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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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Opinions

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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Opinions

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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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumers piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswanas, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they dont imagine that their one download will do anything to the production houses pocket or make a dent in the actors net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musicians music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth.

As Botswanas creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africas respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswanas economy are being diverted.

Why cant our local creative industry grow? Why dont we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana? are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswanas local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the countrys economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, its imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economys growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artists music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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