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THE SEBINA SAGA: IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF OUR SOCIAL CONCIOUSNESS?

As a parent and as a citizen I would like to add my voice through my pen to the many voices that have fittingly been so loud as a result of the anger that has engulfed the nation following the sad news that councillor Amon Kemmonye of Sebina has impregnated a minor; a 16 year old school going child in his constituency. The councillor whose job among others should be to raise social awareness on issues of child abuse, HIV and aids, social indiscipline, importance of education and respect of the law.

This is indeed sad, especially when this is accompanied by rumours of efforts to ‘bury the evidence’ by committing further life threatening acts of criminality (abortion) in complicity with the area MP and assistant minister of education.  We are told that some investigations are on going to establish the authenticity of the purported incriminating conversation between the councillor and the area MP.  

Whether such rumours are true or not, the gravity of the ‘Sebina Saga’ is very serious as it involves a leader and law maker. The very people, who should be fighting this kind of behaviour, is a perpetrator and an accomplice of this evil deed. It is also sad that the political leadership have adopted a happy-go-lucky attitude and failed to take a timely and decisive action to appropriately punish the councillor and MP for this national embarrassment.  Having said this, we however need to broaden this anger, this debate and seek to find lasting solutions against child abuse going forward.

As a nation we have been failing our children for many years.  We should all be ashamed of ourselves for having allowed such despicable situations to continue year on year under our watch without taking any decisive action as a nation.  When we record 407 children from primary to secondary school dropping out of school due to pregnancy in one year, this must assume status of a national disaster demanding a fitting response from the authorities. These are children between 7 and 18 years old whose lives have been permanently impaired. 

They will be many more such children who have been violated and abused and whose lives have been ruined for ever; there are those children who did not fall pregnant but could possibly have been infected with the dreaded HIV virus; those children who have failed as a result of this abusive behaviour by adults.  We should be concerned not only about the Sebina Saga, Amon Kemmonye and the 407 students but we should be concerned about all the other children who have been violated over many years before.  Concerted efforts should be mounted to bring the culprits to account one way or the other and we must enact biting laws that will curb recurrence of such acts.

The ‘women and men against children sexual abuse’ and the ‘hatch tag we shall not forget’ movement have mounted a spirited and admirable campaign to conscientise the nation about child sexual abuse by adults and to mount pressure on the authorities to act boldly without fear or favour against Amon Kemmonye and Fedilis Molao the area member of parliament and assistant minister of education who is accused of having conspired with the councillor to ‘bury the evidence’. While I accept that the truth about the involvement of the area Member of Parliament must be established, the minister must vacate his position voluntarily or must be suspended pending conclusion of the investigations surrounding his involvement.  As for the councillor he must resign or summarily be fired.

Yes, it is good and commendable to have ‘the women and men against children sexual abuse’ and ‘hatch tag we shall not forget’ movement demonstrating and demanding answers mainly due to failure by government to take appropriate action. The burning question is how do we solve sexual abuse and defilement of our children?  I believe there are many fronts from where we should stand and fight for our children. The immediate ones that come to mind are the following;

Government Intervention

The government has full responsibility of safe guarding the safety and well being of the nation. The buck stops with the government of the day. The government through parliament is responsible for enacting laws that should protect our children.  The sexual abuse offence perpetrated by an adult on a child should be clearly defined by the law. The definition of a child should also be clearly defined by the law.  We seem to have laws that are incoherent and incomprehensive in terms of what the definition of a child is.

The age of consent is said to be 16; the age at which a child can vote and work is 18; the age at which a child can marry is 21. Normally children are at school until the age of 18 before they go for tertiary education or seek employment opportunities.  At 18 years the child can work, the child can vote, the child can consent but the child cannot marry??  What does the age of consent then mean?   To me it must means the age a child is graduating from childhood to adulthood and must now be held accountable for her or his actions and can thus be prosecuted for wrong doing.  Further, the age of consent by definition must mean the child has graduated from childhood and can therefore marry and have a family of her own.

Once we have a clear definition of what a child, we must then have a clear definition of what a child can and cannot do from a legal point of view.  The child is not a woman or a man and therefore they should not engage in sexual activities. Sex must be taboo for children. Any adult who engages in sexual activity with a child must be severely punished by the law. Such laws must come from parliament and must be stringent. The ruling party has the majority in parliament and can pass any law any time.  Therefore those who say the Sebina Saga is not political and should not be politicised are mistaken. This is a problem that requires political intervention and political oversight from government in general and ministry of education in particular. We must demand accountability from our government whom we have entrusted to make laws to protect us and our children.

The role of the parents

The parents have a supreme parental role to play and guide the children on matters of sexuality and how they should protect themselves against possible paedophiles. This will come only if parents can openly discuss issues of sexuality with their children.  Our culture here needs to be challenged. The children must be conformable to talk to their parents on issues of sexuality especially if anything that looks or feels like sexual advance is made by the opposite sex. Our culture that says we cannot discuss sexual matters with our children is no longer relevant in this day and age of television and social media. We have to empower our children more to counter the negative impacts of television, social media and the ‘sick’ people in our society.

The role of the community

The community must be drilled through Kgotla meetings and social gathering that children are children and should be treated as such. They cannot be treated as women or men.

The old culture that used to exist in our country where a child was a child of all the adult community members must be restored for the sake of our children and our dignity as a nation. Our culture here must be upheld and enhanced. We used to have traditional schools for girls and boys. These traditional schools were for children graduating from childhood to adulthood. The children used to spend time in the bush with the adults being drilled on what adulthood mean. These schools were called ‘bojale’ and ‘bogwera’ for girls and boys respectfully. Some tribes still practice these very important rituals but they have lost their original meaning in many respects. This is the culture that we should modernise to take into account legal and health issues, practise it and possibly sell it to the world as a national product.

The role of schools

This is where our children spend most of their time. The teachers have perhaps the biggest influence on our children, in many cases more influence than that of their parents. 

Most of our children have deep respect for their teachers, so our teachers are role models of our children. They must be moral upright and endevour to teach our children not only book knowledge but life skills and moral education.  Our teachers must be empowered and incentivised to be more than just classroom teachers. Many children if not all hold teachers in the highest esteem, I still do even after many years.  Hence the behaviour of teachers is very important as it could influence our children positively or negatively.

The school environment should be used to mould our children into God fearing, moral upright and responsible people who are being groomed for future leadership  that will  not only take our country to higher levels of prosperity put also to higher pedestals internationally.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion we must use the Sebina Saga to concientise our people young and old, our politicians of all colours and persuasions that the status quo must be reversed immediately.  We need to use this sad saga to come out better as a nation. Parliament and government must lead the way by immediately coming up with appropriate legislation to protect our children.

As a nation we need to revisit our cultures and modernise what we can to cement who we real are as a nation.  As we prepare to celebrate our 50 years of self rule we must seek to define what we have collectively achieved as a nation. What have we, as Batswana done to build a Botswana brand? What is it that we are proud of that we can call our very own? Our cultures have unique components that we can build on to protect our children and be proud.

As for Amon, he must go immediately. This gesture although belated would be a fitting apology to the nation; otherwise he will continue to embarrass himself and his party.  As for Fedilis, he must do the honourable thing and resign or be suspended; otherwise he will be an ineffective minister devoid of any respect associated with that office.

E mail;  HYPERLINK "mailto:bernard.busani@gmail.com" bernard.busani@gmail.com;   Tel; 71751440

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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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