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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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Opinions

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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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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