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THE RACE TO 2019 HAS BEGUN: SHOULD WE BE HAVING THE WATER CHALENGES WE CURRENTLY FACE?

Last week my submission was titled diamonds, water and electricity waiting for a key holder to unlock for our future prosperity. Yes, indeed we await a key holder who will open the doors; the doors that will lead to all the treasures that God has generously provided for us and safely locked up underground for us to enjoy when the time comes. That key holder will open the doors and will lead his people to deserved prosperity.

God has given us unparalleled wealth in the name of diamonds that are still largely locked safely beneath the earth.  God has also given us water, a life giver that is also safely locked beneath the belly of the earth.  Additionally, He has given us unparalleled amount of coal that is still to be fully exploited to produce not only all the electricity we need, but also much needed petro chemicals that will amongst others deliver petrol and diesel for propelling our economic growth and provide requisite wealth for our people.

Last week I talked about diamonds, although there is still a lot to talk with regards to our diamonds, the idea was to prod and nudge our law makers and the nation at large to start looking deeper into our relations with De Beers in order to seek to establish a new working relationship that is more beneficial to the nation. This week I want to talk about water in order to further raise our consciousness about this strategic resource. Like diamonds water is scarce, all good things are scarce by the way; they must be handled and managed with due care. I will talk about electricity another strategic and scarce resource next week.

Could we have managed our WATER Resources better?

It is a well known fact, that water is life, without water we shall simply perish.  God would never have created our country without providing enough water for our survival and indeed survival of its ecosystem.  Survival is more than just breathing oxygen; it includes social advancement propelled by economic growth that advances national prosperity. This is a fundamental fact that we must embrace in order to prepare a sound long-term national development plan as well as a long-term vision for our nation.

Our country is currently faced with crippling water shortage that could severely impact our survival, economic growth and our entire livelihood. This is currently blamed on our weather patterns especially climate change and the Eli Niño effect.  But the blame should be put directly at our door step because we have failed to effectively manage what God has given us. We now want to conveniently pass the blame to nature and others who have polluted the atmosphere through their industrialisation. While they may be some truth in this, our water management has been antiquated as was mediocritic.

The Minister has now confessed that we have abundant underground water and that they will explore and make that water available for use by the nation. When? God gave our country back to us in 1966, almost fifty years ago; what have we done all these years to ensure water security for the nation?   I know that, as far back as 1966 and before then, we new that our annual rainfall was low and highly unpredictable and that our temperatures were very high leading obviously to very high evaporative water losses. I have experienced this since I was born more than fifty years ago. What have we done to mitigate the effects of this low, unpredictability rainfall and high temperatures (high evaporative losses)?  All we have done is to build many open dams with large surface areas that only promote unprecedented water losses.

Our dams are large evaporation ponds as most of the water is lost through evaporation because of the high temperatures and large surface areas due to dam designs and topography. More than one metre per square metre of water is lost per year through evaporation in Botswana due to these high temperatures, therefore the larger the surface area the more the water we loose.  The large surface area will also result is large amount of water being lost through seepage into the ground as you are exposing more  and more water to dryer land.

Those scientifically minded will appreciate the magnitude of losses I am talking about. Now tell me the wisdom applied here, in a country with low and unpredictable rainfall and high temperatures, to build the dams as we have built throughout the country? In fact, I once told one of our ministers, now retired, then responsible for minerals, energy and water resources that in Botswana we do not build dams, we just build walls to stop the river flow; the water then spread right across the country side; consequently we lose a lot of it through evaporation and ground seepage.  I believe our dam building development plans are devoid of long-term critical and strategic thinking.

This has lead to gross wasteful expenditure in our dam’s development plans.   I would excuse farmers for building their dams in this fashion not our government.
If we wanted to build dams we should have built deep dams with a small surface area, to minimise evaporative losses and ground seepage. Excess water from these dams could have been used to feed our underground water sources as I will show later. This is what I would call imaginative concurrent use of underground and surface water.

Let us use De Beers and diamond mining as a positive example here. When De Beers discovered our diamonds, the first thing they did was to explore and develop underground water resources to support diamond mining. They also built their own power stations and in fact self contained towns, perhaps an indication that the country could not support that development.   If they had relied on government they would have failed to build the diamond industry in the country. What an indictment on our government!!

Anyway, back to water, De Beers developed underground water resources for all their mines. This was a clear indication that we had abundant underground water resources. 

Because of the criticality of water in a water stressed country like Botswana, it was no brainer for De Beers to include in their plant designs used water recycling. In addition rainwater capture and use was also an on going concern and part and parcel of their water management. Why couldn’t our government copy from De Beers or more appropriately Debswana?

With the diamond resources that opened up after our independence through De Beers and the exceedingly large revenues that accrued from these diamonds, we should have invested in concurrent development of our underground and surface water resources; with designs that allowed excess surface water to be used to replenish or top up our underground water reserves?

Fifty years on, we are still building our dams the same way and relying on this water for everything in our very well known unfavorable weather conditions. We still do not recycle our used water when the world over, even in countries with abundant rainwater, do recycle their used water for balancing their ecosystem. We still have not developed a comprehensive rainwater harvesting system. This clearly shows that we have a failed leadership who continue to come up with unsustainable solutions regardless of our prevailing conditions. The recent use of these ‘evaporative ponds’ we call dams, for agriculture in the north will drive our stressed water situation even further into the doldrums. 

Agriculture naturally uses a lot of water; using Dikgatlhong and Motloutse dams for agriculture is ill advised as it will drain those dams so fast; we will have no water for the country very soon especially if this Eli Niño continues.  Our national planners are simply failing to think beyond the now, they are unable or are refusing to read the poignant signs; hence their actions.

However to their credit, the government commissioned an international study to revise its national water master plan, which study was completed in 2005/6 with a report to government that had an array of recommendations to address the current and long-term water security.  What was the use though, after spending multi million Pulas of public funds on a study and then allowing the study to gather dust for ten years before it can be read?  When the Minister, some weeks back said in parliament that there was plenty of water underground he was not dreaming, he was correct, perhaps he had just read the 2005 national water master plan, ten years later? The report highlighted a number of easy wins including the following:

Abundant underground water resources, potable and saline were identified in areas that were clearly stated in the report. These areas were to be explored to quantify the amount of water and then develop extraction plans for using such water for national development.

Mining was to use saline underground water instead of potable water for mineral processing. Potable water was to be reserved for domestic and industrial consumption only.
Use surface water to feed underground aquifers to minimise evaporative and seepage losses.

Recycle all used water (a major source of water that is currently being thrown away to pollute our environment). This is a quick win that government is failing to implement

despite the fact that it is an international standard with mature technology in place.

Design and build rainwater harvesting systems

A water regulator for providing a regulated framework for water development and supply.
If we did these simple things would we still need to invest so much in bringing water all the way from Zambezi; all the way from the northern dams to the south; all the way from the Lesotho highland water scheme??  Are we using our God given resources wisely here? My gut feel says NO, we are wasting our diamond revenues.

Free Food for thought!

The Zambezi water should be used to develop agriculture and food processing in the Chobe area to feed the nation and create a food export industry in that area.  We must find local underground water to supply local needs throughout the country. The surface water can then be used to supplement ground water when that water is available and more importantly to top up our underground sources, rather than allow it to evaporate away.

As an important add on, we must jealously guard and protect our rivers and our environment to avoid pollution and ‘killing’ them. If you go around the country, you will be saddened by the callous dumping of waste in the environment and in our rivers. Rampant unregulated sand mining is also killing our rivers.  Is this not a result of failed or failing government systems? We need to challenge these irregularities as a nation.

Like, I said earlier, I will cover electricity next week. Let me now conclude by saying, we can do better, much better under a different water development arrangement; an arrangement that takes into account our unique and specific circumstances and use that to our advantage;   a management arrangement that will  use the  challenges  we face as hidden opportunities to be explored and exploited for the benefit of our people.

I want to end by quoting once again the following; ‘in times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with the world that no longer exist’.  We need to develop a leadership that is willing to learn new lessons; a leadership that is willing to change; a leadership that is willing to see and adopt a new long term vision for the country, not a leadership that is driven by self interest at the expense of national interest. Let us try to reinvent ourselves, learn anew and move to move our country decisively forward.

Again let us thank our loving God for giving us so much hidden treasure in the form of underground water and diamonds.  Let us also ask Him to forgive us for coming up with unsustainable, not well thought through water development programmes and further ask him to give us new wisdom to envision better and plan better going into the future.

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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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