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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;

Democracy
Unity
Self reliance
Develop

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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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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