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OF MONKEYS AND A SPARROW!

I didn't see it coming. I didn't even hear it fresh off the press. In fact, I heard it late. By chance. A chance Facebook post led me to Twitter where supposedly a war had broken out over a racist post made on Facebook. So, I went to Twitter. Then back to Facebook. And there it was! A fight between a sparrow and a troop of monkeys! What a way to begin the new year! Don't get me wrong; I'm not celebrating anything here. There's nothing to celebrate. But there's a lot to talk about. Racism. Yup! It hasn't gone anywhere, mate. It's 2016 and racism is very much still alive and well, thank you very much. It's a smart animal, you see.

Sometimes it goes all Machiavellian and successfully fakes its own death! Sometimes it just swoons or goes into a comatose state; but one thing it never does is die. Even when it has at times looked dead and buried, like the mythical Phoenix, it has risen from the ashes and left us all bewildered and bemused. And so here we are again, fresh into the new year, and a White South African woman has stirred the hornet's nest. It's on! Where did this furore come from? I'll tell you where, in case you missed it. Around Christmas time and leading up to the New Year, close to 500,000 people, mostly, if not all, Black, converged upon the beaches of Durban. When they left a few days later, the litter left in their wake was the stuff of fiction. Well, to be honest, there's nothing new there. It pretty much happens every year around that time.

Enter Penny Sparrow, a White woman who was so disgusted by both the swarming masses and the litter that she went postal! She went nuts! She went bananas! She likened the holiday makers to monkeys! South Africa went into uproar. When she tried to do damage control not long later, she only managed to add insult to injury. She said she was misquoted and misunderstood. She said she actually likes monkeys because they are cute! Cute! Cute? Well, South Africa and every Black person who got wind of the news didn't think there was anything cute about the whole thing. Monkeys are cute. I'm from Kgatleng. We've got them. In fact, they're our tribal symbol – our totem. They are a cute species. Naughty, but cute. So, I'll give her that. However, her comments about Black people were uncouth and unacceptable, no matter how she meant them.

For any younger readers unaware of the history of racism, likening Black people to the simian species is an old and effective way of conveying the idea that White people are higher up on the evolutionary chain than Black people, who must be at the lowest rung because they are closer to apes. That most of us understand this to be a complete misunderstanding of Darwin’s theory of evolution doesn’t matter. The preposterous suggestion works on the idea that there’s no smoke without fire. It’s also effective because enough people (both Black and White) really do think Black people are closer to apes than White people, having been conditioned to think that way. It's all a matter of repeated psychological reinforcement. Sadly, it has worked. It also gives permission to supposedly smart people like Nobel Prize winner James Watson to keep trying to demonstrate that the Black race is inherently less intelligent than the White race; an endeavour that also has a long history premised on a pseudo-science called "Scientific Racism." Scientific racism is the use of scientific and pseudo-scientific techniques and hypotheses to try to support, reinforce, and justify racism, racial inferiority, or racial superiority; or alternatively the practice of classifying individuals of different phenotypes into discrete races. As a body of theory, scientific racism employs anthropology (notably physical anthropology), anthropometry, craniometry, and other physiognomy-based disciplines, in proposing anthropologic typologies supporting the classification of human populations into physically discrete human races that might be asserted to be either superior or inferior. This unfortunate and withered branch of science gained a lot of traction during the New Imperialism period (c. 1880s – 1914) where it was used in justifying White European imperialism, and it culminated in the period from 1920 to the end of World War II.

Since the latter part of the 20th century, scientific racism has been criticized as obsolete and has historically been used to support or validate racist world-views, based upon belief in the existence and significance of racial categories and a hierarchy of superior and inferior races. Such a science certainly has no place in the modern world nor should it ever have had a place in any world for that matter. Racism is something we've all either witnessed or experienced, whether blatantly or subliminally. Here in Botswana, perhaps most of us are fortunate enough never to have been victims of racism. But our forebears who worked the South African mines know it all too well.

Many people fail to believe that race isn’t a biological category, but an artificial classification of people with no scientifically variable facts. In other words, the distinction we make between races has nothing to do with genetic characteristics. Race was created socially, primarily by how people perceive ideas and faces we are not quite used to. The definition of race all depends on where and when the word is being used. In American history, the meaning of the label “White” has changed over time, eventually adding groups like the Italians, Irish, and Jews. Other groups, mainly Africans, Latinos, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and Asian descendants, have found the path for worldwide social acceptance much more difficult.

The irregular border of ethnicities touch educational and economic opportunity, political representation, as well as income, health and social mobility of people of color. So where did this type of behavior begin? There are many ideas thrown around as to how racism began, though the truth lies in the history of mankind. Before people were able to travel and experience different groups of other people distinct from themselves, we predominantly stayed in the same kind of area with the same kind of people. We feared things that were different, and we lacked the power to face those kinds of things. All this changed once we did, in fact, obtain this level of human advancement, but the fear never drifted. The truth is, racism began as soon as people faced those of different races.

We’ve always had the fear of change, not to mention the unknown. It seems that racism has been around so long that by now we would have been able to overcome it as our species developed. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Frequent contact with those of whom we are afraid continues to lead to disputes, which, in time, is what caused racism to transform from people simply disliking each other, to the permanent and indestructible foundation of common racism and prejudice. Contemporary racism is said to have been derived from many places, one of the most common ideas being upbringing.

As a child, you are reliant on your parents to help you become who you are. Part of that involves their own, distinct opinions, that of which children don’t have the maturity to form on their own. They need the help of their parents, and this is often where the problem starts. If you were told that all Asians were sneaky or all Whites are evil or all Blacks are criminals, you can bet that you are going to feel this way about them. Upbringing is the biggest cause of racism. Even if you allow yourself to get to know some of them, this will always be in the back of your mind. We've been taught that Nigerians are crooks, for example. We've been told not to trust a Nigerian. And so, even when dealing with the most upright Nigerian, at the back of your mind, the fact that they're Nigerian makes you treat them with suspicion. It's psychological conditioning. The same applies to racism. Another suggestion as to how racism makes its way into our heads is through the almighty media. As we grow up, media becomes a factor of our lives whether or not we want it to be, and is also a major source of how racism keeps itself active. Since the 70’s, the media has been giving us racial labels, one of the largest supplies coming from crime shows like “Law and Order”, and “CSI”. When dealing with crime, people of color are reflected in the demarcation of “them” and “us”. Whites are often represented as the “good guy”, or the strong, law obeying citizens. They often the targets of the people of color, sometimes without any sort of evidence.

Directors and writers use racial stereotypes to make a more complex story with more suspects. We even have bumper stickers cheekily written things like, "A Black Man Is Always A Suspect." In the novel, “The Power of One,” by Bryce Courtney, which was also made into a movie starring Morgan Freeman, a young, White, African boy named Peekay lives in a world where the government, the country, and the world revolves around racism. World War II is coming to an end, and in South Africa, the Whites seem to hate the Blacks just as much as the Blacks hate the Whites. Peekay was raised by a compassionate and loving Black woman he refers to as “Nanny," due to the unsafe conditions at home with his bad, mentally ill mother. He grew up with Nanny and his best friend, who was also Black.

To Peekay, racism didn’t exist. The author, Bryce Courtney, didn’t intend on writing a book fully based on racism in South Africa. He grasps a trace of apartheid by Peekay’s experiences as a White boy by unhurriedly soaking it into South Africa as a toxin. “Adapt, blend…develop a camouflage.” This thought went through Peekay’s mind once he had been exposed to racism, having been forced to attend a boarding school full of bigger, darker students. In Chapters One and Two, as a mere five-year-old, the bright protagonist Peekay is already addressing the necessity of affecting camouflages in order to survive the system. He is often forced to act differently around people of different skin colors in order to fit in better to prevent himself from getting beaten or teased. He faces his first taste of racism the very first night at the boarding school. One boy, known as “The Judge," who was much older, stronger, and darker than Peekay, comes up with the nickname “PissKop” for Peekay, because of Peekay’s habit to wet the bed that was caused by The Judge’s, along with the help of many other older Black students, tendency to beat Peekay and spit in his face.

The Judge also convinces Peekay that Hitler is determined to march all Englishmen in South Africa into the ocean, and even forces Peekay to eat human feces. Upbringing is a very strong factor of what influences people to become racist, or to have even slight racial views. In Peekay’s case, he had gone from one extreme to another. At home, Nanny and his best friend were the only people he could call family, besides his mother who spent time at what Peekay called “The Mental Breakdown Place." When sent to the boarding school, he wasn’t expecting the Black students to dislike him because of his skin color. He saw the Black kids as merely bullies, and before they started bullying him hadn’t anticipated them to gang up on him because they were Black. This is what caused Peekay’s neutrality with the racist society in which he lived. He gave each person a chance to be a good person, because he had seen the good in different ethnicities to which many people were stubborn to open up their minds. The power of one, or the idea of how one person can make a significant difference, is an important idea in relation to challenge in the novel. Giel Piet (played by Morgan Freeman in the movie), one of Peekay’s boxing coaches who had been sneaking tobacco to all of the prisoners, was forced to eat feces by Sergeant Ballman, a White racist who works at the prison. If Giel Piet had refused to eat the feces, the guards would have found the tobacco, resulting in the prisoners getting beaten along with Giel Piet .

As Peekay witnessed this happen to his coach, he thought, "It made me angry. Angry it was done. Angry I couldn't do anything to stop it." But how does racism really affect society? Visibly identifiable members of racial and ethnic oppressed groups continue to struggle for equal access and opportunities, particularly during times of stringent economics. Often, the targeted race has a harder time doing things such as finding a well-paying job or house. While there have been some sizeable gains in the labor force status of racial minorities, significant gaps remain. Racism is rampant in all areas of employment. For many members of exploited racial and ethnic units, there is always an economic depression. Studies show that people of color are the last hired and the first fired. As a result, budget cuts, downsizing, and privatization may disproportionately hurt people of color. In February 1995, the unemployment rate for African Americans was 10.1 percent as compared to 4.7 percent for White Americans (Berry, 1995). The unemployment rate for adolescents of color is approximately four times that of White adolescents. What's more, in America, the majority of unemployed men are Black, and compared to other races, Blacks and Latinos on average have disproportionately low incomes. Perhaps the American correctional system also betrays an ugly message of subtle racism.

Blacks constitute only about 12% of the American population but more than 50% of the prison population. So bad is the situation that prison is known as "The Black Man's College." There are more Black young men in prison than there are in college. But what can be done? There are several methods proposed to reduce racism and promote tolerance. These include education, changing the attitudes of both the "oppressed" and "oppressor"; legal and political change, enforcing equality until it becomes normative behavior; and change to social structures believed to be the root causes of racism. All of these methods include a belief that as more "others" are included in social institutions and power structures, familiarity itself will erode fear and stereotypes.

Individual Change

Some believe that racist behavior stems from racist attitudes and beliefs that can only be changed on the individual level, in individual minds and hearts. Tactics here include public education and changing portrayals of racist minorities in the media, as well as individuals speaking up against demeaning language, jokes, and use of stereotypes, as well as racist violence and racial discrimination. A corollary to changing the attitudes and beliefs of racists is changing the attitudes and beliefs of people who have been targeted by racism, a refusal to accept being demeaned or discriminated against.

Legal and Political Change

Others believe that racist individuals are the product of a racist society; that the legal and political system must be changed first before social and individual change can follow. The great civil rights campaign in the U.S. in the 1950's and 60's was an expression of this. Root Causes Still others search for connecting causes at the root of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, agism, religious intolerance and all other forms of discriminatory behavior, in hopes that addressing the root causes will create the most social change.

Economic Change

One argument proposed by the radical left is that all social discrimination and oppression is the result of an exploitative economic system. Any economic system that creates "Haves" and "Have-Nots" will sooner or later create racist justifications for maintaining the status of the "Haves" over the "Have-Nots." According to some on the radical left, the few who exploit the labor and resources of the many now promote social divisions as a "divide and conquer" strategy. By turning men against women, Blacks against Whites, Christians against Muslims, Arabs against Jews, young against old, etcetera, they disguise the fact that the true battle is Corporations Against Everybody.

By this argument, a truly socialist economic system will result in eliminating racism and all other -isms. Socialists are not the only ones, however, who claim that a different economic/social system will eliminate the evils of racism and other discriminatory practices. Libertarians and the followers of Ayn Rand have claimed that a "Real Capitalism" would eliminate such social evils; Democrats and Republicans both claim that a "Real Democracy" will eliminate racism; the Christian Right claims that a real (i.e. Christian) social morality will eliminate racism; Communists claim that Real Communism will save us and anarchists claim that Real Anarchism will; etcetera. Sin and Salvation A similar argument, one that I identify with as a Pastor, says that all these -isms, like all other social evils, are the result of humankind's sinful nature. The only cure is the salvation of humanity and the establishment of a society based on religious virtue and/or under religious rule. Christians argue for Christianity as the world's salvation, Muslims argue for Islam, and so on. Psychological Healing Those who believe that all discriminatory -isms are rooted in human psychological insecurities believe the way to eliminate all of them is to focus on raising emotionally healthy and secure individuals with high self-esteem who don't need to feel superior to anyone else. For those who are already adults, we should try to understand them and teach them a more healthy way to deal with their fears and emotional needs. Attacking "racists" as "the enemy" only compounds the problem.

Behavioral Therapy

Another argument says that since human beings try to make their beliefs justify their behavior with at least as much (or more) energy than they make their behavior conform to their beliefs, energetically enforcing non-discriminatory behavior on all fronts and making sure that all individuals are exposed to the widest possible variety of human beings and cultures will eventually erode all racist and discriminatory practices and attitudes. This could be called "behavioral therapy for society." Penny Sparrow has stoked ancient fires pitting the Black man against the White man.

I doubt she foresaw the backlash that would ensue following what she thought would be an innocuous and isolated comment by a random stranger in the vast world of social media. How woefully wrong she was! She has unwittingly demonstrated that the hope of a "Rainbow Nation" is just a fantastic myth. South Africa is as racially divided as it was before the ANC assumed power. Granted, gains and strides have been made here and there and a Black man finds himself leading a predominantly White party, but that doesn't change the stubborn facts of entrenched racial attitudes. I hope that not too far away, we can fulfill the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. that “one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'” In the meantime, "His eye is on the sparrow…"

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Opinions

Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022
Craig-Cloud

Putin Chose War.  We Remain United with Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Craig L. Cloud

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient.

They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world.  The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.  By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.

When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.

United in Our Response

This will not end well for Vladimir Putin.  Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable.  As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.

President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology.  After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.

Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.

By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime.  In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.

We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military.  We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy.  And we are prepared to do more.

In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.

We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies.  President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.

He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.  Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.  There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world:  NATO is more united than ever.

The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies.  We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.

Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War

This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.

He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.

Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do.  We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas.  We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine.  We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.

Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there.  We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.

We have been transparent with the world.  We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up.  Putin is the aggressor.  Putin chose this war.  And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.

Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever

Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed.  In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity.  We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.

Putin has failed to divide us.  Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies.  And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.

The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine.  Putin has unleashed great suffering on them.  But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.

The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

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Opinions

Kgafela’s Letter to Masisi

21st February 2022

9th December 2021
Dear Mr President.
RE: BOTSWANA CONSTITUTION REFORM – BAKGATLA BA KGAFELA POSITION

I hope this correspondence finds you well.

I would like to express my gratitude for the decisions you have made to open dialogue in Botswana leading towards Constitutional reform. We understand you have advanced a step ahead by appointing a Commissioner to lead the process. However, we must caution here that, ultimately, your government needs to pass legislation to legitimize and guide the Constitutional reform process. Otherwise, right thinking members of society all over see the futility of the exercise as presently constituted, and will not have confidence in your procedures. Nonetheless, you stand out as the first President of Botswana to take any tangible step towards constitutional reform. Whatever the outcome of the exercise may be, and whatever the motive, credit must accordingly be given where it is due. This much said about Botswana, we now turn to the main topic of this letter.

There are certain pertinent matters that we must make clear at the very beginning, and record our Bakgatla special requests to your Excellency. Whilst we Bakgatla Ba kgafela, and I (Kgafela ii) desire to experience a new future for Botswana, under a new constitution, our unique situation as Bakgatla requires recognition and special attention. The history of Bechuanaland – Botswana and Bakgatla from 1885-2021 is well documented. It is available in Prof Fred Morton’s book: When Rustling became an Art, my recent publication -The Last Frontier, Baloyi Judicial Commission of Inquiry Report of 2019, and the Lord Hailey Commission report. Lord Hailey stated in his report that: Bakgatla land belongs to Kgosi & his morafe. Her Majesty the Queen of England accepted that position in statutory title, which has not changed by lawful process to this date. All those statutes since 1899 (and Commissions of Inquiry reports) are as valid today as they were at the time of their promulgation/reporting. Even the Tribal Territories Act is still law in present day Botswana because it has not been repealed.

There is nothing in law and history to gainsay a glaring truth that:(a) Bakgatla Ba Kgafela are the lawful owners of Bakgatla Tribal Territory, as defined in the Tribal Territories Act and Her Majesty’s Proclamations; (b) Sir Seretse Kgama and BDP party expropriated our country in 1966, without consultation or agreement with Bakgatla; against international law, and against common & customary law concerning the taking of another’s property. Simultaneous with Seretse & BDP taking our country, they imposed a foreign system of human affairs called ‘western democracy’ or ‘multi-party democracy’ upon us in our country; yet again without consultation or agreement. That system has gradually deteriorated the quality of life for our people to the present day of total despair.

Bakgatla do not want to live under that system anymore, whatever name it goes by. We don’t want to be detained by its faults in our progress to the future. We want to rule ourselves in (our country) where we may practice and live our heritage without undue restrictions, including the heritage of being led by a Kgosikgolo (King), and not a politician. There is no logic in our people being driven to vote for a leader every five years, when we already have provably competent traditional leadership amongst us. This desire is consistent with international law (self- determination) and the law of property ownership.

In addition, we have ambitions of the future which may not necessarily coincide with ambitions of other Batswana in their respective localities. For instance, the rest of Botswana may wish to continue with western democracy and leadership by politicians, whilst we don’t, because we have seen the system clearly for what it represents. Moreover, our Bakgatla Kingdom extends into South Africa. Different considerations apply. It has been so, even during British colonial rule. That is why the colonial government always excluded Bakgatla land when it passed legislation for Bechuanaland Protectorate. A case on point is the Bechuanaland Protectorate (Lands) Order of 16th May 1904, which states at section 1: For the purposes of this Order the expression “Crown lands” means the lands abandoned as aforesaid by the Chiefs Khama, Sebele, and Bathoen, to wit, the lands bounded on the West by the native reserves of the Bangwaketsi, the Bakwena, and Bamangwato, on the North by the Shashi River, on the East by the Transvaal, and on the South by the territory of Barolongs always excepting the territories of the Chief Moghosi of the Bamaliti, and Linchwe of the Bakhatla, all of which Native Reserves and territories have been or shall be more particularly described in Proclamations of His Majesty’s High Commissioner for South Africa(my underlining for emphasis).

The key words are: “always excepting the territories of the Chief Moghosi of the Bamaliti, and Linchwe of the Bakhatla”. We cannot speak for Bamaliti or other tribes & peoples of Botswana because we do not have a mandate to do so. They have their own Dikgosi and representatives. We wish to focus for now only on us Bakgatla, and our demand for restoration of ownership rights to our country. We do not want our ownership issue lumped in generalization with the rest of Botswana issues. We say this with respect, recognizing always that we have family, friends’ relations and other investment across Botswana. We love Botswana. As such, we do not want to burden anyone with our uniqueness, or they becoming an albatross in our march into the future. Pertinently, we do not want our future held hostage to any delays or failures – if any – within the Constitutional review exercise your Excellency has commenced.

Accordingly, this correspondence serves to kindly ask your Excellency to utilize his current powers as leader of BDP and State President, to take such steps as necessary to redress the injustices of 1966 perpetrated against Bakgatla – by returning Bakgatla Tribal Territory to its rightful owners.

It seems to me that we are asking something relatively simple and reasonable, because all you need do is: (a) present this demand to your BDP parliament caucus; (b) discuss with your cabinet, and (c) proceed to amend the current Botswana Constitution (application clauses) to indicate that the current constitution does not apply, and should never have applied to Bakgatla Tribal Territory (this should have been done in 1966 at the London Conference and stipulated in the Bechuanaland Independence Act passed in London), (d) declare our Bakgatla independence,(e) pass transition legislation, and (f) inform the United Nations and SADC accordingly that you have released us to our independence. This bold step will resolve a historical injustice in a short space of time with the least amount of energy. What we do with our independence moving forward is our business. We have competent leadership, intelligent resourceful people and good ideas to sort ourselves out. Be rest assured that Bakgatla shall experience a better quality of life to that we have endured under the current Botswana constitution since 1966.

Whilst it may be tempting to lose the simplicity of our demand in rhetoric, decorum, political red tape, and fear of the truth & change, it remains glaringly clear to us (victims of injustice) that: In as much as Sir Seretse Kgama and his BDP of 1966 managed to take our land by passing a law (Constitution), it should be within your same powers with current BDP to pass a similar law (amendment of constitution) to restore our country. Your Excellency has sufficient numbers in parliament, and all power of government to achieve this. Your party hasthe power to pass pretty much any law you please, as has been the case over the past 55 years. You also happen to be a Mokgatla man, well positioned to achieve these goals of freedom for Bakgatla. The only relevant question you need ask yourself, colleagues and interested persons now is: Show lawful cause why restoration of Bakgatla country must not happen!

May it be clear that: Bakgatla will not participate in any talks for Constitutional reform in Botswana, until we have full restoration our country (Bakgatla Reserve). Otherwise, we risk falling into error of betraying our forefather’s stand, recorded in Kgosi Linchwe 1’s letters of 1894, Kgosi Linchwe ii’s letters of December 1965, and all their gains since 1870, which are (our inheritance) systematically taken from us by politicians and foreign rule disguised as a democracy. Only then, with our country in hand, shall we be in a position to meaningfully contribute to constitutional reform, and negotiate a Federal State of Botswana (in the very least of compromises), where Bakgatla retain their independence, or semi – autonomy, within the greater Botswana.

Your Excellency must appreciate that we Bakgatla will never give up on our demands for restoration of our country. Our stand is a matter of principle informed by history and law. It is a reality of having no choice, given the history of cruelty we and our Bogosi have suffered at the hands of your BDP government and western democracy since 1966. In the climax of it all, your BDP government has advanced as far as passing laws in 2010-2014 (Court Judgements & Executive Orders) declaring your non-recognition of Bakgatla apex leadership, and prohibiting Bakgatla bogosi from leading our people.

In addition, your BDP government has effectively expelled the Bakgatla monarch out of Botswana (under threat of imprisonment) and left our people leaderless to date. These actions are a clear indicator that Bakgatla (have never been accepted) under BDP rule and current Botswana constitution. We have glaring indicators (red lights) that we must have a formal separation which endorses the status quo prior to 1966 in relation to land ownership and sovereignty. Logic dictates that your BDP government must release us Bakgatla into independence, if your government despises us so much as we have all seen over time. Setswana proverbs say: Monna o nkga le di tsaagwe – Motse fa o bakwa re tla o kgaogana.

Therefore, your failure (if any) to heed our demand, can only delay the inevitable. It will always reflect regret towards missed opportunity, as one president after another grapples with the same demand. Unfortunately, you will place us in the awkward position where we have to trouble your BDP government throughout your reign, the British Government, and British Royal Family in various forums over matters that we could have resolved locally as suggested herein. Unfortunately too, you will miss Bakgatla formal participation in the Constitutional reform talks. That entire exercise will become still-born from a failure of participation by a major tribe within the country. You will end up perpetuating the 1966 errors, exactly as they are recorded in the letters and other representations of 1965/66 made by those who opposed Seretse Kgama’s & BDP coup. We are already seeing sign posts from that same road.

The individual Mokgatla man or woman may speak for themselves, as they please. We do expect that some may stand against our course; especially those whose loyalties reside more with politics than Bakgatla heritage. But none – in their small or large numbers – has a legal mandate to speak for our private ownership of Bakgatla Tribal Territory.

Your Excellency must concede the factual reality before us that currently, I am unable to lead, let alone live amongst my people, because of BDP political interference, well documented in my recent book – The Last Frontier. It has always been open to your government to establish real (as opposed to abstract) conditions for my safe return and living amongst my people in Mochudi. Your law officers in DPP & Attorney General have power to formally withdraw all those fake criminal charges against me in Court (if they so wish), and draft legislation for your majority BDP to pass in parliament conferring Kgosi Kgolo Kgafela ii due and deserving immunity of a Kgosikgolo. It will not be the first time your government passes legislation specific to an individual (Kgafela ii).

Likewise, your government has power to pass legislation that formally recognizes, respects and adequately provides for office of KgosiKgolo in Botswana. That kind of legislation would have relieved Batswana of the current morass created by the 2011 High Court Judgement and related Executive Orders.

Rather than perform these relatively simply to understand tasks in the past ten years, we have observed a shameful trend amongst your party members, including your Excellency’s behavior (we say this with respect), where individuals use my name and integrity for political campaign. The theme is – bringing Kgafela back home – without attending to the real matters of legislative intervention. Your Excellency has been recorded saying that you will not rest until Kgafela is back home. But to date, you have not spoken to me. We see you visit people all over Botswana and the world, but you have not made time to visit and talk to me directly less than 400km away. Your party’s political rhetoric using my name treats me more like a stray Poodle, available to any passerby to grab and pose for a selfie – sometimes laced with disrespect.

There is no doubt that your BDP government displays superficial attitudes towards my return to Botswana. That same disposition makes it delusional for anyone to believe that your BDP government will ever pass the legislation suggested above (establishment of office of KgosiKgolo & immunity) because if the contrary were true, we would have seen signs sprout in the past ten years, especially since 2018. As such, trust is impossible, and we have to live with that reality.

I have come to terms with my fate that: the only way I will ever see my father country, or enjoy Botswana, is when Bakgatla have recovered our independence, or there is a new government that will create a safe environment for me to walk freely in Botswana enjoying respect of a KgosiKgolo. In the meantime, we will endure such fate that we continue to suffer property losses, poverty, and so many other difficulties flowing from my inability to access my property and my people in Botswana. Indeed, we have lost a lot of money so far, from having to defend ourselves and innocent tribesmen against politically motivated criminal trials, whilst thieves took advantage of our vulnerability to crush us deeper into poverty. We have no hope for compensation from government.

My Botswana Identity document (Omang), passport and driver’s license have expired. It is impossible for me to renew. I cannot visit a nearest Botswana embassy for help whilst there is risk of being arrested because of outstanding criminal charges in Botswana. Effectively, my Botswana citizenship under the current legal regime has expired, and I am left with no hope of renewal. I stand banished today, as it were with my grandfather Kgosi Molefi. These are repeating cycles of history we must break, once and for all.

Be that as it may, please understand that we hold no grudges against your Excellency or anyone in Botswana, given the conclusions and the decisions of destiny we have taken about the future. Nothing else matters now, other than that future. To that end, I am hereby formally inviting your Excellency to make time to come here and see me in South Africa, so that we may talk about these matters, and perhaps others of national interest. We need a very clear way forward post March 2022 concerning restoration of our country, because we intend to escalate our plight. Your Excellency may usefully arrange through my brother Hon Mmusi Kgafela and Kgosi Sekai, both of whom will liaise with Kgosi Ramono here in South Africa. Please let me know your response on or before 30th January 2022.

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

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.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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