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Dear African Child (i); a time for introspection.

‘Each generation must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it’ -Frantz Fanon.

The month of June is no ordinary month for Youth advocates, Africans, historians and nation builders the world over. June is an extra ordinary month. It is a land-mark month in Youth development. It is a month the Youth narrative was revolutionized and repositioned; it is a month the value and significance of young Africans was witnessed and treasured for life. It is a month thousands of African children autonomously, fearlessly and selflessly took it upon themselves to shape the direction of their country in the right path. 

It is a month young Africans unequivocally believed, ‘enough is enough our lives are at stake; we have a huge duty ahead of us for ourselves, our country and future generations’.  Like the internationally acclaimed statesman, Nelson Mandela (mhsrip), these young Africans had cherished an ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal they were determined to live for and to achieve and if needs be, it is an ideal for which they were prepared to die.

I suspect like Solomon Mahlangu -a distinguished anti-apartheid activist, they were convinced their blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of better and progressive educational reforms throughout the world.  I assume it is now obvious I’m refereeing to June of 1976, the month of the historic Soweto Youth Uprising of June-16-1976. History tells us June 16 is the cold winter mornining multitudes of young people across South Africa collectively, selflessly and fearlessly decided to take it upon themselves to stand against authoritarian reforms governing the education system and country at that time.

They stood for among others a non- Afrikaans dominated education curriculum (which would disadvantage students and teachers that are not of Africans origin). This sparked a series of peaceful demonstrations and rallies across the country; foremost impact was felt at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. It is reported that over 20 000 young people assembled at Orlando stadium, unfortunately their peaceful gathering was confronted by over fifty heavily armed police officers.

The armed officers are said to have been acting on a “shot to kill” directive for the sake of restoring “law and order”. This confrontation resulted in public killing of many precious African souls (including 12 year old year old Hector Pieterson and Hastings Ndlovu), thousands more sustained major and minor injuries. The protest escalated by the day in all regions of the country. Parents joined in solidarity with the young generation. The courage of these young heroes and heroines is widely viewed as the turning/pivot point of what would have been a dark nation and continent to a somewhat bright democratic and progressive nation and continent with endless opportunities for all. The aftermath of this historic day includes; a significant massive uprising of local and international solidarity movements as an immediate consequence, the pressure was sustained and consequently gave birth to peace, freedom and democracy  enjoyed by all today.

Nonetheless the purpose of this series is not to recite the 1976 events; I believe lot of that will be done various stakeholders during the buildup and commemoration(s) of the ‘Day of the African Child’. The sole intention of this series (Dear African Child) is to engage and feasibly challenge today’s young Africans, Youth movements and nation builders. It is now 40 years down the line.  The big questions are; is our generation reflective of the fearless, selfless and courageous ‘African Child’ celebrated worldwide each year on the 16th of June? Is our generation deserving of the esteemed title ‘African Child’? Is our generation an embodiment of the continent’s brighter inclusive future?  Will future generations have a solid and strong narrative to celebrate and recall our generation? Will they have great stories to tell about how our generation courageously, fearlessly and selflessly demolished prosperity barriers years ago for their benefit in the future? Will they have any reason to commemorate our ‘Once Upon a Time’ existence in this continent? Will they have unambiguous bright pride and joy, as they associate with the internationally acclaimed title ‘African child’, like we do today? Will they inherit a better continent free from challenges our generation found, battled and conquered? Or we will hand over an unbearable continent filled with challenges inherited from our passive and submissive generation? The world’s greatest and most successful nation builders all subscribed to the notion that the world we live in is not our inheritance from our past generations; it is in actual fact borrowed to us by future generations and they (future generations) look forward to taking it back when the time ripe.

Therefore the fundamental question we should be asking ourselves and striving to answer throughout our youth age is, what type of world would we like to hand over to the young ones when their time comes? Likewise, this author strongly trusts that we are in this continent today in trusted by future generations to pave a way for them before their arrival. Therefore our test and glory as a generation fundamentally rests on the progress we make in transforming our nations and continent into sustainable, inclusive, peaceful and progressive terrains.  Terrains were: -the progress and prosperity of our people is not determined by their gender, last name, settlement, alliance, proximity to power etc.; -the larger share of the national resources is not enjoyed by a few but shared among the entire nation;  -income inequalities will only belong to Economics theory books; -the girl child will be free and empowered to actualize and reach the highest level of the prosperity ladder without any form victimization, suppression and discrimination; -corruption, self-enrichment and tax heavens will only be tales from ‘Once Upon a Time’.  In recent times, President Muhammadu Buhari, probed "I came into this world with nothing and I will leave with nothing, why should I steal?". This is a key question Africa as a whole needs answer and extensively reflect on going forward.

This is simply because a significant mounting level of Africa’s sustainable future and prosperity rests in its prudent use of public resources, the principle of sustainable development best explains this dictum. In this regard it is clear our generation, just like the 1976 generation, is not immune to acute socio-economic development hurdles that need to be tackled head-on like the 1976 bantu-education. Africa’s current and foreseeable socioeconomic hurdles have been interrogate extensively and documented widely. One of the recent and most comprehensive is a book titled; “Africa’s Third Liberation: the new search for prosperity & Jobs” by Greg Mills and Jeffrey Herbst. In this offering the duet persuasively contend and empirical prove that Africa has experienced two key liberations so far; the first from colonial and racist regimes, and the second from the autocrats who often followed foreign rule.

The duet further argues that at this juncture African countries have the potential and responsibility to undertake a third liberation –from political economies characterized by graft, crony capitalism, rent seeking, elitism and social inequality. I’m yet to come across tested publishers or interest groups that fundamentally and empirically differ with the duet in their submission herein. The whole world agrees that Africa’s third revolution is invertible, even western influenced think-tanks are calling for this revolution.

The impeding universal SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are directly and indirectly speaking to the deliverables of the third revolution Africa is stimulated and expected to undertake. The interesting part is that Africa is currently considered a youthful continent; this is simply because majority of its population is considered youthful, about 60% of the African population is currently below the 35, the highest concentration of young people in the continent ever.

This reality is reflective of the ‘Youth Bulge Phenomenon’, it possess question and prospects of the ‘Youth Development Dividends’. In this regard it is safe to conclude that Africa is by and large a ‘Youthful Continent’. Consequently current African challenges largely affect Young Africans more than any other cohort in the continent. More importantly these challenges can and will only be eliminated through courageous and selfless consolidated efforts of young Africans, like the Young Africans of 1976.

Almost every development blueprint unequivocally speaks about the huge number of Youth in this continent and the huge potential of Youth in this continent.  Most notable and conceivably supreme among these documents is the landmark AYC (African Youth Charter) – ‘a framework which provides strategy and direction for youth empowerment and development activities at the continental, regional and national levels across Africa’ (Mack-Ikemenjima, 2011). In this author’s interrogation most blueprints draw their fundamental course and shape from the AYC.

At this juncture I would like to rest my pen and allow Young Africans to reflect on these questions once again: -Is our generation deserving of the esteemed title ‘African Child’? -Is our generation an embodiment of the continent’s bright inclusive prospects?  -Will future generations have a solid and strong narrative to celebrate and recall our generation? -Will they have great stories to tell about how our generation courageously, fearlessly and selflessly demolished prosperity barriers years ago for their future benefit?

Dear African Child (ii) will focus on the impending and inevitable Youth led higher education evolution.   

* Taziba is a Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development (7189 0354/ 

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The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 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 Pelosi’s 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’.

Pelosi’s visit to China’s 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 Communiqués.  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 China’s 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 People’s 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 Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwan’s administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the People’s 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, Biden’s 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 Pelosi’s 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 China’s People’s Liberation Army to “safeguard China’s 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 China’s overseas investments, projects and personnel.  It then follows that President Xi’s administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector China’s 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 People’s 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.

Beijing’s military exercises will certainly shake Taiwan’s confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwan’s central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As China’s military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit China’s 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 António 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 People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

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Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s 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, Mogae’s 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 the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, 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 Ditswe was 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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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 consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, 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 don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s 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 musician’s 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 Botswana’s 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 Africa’s 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 Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t 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 Botswana’s 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 country’s 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, it’s 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 economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s 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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