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FIFTY YEARS ON: Self-reliance and the meaning of Independence

Last week my submission was headlined, ‘a culture of dependency must fall’.   This week I want to continue to talk about the dangers of this dependency culture that has like a cancerous cell slowly crept in our country’s psyche, which culture is threatening dominance in our country.  Foreigners working in our country have in some cases openly described our people as ‘lazy, devoid of initiative and self application, not capable of doing anything without close supervision, wanting freebees, handouts and sympathy’. This may be exaggerated but it is generally true and a sad indictment on our beloved and promising nation. 

Many times we refuse to accept this embarrassing label, but deep down we know we are just deluding ourselves, the new culture of dependency and entitlement is real, we must accept that it exists, that it is totally undesirable and that we must therefore fight against it as individuals and as a nation to totally get rid of it amongst ourselves. We must stop accepting free ‘fish’ from wherever, we must refuse these many free ‘fishes’, freebees that we do not deserve and rather demand to be taught how to ‘fish’  for ourselves so that we can, like the Chinese, catch our own ‘fish’ to feed ourselves and our children.

As we approach the day that marks the 50th year we were handed back our self rule by Britain in 1966, we will be reminded again and again that we were given back a very poor country with only less than five (5) km of tarmac road, a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of about US$70, a few missionary schools and some few unfurnished offices. I sometime wonder why this is so much of a concern to us. For me, we should rather be happy that Britain left our country as they found it; a virgin country whose resources were left untouched, intact with all its natural resources safely locked underground and within the length and breath of the country side ready for the rightful owners to exploit. Further they stopped the Boers and the Germans from swallowing our country. We did not have to fight like other countries to get our country back; our country was given back to us voluntarily by Britain with a promise to help us to develop the country. They also gave us our founding legal document, our constitution, recognising perhaps that we neither had the capacity nor the resources to draft our own constitution.

We should rather thank the British people through their government for their generosity, for the five or three km of tarred road they constructed, for the few schools they built for us, for the railway line across our country and its associated infrastructure and whatever else they did for us especially protecting us from the invading Boers from South Africa and Germans from Namibia. We have no reason to complain, Britain owed us nothing, absolutely nothing, they did not take anything from us by force; anything they took from us including some of our land was given to them by our chiefs as gifts.  If anything we are the ones who owe Britain for protecting us from the Boers who where advancing from the south taking our fertile land, the Germans encroaching from the east gobbling our wet lands. We went all the way to Britain to ask for protection against the invading imperialists, not to ask them to develop our country. W must therefore be thankful to the British people.

As we approach the 50th year of our self rule not independence, by the way I don’t like the word independence because we are not really independent, we must thank God for having kept our country safe for so long, from time immemorial. He kept us safe; He kept our natural resources safe.  He through the British stopped the Germans and the Boers from taking over our country.  Instead of complaining about the poor country we inherited from Britain; let us be reminded that each country including the most advanced country in the world started with nothing from the beginning. Each country started with only its people, its natural resources and the world around it to conquer.  We are no different. Instead of complaining that we given our country back an undeveloped we should rather knuckle down to determine our own needs and priorities; train and motivate our people to work hard and use whatever is available at their disposal to be self sufficient in every respect and to use the world around us to market our products including our people as part of our developmental trajectory. We must fight the culture of dependency and promote a culture of hard work and sacrifice to develop our own country.

As we approach that day, the day that marks the beginning of Botswana-hood, we must remember and thank our first president, Sir Seretse Khama who was a visionary of his time. He accepted to inherit an undeveloped country, but I hate to say a poor country, but yes an undeveloped country with a promising future which we are now unfortunately squandering with reckless abound. Our first Preseident, Sir Seretse Khama, knew we had to dependent on our own resolve and meager resources and of course with help from our friends to develop our country and its natural resources including our human resources. He understood our limitations as a country and his own limitations and used all the people he could use in the country including the opposition to build the nation. He came up with a raft of policies based on these four principles that helped to move our country from what was then termed the poorest country in the world to what it is now, an upper middle income country, although despite the wealth created by Sir Seretse Khama, we still regrettably remain one of the most unequal country in the world. Anyway, these principles were;

Self reliance

He was a firm believer in democracy and throughout his life as president he preached and practiced democracy in a visible manner. He is the one who taught us that democracy, like a plant it needs to be watered and nurtured for it to grow and produce luscious fruits that can be enjoyed by all Batswana. He was a real practicing democrat not a fake democrat as we see happening now in our country. We need to go back and try to understand what he wanted to teach us about democracy.

Democracy is about the people, all the people regardless of their political persuasions; regardless of their social orientation, regardless of their beliefs, regardless of the colour of their skin, regardless of their race or their social status. Democracy is all inclusive in a meaningful and measured way. It is through democracy that you can really listen to all your people and get the best from them and the best for them.

Sir Seretse Khama was a firm believer in national unity, nation building.  He wanted a united nation at all costs. This was however done in a dangerously divisive manner in my view. My view is that he could have done it better, a lot better without undermining the so called minority tribes. He decreed that only Setswana and English should be promoted and used as national languages at the exclusion of other languages in the country causing simmering resentment that is a ticking time bomb that needs to be extinguished. 

Only English and Setswana were to be spoken in all public gatherings throughout the country, even in remotest areas where these languages were not known, never heard. This was ill advised as it broadens the divisions instead of uniting the nation, igniting a tribal cold war that still exists. It undermined the minority tribes. Their dignity, their identity, their languages; their cultures were eroded.  This was bad judgment akin to the Portuguese policy of assimilation that was adopted in Mozambique and Angola during the colonial era. 

Having said this though, Sir Seretse was driven by his vision of seeing a united nation that was working together in harmony to develop the country and did no want to see the language and tribal affiliation as a barrier and wanted to destroy these tribal affiliations. I do not believe this was done with malice and intention to hurt the minority tribes but it was hurtful, very wrong and should be reversed to harmonize our country. God created us differently for a reason, like he created different trees with different flowers and fruits, different animals with diverse beauty, different insects with their different beautiful colours and scents; our diverse tribes must remain intact to beautify our country with beautiful aroma of diverse rich languages and cultures.

Self reliance is the topic of my submission today. This is the area our first president wanted very much to engender in us as a tool for development of our country. As a people we have always relied on our own limited resources, using our brains, our hands and working together in our tribal groupings to build our communities. Sir Seretse Khama wanted to promote this culture to achieve our developmental goals and nationhood. He knew that our development would mainly come from our own efforts and drive. He knew that ‘mokoduwa go tsosiwa o o itsosang’ He sought international partnerships to help develop our country through education and exploitation of our natural resources.

De Beers Botswana now Debswana was an example of such a partnership, a partnership that helped make Botswana a ‘miracle country’ surrounded by warring countries fighting for their independence.  Botswana was acknowledged world wide as a ‘shining example of democracy and good governance’. This was then.  We have now instead of building on the Sir Seretse Khama’s legacy of self development, good governance, we have instead become greedy, corrupt and used our diamonds to promote a culture of dependency and sycophancy. Instead of adopting our forefather’s culture of hard work and spirit of community and togetherness, we have become lazy, arrogant and selfish, adopting negative characteristics that will surely destroy us as a nation if we refuse to change.

We have become so lazy and so complacent that we are even refusing to re-write our own constitution. We would rather keep the old outdated constitution donated to us and keep changing it piecemeal to satisfy only our selfish whims. We are conveniently forgetting that this constitution was a ‘donation’ from Britain as at the time we did not have the resources or the capacity to write our own constitution.  We are now squandering the diamond revenues that should have made Botswana a shining example of development in Africa, a Sweden of Africa. We are now squandering the good governance that Sir Seretse Khama left for us and replacing it with corruption and maladministration that will surely kick us back to the dark ages. Sir Seretse Khama must be turning in his grave wondering what on earth has happened to his beloved country. A culture of dependency and ‘bolope’ must fall for us to claim our position as a shining example of good governance, development and democracy, for us to talk of a proud, united, innovative and prosperous nation.

As I conclude, I would like to employ Batswana to build on the rich legacy Sir Seretse Khama left behind; rebuild the culture of self reliance, hard work, entrepreneurship, self respect and a firm no to handouts. We need also to revisit the issue of national unity and national building based on genuine desire for respect of all nationalities, all our tribes, their diverse languages and cultures in order to build a fully united, inclusive and proud nation. We need also to go back to the drawing board and draw our own constitution based on our current realities and a deep desire to move Botswana to the next wave of self recognition and development. We also need to recognise that time has long arrived for us to relook at our relationship with De Beers in order to help us fast track to this next wave of development and self recognition.

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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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