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A misguided political leadership

I have never really trusted politicians especially those in the ruling party since my youth. The reason being that during the elections every five years they came, made promises, ridiculed the opposition politicians as dreamers and went back only to come back for the same similitude after five years. Many of the promised developments, especially roads networks have still not been constructed almost fifty (50) years later making access to these villages very difficult resulting in a lot of our people migrating to towns and other villages.

Without roads and necessary developments who will be interested in investing in these villages? How many educated and informed people given a choice will remain in undeveloped remote villages, surrounded by poverty, with no social amenities?  How many people will choose to travel every weekend on dusty, bumpy and unsafe roads with their children to these far flung villages just for the sake of being in their beloved undeveloped villages? The fifty (50) year old song, the political song called diversification of the economy, will remain a song, a pipe dream that will last as long as we have the kind of politicians we have in this country, especially those in the ruling party.

The kind of politicians who do not realise that diversification will not happen until the country is first adequately prepared for it; the kind of politicians who do not realise that investors will come only if their livelihood and that of their families is not compromised; the politicians who does not realise that investors will need decent schools for their children, the politicians who do not understand that investors will need decent health care systems for their families, the politicians who do not appreciate that investors will need decent transportation infrastructure like road networks, railway facilities, telecommunication and air travel to reach the market and to fully benefit from and fully enjoy the benefits of his investment. Without the right kind of politicians no meaningful diversification of the economy will take place.  

Our politicians do not understand why Gaborone and the Greater Gaborone are so congested. They do not realise that it is because of our failure to decentralise and spread the economic burden to all the major centres of our country. Our politicians do not understand why the cost of living is unbearable for many living in Gaborone and the Greater Gaborone. They wonder why accommodation is extremely expensive in Gaborone and the Greater Gaborone.

They cannot see that it is because of poor planning that has resulted in concentration of all economic activities centred on these areas.  Gaborone was never designed for the population it is currently forced to support. The resultant congestion has complicated many things including land shortages resulting in expensive accommodation, on the lower end of the community economic spectrum accommodation is not only expensive, it is also appalling with many families living in one roomed accommodation which is used as a kitchen, a bathroom, a sitting room and a bedroom.

Roads are overflowing with traffic making driving not only a very expensive and dangerous occupation, but also a negative productivity factor as people cannot get to work on time and cannot carry their economic activities on time making the business environment very unattractive. Water supply challenges in and around Gaborone is a result of the volumes required to water Gaborone and the Greater Gaborone as a consequence of this congestion and poor planning and execution by our politicians. These politicians do not realise that developing rural areas will help in their diversification efforts and will ease congestions in Gaborone and surrounding villages.

As a young man I vowed never to be become a politician as I believed many politicians I observed as I was growing were just load mouths with very little in between their ears.  I was also told that it is the empty drums that make the loudest noise. I heard their loud noises in their load speakers as they bellowed and traversed our villages, at freedom squares canvassing for votes from desperate  and unsuspecting villagers who were always ready to hero worship these noisy politicians who always told them that they held the national purse for development of their villages.

I heard them too, they promised but never delivered. Every five years they came with their empty loud promises, and then disappeared never to be heard until the next five years. What a bunch of clowns!  See them at work in parliament and you will realise that indeed they are a bunch of clowns, not the honorables that they fake to be.

It is this crop of politicians who have not understood their role or who have deliberately misguided themselves for their own selfish interests, or who have not taken time to understand what their functions are or who neither have the ability nor the aptitude to understand their mandate or who are so malleable that they can easily be swayed to toe the line by the party leadership against their better judgment. It is this bunch of politicians who are purchasable, bought by promise of tenders and personal opportunities. It is these politicians who have sold their souls to their party at the expense of their mandate and the people they are supposed to represent. What a bunch of people!

The role of a politician is to represent the diverse interests of his or her people fearlessly with the courage and ferocity of a hungry lion to get the best ‘meal’ for his constituency and his country; to make laws that govern the country for the promotion of peace, tranquility and development, to allocate resources equitably through out the country and to be able to explain to the electorate the rationale behind each allocation of funds and the development priorities. It is not up to the Minister of Finance or the President to allocate resources. No. Their job is to manage and ensure a fair, transparent and equitable framework for the allocation of resources.  It is the responsibility of all politicians to allocate resources according to the needs of their people and the needs of the country using a fair and transparent system.

The people must see how the allocation will benefit them and it is the responsibility of the politicians to be able to explain these to their people as all the resources in the country belong to every citizen and therefore each citizen must be assured that the resources are allocated and used for his or her benefit one way or the other. When resources are used to benefit individuals and selfish interests then we have politicians who are irresponsible and lacking in character; then we have politicians who can be described as vultures and dishonorable; then we have politicians who should be purged and cast out of the political system.

Our politicians have given themselves responsibility to appoint and manage public servants including people employed in the parastatals. It seems they have even now expanded this self given mandate to influence critical and strategic appointments in the private sector because they hold the purse and influence on the civil servants. Politicians by nature are not experts in any field and they should not even want to be. 

Their job is to ensure that there is a legitimate, transparent and world class framework for appointment of civil servants, and employment of people running the parastatals such frameworks must be devised and managed by experts with politicians only playing an oversight role. Politicians should have no role whatsoever ever in private companies as this can only be a recipe for economic disaster that we see emerging in our beloved republic.

If you look closely to the failure of the entire government sponsored project you will realise that the politicians were and are running the show. The Morupule B it was the Minister of Mines who was running the show with BPC executive as just the minister’s messengers.  Just mention any government project and there are many, the ministers where and are responsible. At one stage when our current President was the Vice President he was given the mandate, his only mandate at the time to manage the implementation of all government projects. Did we get any of the projects implemented satisfactorily? No. But it was not his fault; he was not simply qualified to carryout that function. The current President continues to make the same mistake and has even made the mistake bigger and more expensive by now appointing retired and failed politicians to oversee government projects.

These are politicians who do not have any project implementation skills, how can they be appointed to manage projects and how do you expect them to make any positive difference? They are going to fail not because they are bad people but because they have been given jobs they are not qualified to do. Why can’t these people also realise that they are inadequately equipped for such jobs and decline these jobs? Do these people have the interests of the country at heart or only the interest to line their pockets? Do they care whether these projects will succeed or not?

What we need for these retired politicians is for them to be given adequate retirement packages to allow them to retire from public office gracefully and do their own thing in their own chosen areas of interest.

We do not need retired politicians to be made project managers when we have qualified younger people waiting to be given opportunities to prove themselves. We do not need retired and failed politicians to be made ambassadors when we know they have no such skills. What skills to they have to represent our country in foreign countries?  What skills do they have to find business opportunities for Batswana in those countries and what skills do they have to find investors in those countries and guide them to partner with Batswana to start businesses in Botswana? With good ambassadors we do not need some of the many politically motivated parastatals that have been created to promote foreign investment.

In conclusion, our politicians need to realise that they must change and start serving the interests of the people not their own interests. I believe what I have said here is a true reflection of our political status. However, I must admit that we have politicians in the past and now who have interests of their people at heart. They are however very few, I can mention a few but I will not.  It is disappointing and disheartening that almost all the politicians in the ruling party have sold their soul to their party forgetting their country and their people. They have regrettably become spineless puppets on the string to serve only the interests of the party.

We need to raise the voice of consciousness and urge these politicians to understand and pursue only their mandate and not to accept programs and laws that will drain our national coffers without commensurate benefit to the country. We need politicians who will stand for principle not only to satisfy their political bosses. Let us watch the American and European politicians at work and learn how function democracies work. The politicians including the president should not be above the law, the politician including the president should not be above his or her people; the politician including the president should rather be a true servant of the people.

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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 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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The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

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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Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022

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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