background it is evident a strategic partnership between Bot50 and the Co-operative movement is necessary and long overdue.

2. The Fourth Estate (Media);

The title ‘Fourth Estate’ is used herein to show the utmost respect to the media fraternity at large. The title best describes the media’s distinct and critical role as the fourth arm of government. From a Co-operative enthusiast standpoint, I would like express greatest appreciation for the support and coverage the ‘Fourth Estate’ has extended the Co-operative movement so far. Most of us learnt about the Co-operative movement and ideology through the ‘Fourth Estate’. Most outreach programs and recruit of members to the Co-operative movement is largely through the ‘Fourth Estate’.

Similarly, most Co-operative enterprise goods and services reach their target market through the ‘Fourth Estate’. Most of the critical Co-operative movement advocacy and lobbying efforts reach legislators and policy makers through the ‘Fourth Estate’. The existence, growth and prosperity of the Co-operative movement rely heavily on the ‘Fourth Estate’. It is in this regard that the efforts of the ‘Fourth Estate’ in advancing the growth and prosperity of the co-operative movement should be noticed encouraged and continued. Though the Co-operative movement media relation and partnership strategy seems undefined yet, it is necessary for the Co-operative movement to swiftly move towards a clearly defined media relations strategy to enable the ‘Fourth Estate’ to better and easily help the co-operative movement advance its noble purpose.

3. Research Institutes and Think Tanks;

One of the biggest challenges the local Co-operative movement, like many other sectors in country, face is the lack of timely, reliable and accurate local research or data generation. This has resulted in the movement’s advocacy relying heavily on generalized West Africa research findings and recommendations. Though the findings and recommendations are mostly relevant, easily generalized and applicable to our context, it is essential for us (Botswana) to start conducting our on research and drawing our own findings and recommendations.  These will help our advocacy and lobbying to be more relevant, precise and focused.

There is a generally heated debate on the relevance and significance of our ‘Think-Tanks’ and ‘Research Institutes’. There is a school of thought arguing that our ‘Think-Tanks’ and ‘Research Institutes’ have lost focus and becoming a waist of funds. I opt not to go into that debate in this installment. This installment is purely meant to link the Co-operative movement to our ‘Research Institutes’ and ‘Think-Tanks’. There is a lot of advocacy and lobbying the Co-operative movement has to undertake, in this advocacy and lobbying journey the movement will need backing and technical mentorship from these institutes. Furthermore Economic Development and Community Development research fellows in these institutes will also need viable research areas to advance and/or maintain their academic and professional relevance. With that said handshakes between the Co-operative movement, research institutes and think tanks is necessary and long overdue.

4. Village Level Institutions (VLIs);

Unfortunately, one of the erroneously undermined development institutions in our country are VLIs (Village Level Institutions). VLIs herein are deduced from the three main institutional structures in our society; -central, district and local.  VLIs fall under local structures. The most common VLI is the VDC (Village Development Committee) and DYCs (District Youth Councils). These are simply locality-based community institutions that have been established to legitimize/authorize participation by ordinary Batswana in the implementation of the country’s decentralized programming efforts. I would not like to get into the specifics of why VLIs such as VDCs and DYCs are not doing very well and what could be done to enable them to achieve much more. I would only like to encourage the leadership of VLIs to consider Co-operatives as one the most viable and relevant economic development models in their respective jurisdictions. Compared to central and district level structures, local level structures are best placed to advance Co-operative enterprises. Out of the possible local level development options, Co-operatives are one of the best avenues. This is simply based on their distinguished and inherent values such as; self-help, self-responsibility, democracy equality and concern for community.

5. Framers Associations;

History teaches us the Co-operative ideology was heavily centered on sustainable agricultural production. Even today the largest chunk of the combined international Co-operative movement revenue is generated by agriculture related Co-operatives. Furthermore agriculture plays a very critical role in Food and Nutrition Security of every country. In the same light, the whole world is concerned by acute contemporary challenges facing the food production sector at large. Some of these challenges include high and escalating costs of production, unfair competition against import products and frequent disease out breaks. Best practice case studies from neighboring countries shows that farmers there found refuge and solace in the Co-operative business model. These farmers joined hands to: -benefit from economies of scale, -speak and lobby in one voice, -support each other through the tribulations of the risky farming business and; -produce in unity to feed their nation; create jobs and; reduce the import bill. This is the direction every farmer and country wishes to take. This is the direction the co-operative movement wishes to take in unison with the farming community in our country.

6. Funding Institutions;

The journey to get funding institutions to consider funding Co-operatives has been a long and seemingly fruitless one. One of the key pillars of Botswana’s Co-operative Transformation Strategy focuses purely on the element of Co-operative funding/financing. It is in this regard that Co-operatives individually and the Co-operative movement as a block have been trying relentlessly to convince funding institutions to consider funding Co-operative enterprises. However, the good news is CEDA (Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency) has already come to the party and has opened its doors to well managed and viable deserving Co-operative establishments. Hopefully this development will motivate and encourage other funding institutions to open their doors to deserving and convincing Co-operatives. Funding institutions should note that deserving viable Co-operatives, like other sectors, have the interests of their sectors and the country at heart. They intended to stimulate necessary economic activity, generate income, create jobs and diversify our mineral based economy.   

7. Motswana ko lwapeng.   

Motswana ko lwapeg, kindly note that you have a huge role to play in the progress and prosperity of Co-operatives. Co-operatives thrive on membership; membership is a collective of individuals starting with you. It is therefore important for you to consider joining or establishing a Co-operative of your interest and aspirations. Secondly Co-operatives thrive on clients purchasing their products/goods and services. Simply put they rely on you taking a deliberate decision to support their goods and services before considering other competitors. Motswana ko lwapeg kindly remember that by supporting Co-operative enterprises you are; alleviating poverty, uniting people, reducing equalities and promoting social justice.

*Taziba is a Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development (7189 0354/ 

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The case for Botswana to ratify the ACDEG

6th March 2023

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) is the most comprehensive dataset measuring African governance performance through a wide range of 81 indicators under the categories of Security & Rule of law, Participation, Rights & Inclusion, Foundations of Economic Opportunity, and Human Development. It employs scores, expressed out of 100, which quantify a country’s performance for each governance measure and ranks, out of 54, in relation to the 54 African countries.

The 2022 IIAG Overall Governance score is 68.1 and ranks Botswana at number 5 in Africa. In 2019 Botswana was ranked 2nd with an overall score of 73.3. That is a sharp decline. The best-performing countries are Mauritius, Seychelles, Tunisia, and Cabo Verde, in that order. A glance at the categories shows that Botswana is in third place in Africa on the Security and Rule of law; ninth in the Participation, Rights & Inclusion Category – indicating a shrinking participatory environment; eighth for Foundations of Economic Opportunity category; and fifth in the Human Development category.

The 2022 IIAG comes to a sweeping conclusion: Governments are less accountable and transparent in 2021 than at any time over the last ten years; Higher GDP does not necessarily indicate better governance; rule of law has weakened in the last five years; Democratic backsliding in Africa has accelerated since 2018; Major restrictions on freedom of association and assembly since 2012. Botswana is no exception to these conclusions. In fact, a look at the 10-year trend shows a major challenge. While Botswana remains in the top 5 of the best-performing countries in Africa, there are signs of decline, especially in the categories of Human Development and Security & Rule of law.

I start with this picture to show that Botswana is no longer the poster child for democracy, good governance, and commitment to the rule of law that it once was. In fact, to use the term used in the IIAG, Botswana is experiencing a “democratic backsliding.”

The 2021 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) had Botswana at 55/ 100, the lowest ever score recorded by Botswana dethroning Botswana as Africa’s least corrupt country to a distant third place, where it was in 2019 with a CPI of 61/100. (A score closer to zero denotes the worst corrupt and a score closer to 100 indicates the least corrupt country). The concern here is that while other African states are advancing in their transparency and accountability indexes, Botswana is backsliding.

The Transitional National Development Plan lists participatory democracy, the rule of law, transparency, and accountability, as key “deliverables,” if you may call those deliverables. If indeed Botswana is committed to these principles, she must ratify the African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance (ACDEG).

The African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance is the African Union’s principal policy document for advancing democratic governance in African Union member states. The ACDEG embodies the continent’s commitment to a democratic agenda and set the standards upon which countries agreed to be held accountable. The Charter was adopted in 2007 and came into force a decade ago, in 2012.

Article 2 of the Charter details its objectives among others as to a) Promote adherence, by each State Party, to the universal values and principles of democracy and respect for human rights; b) Promote and protect the independence of the judiciary; c) Promote the establishment of the necessary conditions to foster citizen participation, transparency, access to information, freedom of the press and accountability in the management of public affairs; d) Promote gender balance and equality in the governance and development processes.

The Charter emphasizes certain principles through which member states must uphold: Citizen Participation, Accountable Institutions, Respect for Human Rights, Adherence to the principles of the Rule of Law, Respect for the supremacy of the constitution and constitutional order, Entrenchment of democratic Principles, Separation of Powers, Respect for the Judiciary, Independence and impartiality of electoral bodies, best practice in the management of elections. These are among the top issues that Batswana have been calling for, that they be entrenched in the new Constitution.

The ACDEG is a revolutionary document. Article 3 of the ACDEG, sets guidance on the principles that must guide the implementation of the Charter among them: Effective participation of citizens in democratic and development processes and in the governance of public affairs; Promotion of a system of government that is representative; Holding of regular, transparent, free and fair elections; Separation of powers; Promotion of gender equality in public and private institutions and others.

Batswana have been calling for laws that make it mandatory for citizen participation in public affairs, more so, such calls have been amplified in the just-ended “consultative process” into the review of the Constitution of Botswana. Many scholars, academics, and Batswana, in general, have consistently made calls for a constitution that provides for clear separation of powers to prevent concentration of power in one branch, in Botswana’s case, the Executive, and provide for effective checks and balances. Other countries, like Kenya, have laws that promote gender equality in public and private institutions inscribed in their constitutions. The ACDEG could be a useful advocacy tool for the promotion of gender equality.

Perhaps more relevant to Botswana’s situation now is Article 10 of the Charter. Given how the constitutional review process unfolded, the numerous procedural mistakes and omissions, the lack of genuine consultations, the Charter principles could have provided a direction, if Botswana was party to the Charter. “State Parties shall ensure that the process of amendment or revision of their constitution reposes on national consensus, obtained, if need be, through referendum,” reads part of Article 10, giving clear clarity, that the Constitution belong to the people.

With the African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance in hand, ratified, and also given the many shortfalls in the current constitution, Batswana can have a tool in hand, not only to hold the government accountable but also a tool for measuring aspirations and shortfalls of our governance institutional framework.

Botswana has not signed, nor has it acceded or ratified the ACDEG. The time to ratify the ACDEG is now. Our Movement, Motheo O Mosha Society, with support from the Democracy Works Foundation and The Charter Project Africa, will run a campaign to promote, popularise and advocate for the ratification of the Charter (#RatifytheCharter Campaign). The initiative is co-founded by the European Union. The Campaign is implemented with the support of our sister organizations: Global Shapers Community – Gaborone Hub, #FamilyMeetingBW, Botswana Center for Public Integrity, Black Roots Organization, Economic Development Forum, Molao-Matters, WoTech Foundation, University of Botswana Political Science Society, Young Minds Africa and Branding Akosua.

Ratifying the Charter would reaffirm Botswana’s commitment to upholding strong democratic values, and respect for constitutionalism, and promote the rule of law and political accountability. Join us in calling the Government of Botswana to #RatifyTheCharter.

*Morena MONGANJA is the Chairperson of Motheo O Mosha society; a grassroots movement advocating for a new Constitution for Botswana. Contact: or WhatsApp 77 469 362.

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The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosis actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as international waters.

Pelosis visit to Chinas Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqus. In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to Chinas position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The Peoples Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijings position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwans administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Bidens words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region. The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as Taiwan independence. The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for Chinas Peoples Liberation Army to safeguard Chinas national sovereignty, security and development interests. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard Chinas overseas investments, projects and personnel. It then follows that President Xis administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector Chinas sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part. Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The Peoples Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces. This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijings military exercises will certainly shake Taiwans confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwans central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As Chinas military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit Chinas Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to Taiwan independence separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the Peoples Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

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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 Botswanas 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, Mogaes 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 theBulela Ditswedispensation, 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 Ditswewas 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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