“A people who free themselves from foreign domination will be free culturally only if they return to the upward paths of their own culture; this culture is nourished by the living reality of its environment and it negates both harmful influences and any kind of subjugation to foreign culture” – Return to the Source by Amilca Cabral, slain Guinea Bissau scholar and activist.
It was inevitable that the dichotomy between Western values (represented by the national constitution) and indigenous Afrikan values would result in a clash between the two. The trial of Kgosi Kgafela II a few years back over the flogging of some wayward elements in Kgatleng epitomised this clash. The charges against Kgosi Kgafela are premised on the constitution.
It is a constitution that was not crafted by the people of this country, nor was the decision that the country should be a republic taken by us, as no referendum was ever held to decide on these matters. Without the consent of citizens, the constitution replaced the indigenous value system with an alien one. Whereas the Afrikan value system gives precedence to collective rights over individual rights, the constitution emphasises the latter.
There is a simple rationale for the elevation of societal values over individual rights by Afrikans. At the current level of development, few individuals can do without the support of the communities they reside within. For the community to discharge this responsibility and continuously enhance its ability to develop, it is paramount that it should consistently function in a stable manner without undue disruptions. And this can only take place within a framework that consists of a set of rules that regulate the behaviour and conduct of individual members of the community or society and how they relate to each other.
When individuals respect and uphold the values of their society, they are in effect respecting each individual who resides in that particular society. With this set up there is little chance of the rights of an individual being trampled upon, and there is therefore no need to elevate individual rights over the values of the collective.
Over time though, as societies advance economically with more individuals becoming economically independent (and the state’s ability to take care of the marginalised enhanced), individual rights may begin to take precedence over societal values. However, the change must be gradual and evolve from within and not forced on people by predatory external forces. If change is forced from outside, the alien values will be out of synch with the expectations of indigenous people, leading to social instability, which manifests itself at the family level first.
Our Western-crafted constitution introduced alien values to the citizenry. Primarily, it imposed on people a system of governance that dispensed with the traditional leadership that had hitherto served the people extremely well. The imposition of Western values (e.g., gender equality) on Afrikans has got nothing to do with the West loving us or liberating Afrikan women as some misguided Afrikans like to deceive themselves, but everything to do with the West’s desire to destabilise and weaken Afrikan societies to a point where acts of economic exploitation by the West are welcome and viewed as gestures of unparalleled compassion.
It was not for nothing that, when crafting our constitution the British stripped traditional leaders of their powers. They replaced them with politicians that they can manipulate at will. Traditional leaders are groomed from an early age to advance the interest of their communities and are therefore less likely to betray them. On the other hand, self-interest drives politicians.
Western values have brought Afrikans nothing but anarchy and misery: man is pitied against his woman and parent against child; widespread fatherlessness; murder-suicides; disrespect for the elderly; alcoholism; child neglect; the list is endless. Had our constitution and the judiciary system been home grown, our society wouldn’t be in such a mess. And since we obviously cannot turn to the very same system that brought about this chaotic situation in the first place, our only hope in normalising the situation lies with indigenous solutions.
It was not for personal gain or enjoyment that Kgosi Kgafela ordered the flogging of some of his wayward subjects; he was merely implementing what was desired by Bakgatla. The sensational and grossly unbalanced manner with which the media covered the matter was unfortunate as it left very little room for a sober reflection on the matter. Incidentally, the media was still hounding him after his forced relocation to South Africa.
Pussy footing around indiscipline cannot bring results. We have had our Western judicial system but we have nothing to show for it. If anything, things are increasingly getting worse, which, in fact, prompted President Ian Khama to set up a task force in 2008 led by Kgosi Puso Gaborone to identify measures to turn the situation around. The appointment of a traditional leader to head the task force was a tacit indictment of the Western value system and an admission by the president of a REPUBLIC that the indigenous value system is after all our best bet in ensuring stability and restoring morality in society.
Indeed, the course of action that was recommended by the task force gives traditional leaders a significant role to play in dealing with the moral decay. It was against this backdrop that Kgosi Kgafela and Bakgatla did what they did. In other words, the actions of none other than the president himself encouraged the events that took place in Kgatleng.
Given the rampant indiscipline in our society, Kgosi Kgafela and Bakgatla knew that the principle of due process as dictated by an imposed alien judicial system will not yield any discernible results. In order to tackle the threat to social stability in Kgatleng, they decided to temporarily suspend individual rights for the good of the whole.
This is the same principle that applies at the national level during a state of emergency, whereby civil liberties are drastically curtailed and the president rules by decree when national security is under threat, as provided for in the constitution. Unfortunately, having been stripped of their powers, the same privilege is not extended to traditional leaders.
For Kgosi Kgafela and Bakgatla to do something about the moral decay in their community meant contravening imposed Western laws. But doing nothing about the situation was unacceptable. Kgabo and his subjects were caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. And given the outcry from Bakgatla over the wayward conduct of some of the tribesmen, doing nothing was not an option open to Kgosi Kgafela.
Kgosi Kgafela had to act; his people demanded it, even if it meant breaking Western laws. Otherwise what would have been the point of being Kgosi in the first place if he did not come to the aid of his people? To take no action would have been a gross dereliction of duty. And to equip him with the necessary tools to deal with the situation, the tribe tacitly gave him powers to dispense with due process. Mephato were revived to mete out swift justice. And as in any war situation there was collateral damage.
In a nutshell, the Bakgatla tribe ordered their Kgosikgolo to flog the ill-disciplined into the straight and narrow; in turn, he ordered his law enforcers (mephato) to dispense the flogging. Kgosi Kgafela is on trial only because he ordered the flogging, not because he flogged anyone. Since it was the tribe that had directed him to use flogging to deal with wayward behaviour, it therefore follows that the tribe should also face the same charges that their Kgosikgolo is facing, otherwise the court case amounts to a miscarriage of justice and the victimisation of Kgabo. He was merely following the orders of his tribesmen.
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.
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
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