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Dear African Child (iii): the gravity of Youth landlessness

“…Land and water are not really separate things, but they are separate words, and we perceive through words.” ― David Rains Wallace

My brief interaction with history literature has taught me that many battles in the African continent have, and continue, to be fought explicitly and implicitly in the name of Land. History taught me that; many precious lives were lost, many tribes and families detached, many deceptive collusions were orchestrated and, many children were left homeless and parentless all in the name of Land. To be more precise I learnt: -Land was the main cause of the Western Sudan violent revolt against the Sudanese government in the 1970s.

The Darfur Land grievances were never resolved, and in 2003, a rebel movement made up in part of disenfranchised former landholders, which retaliated by arming bands of camel herders known as ‘janjaweed’ to repress the rebellion (Jones, 2006); -in the Democratic Republic of Congo, violence in parts of the northeast started over land in1999, when Hema herders evicted Lendu farmers after purchasing their land. Eviction grievances led both tribes to pick up weapons. As violence spread, the value of other mineral-rich lands contributed to the chaos in which 5 million people have died (Moore, 2010); -in 1998 Ethiopia and Eritrea dispute over the  border town of Badme turned into all-out war, recording 80,000 deaths in two years.

Both sides saw Badme as a symbol of their real economic concern: power over the port of Assab, the Red Sea trade gateway. Despite international court rulings, the countries consider the border dispute unresolved and may be launched any time (Tareke, 2009); -In Kenya most indigenous tribes lost rights when the British privatized land holdings.

It is believed that when His Ex cellency -Joseph Kenyatta, the first postcolonial president, sought land redistribution, he gave the most fertile to his Kikuyu tribe. In a later backlash, many Kikuyu were pushed off their pastures. This created ethnic land grievances that have inspired violence since the 1990s (Moore, 2010); -the 1994 genocide in Rwanda is believed to have been catalyzed as much by land scarcity as by ethnic tension.  The country found itself nearly without enough land to make farmers trust that they and their children could support themselves.

Yanagizawa-Drott (2014) strongly contends that though the slaughter of minority Tutsis was also ethnically motivated, land fears played no small part in the violence; -in Zimbabwe Land grievances helped fuel the 12-year war that led to independence in 1979. In the name of economic fairness, President Robert Mugabe chaotically seized white farms and turned them over to blacks who knew little about farming. Consequently, agricultural production plummeted, food became scarce, and inflation spiked (Polgreen, 2012).

In South Africa land was a key element motivating and fueling the struggle against apartheid. It was a key agenda item of the revolutionary 1955 CoP (Congress of the People), which adopted the Freedom Charter – a blueprint for the democratic South Africa of the future (Vadi, 2015). The Freedom Charter became an integral part of the ANC (African National Congress) identity; historians believe it played a very significant role in the overthrow of the apartheid regime in 1994.

Sadly land disputes are clearly not just a thing of the past in the African continent, past land disputes have overflowed into recent times. Simultaneously, new land disputes seem to be swiftly emerging in most African countries, including those that were historically spared from land disputes.  For instance: -in Southern Sudan the 2005 peace agreement that ended a 20-year fight for the south didn't resolve tensions between the nation's two land systems. Private property reform implemented in the north was rejected in the south, which continues to use traditional rules.

Danger of a potential clash between parallel systems is amplified by what's at stake -the south is oil-rich (McNeish, 2013); -peace is finally driving people home in Uganda after 20 years of violence– and disputes are erupting over who owns property (Jonathan, 2014). Eighty percent of Ugandans have property claims based on the traditional land system, but a generation of conflict has weakened the traditional authority to resolve disputes or enforce land rules.

As the government steps in to fill the power vacuum, experts fear a backlash (Moore, 2010). -in South Africa the post-apartheid government had planned to redistribute a good percentage of white-owned farms to blacks within 20 years. Transfers are behind schedule, and more than half have failed (Moore, 2010). After an outbreak of racial violence and establishment of revolutionary movements such as EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters), observers fear the status quo with expectations so high, progress so slow, and livelihoods at stake is explosive (Ramphele, 2013); -white farmers forced off land in neighboring countries, found fertile soils in Zambia, they were initially welcomed by the government.

The tone changed as some immigrant farmers agitated locals by putting down roots on traditional lands. New arrivals, especially those fleeing Zimbabwe, are closely scrutinized. Observers fear deepening tensions (Mbeki, 2011); -in Namibia a youth led EFF replicate was formed in 2015 titled NEFF (Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters). Land is a key priority among NEFF’s founding concerns. They have already staged a massive land grand and illegal land occupation campaign across the country in 2015.

Analysts and commentators fear the 2015 land grabs and illegal occupations are just the beginning of deeper land divisions. In light of this brief historical and contemporary land disputes background, it is clear the land issue was, and is still, one of Africa’s ticking time bombs. It is one of the drivers to what Morton Grodzins -renowned sociology and political scientist, coined as the ‘Tipping Point’ – a point in time when a group, or a large number of group members rapidly and dramatically changes its behavior by widely adopting a previously rare practice. Therefore the Land Issue is a fundamental issue that needs to be swiftly, holistically and systematically addressed or at least managed.

Otherwise it will continue rendering the safety and welfare of African citizen somewhat endangered. Like most continental development headaches facing the Africa continent today, the land issue needs the involvement of young Africans in developing and shaping a swifter and effective way to address it,  to avoid the mistakes of the past. Continental Youth structures such as the PYU (Pan African Youth Union) under the auspices of the AU (African Union) hold the best structural and financial capacity to unite young Africans and ultimately deliver this necessary continental and generational reform.

Land State of Affairs: Botswana Context. Paradox

Our beautiful country (Botswana) is internationally hailed as one of Africa’s best governed countries.  She is also considered one of the most comfortable, peaceful and fiscally stable African countries. In this regard World Bank’s annual “Doing Business 2016” report considers Botswana one of the best places to consider for investment. Equated to other African countries, I also believe these comparative analyses are spot on. However as discussed in previous installments of this series (Dear African Child) Botswana has not been immune to contemporary African challenges.

She continues to battle a seemingly losing battle against most classic African economic development challenges. For instance Botswana is faced with economic development challenges such as; high under- and unemployment rates, high incidence of absolute poverty and, shocking income inequalities (Gini coefficient 0.6 -considered extremely high for a middle income country). However, today I would like to focus on the issue of Botswana’s Land allocation and access conundrum.

In my conscious this is certainly one of the key and seemingly growing hurdles threating Botswana’s internationally acclaimed and long upheld peace and togetherness. Without any doubt access to land and land allocation/distribution is one of the most devastating challenges most Batswana, especially youth and the economically disadvantaged, face.

Despite key instruments such as: the 1993 TLA (Tribal Land Act), Vision 2016 and the constitution, speaking unequivocally and definitively about making access to and ownership of land democratic and inclusive. The sad reality is many Botswana are still without land, many Botswana are helplessly and desperately looking for residential and at times commercial land in our beautiful country.

Early this year Hon. Prince Malele –minister of Lands and Housing, made it known that there are over 1million Batswana in the land application waiting list. This is half of the country’s population. Furthermore if you wish to practically witness the severity of this matter visit any Land Board during a call for land applications, you are guaranteed to see one of the saddest sights ever in this beautiful country. You will find multitudes of Botswana, young, elderly, male and female, gathered outside the premises.

They actually gather for a ‘Land Night Vigil’ by the gate a day before receipt of applications. This is mainly done on the assumption that Land will be allocated on a ‘first come first serve’ bases, and to avoid spending the next two or three days in the queue because thousands of people will certainly honor the call for applications. Sadly of late these developments have proved to be putting lives of fellow compatriots at risk, in almost all occasions riot police are forced to control the situation.

Actually it is now a norm to engage riot police in the land application process.  Correspondently and disturbingly, the land issue is now raising a worrying trend of tribal and racial discrimination among our very citizenry, despite aspiration of our constitution and the revised TLA. Some ethnic groups are now advocating for land quotas in their favor at the expense of other countrymen. Similarly this reality has resulted in sky-high rental and property costs throughout the country, especially urban and semi-urban settlements.

The high rental has made housing access and affordability a nightmare especially for the Youth and the economically unfortunate. This has also made operational costs and working capital for Youth businesses very high and in most cases upsetting the cash-flow-forecast and defying business purpose. These incidents and reality are slowly but surely frustrating and dividing fellow compatriots, it has been going on for a while and it’s not getting any better. It is a widely accepted fact that it can take more than two decades for an applicant to be allocated land in this beautiful country (Mmegi, 2016).

Our fear and priority as a nation, particularly young compatriots, is to constructively and collectively interrogate the Land question with intention of generating a better approach to our Land challenges before the our nation regrettably reaches the ‘tipping point’.
Dear African Child (iv) will focus on the urgency of economic transformation, economic freedom and the search for Africa’s economic prosperity in our lifetime.

*Taziba is a Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development (7189 0354/gtaziba@yahoo.co.uk) 

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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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