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Development: a decade of lost opportunities!


This is a follow-up on last week’s submission where I visited the 2008 inaugural address by the president; when he presented his four lanes roadmap, each with a D inscription (Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline). He thankfully later added a Delivery lane. This was the road map to the promised land of peace, tranquility and plenty for all Batswana and residents.

Before I move onto the second lane of Development, I would like to digress a little.  Some of the speeches at the memorial service of the late seven Matsha students who perished in a cattle truck that should never have been used to transport them in the first place; some  of the exchanges in parliament and councils  chambers regarding this unfortunate event, point to a bleak future of intolerance where leadership instead of accepting responsibility that is clearly and squarely theirs and dealing with the consequences blame and viciously seek to silence those who call upon them to account.  Instead of apologising to the nation, they play ignorant and chastise those angry citizens who dare to raise their voices against the incompetency that allowed such a truck to be used for our dear children. Our democracy is indeed flawed. This is the same country with ’a shining example of democracy in Africa’, a   ‘democratic country’ in which only those belonging to the ruling party; those who sing their praises are said to be patriotic citizens, others are unpatriotic people who deserve to rot in hell. How naïve and how wrong? With this mentality can we really achieve the Development aspirations that this great nation deserves; the Development that the nation was promised in 2008 by our loving president?

With this type of mentality, what can we expect on the second lane of the presidential road map? We find a lot of pot holes, the road is bumpy and the driving is slow and perilous.  Here I am talking about lack of systems, procedures and human capital to drive the Development vehicles, the Development agenda. Also reviewing progress on this lane is very difficult if not impossible because it is not clear what is contained and packaged in these vehicles. It should have been clear at the onset; that vehicle A has these goods which will be delivered at this station, on such and such a day and the goods are for this particular purpose. This was never given; hence the difficulty in evaluation.

But perhaps we should guess.  What are the possible outcomes that the nation should legitimately expect to be delivered by these Development vehicles?  What are the outcomes to be expected from any development for that matter?  My guess would be to improve the lives of the people broadly in these areas; more jobs created, increased business opportunities, improved health services and care, improved personal safety, improved security (personal and property), better standard of education, more educational facilities, improved and more recreational facilities, improved and more road networks, better and more railway transport, improved competiveness, improved global recognition etc, etc. These are some of the legitimate expectations Batswana would aspire for as the country develops.

What have we achieved from 2008 to todate? What will we have achieved during this decade from 2008 to 2018? We are only left with three years.  What can be achieved in the remaining three years?  We can only really talk about the achievements so far and based on these achievements we can then perhaps make some projections. Let me briefly look at the list of expectation I made above:

JOB CREATION

Since 2008 the economy has lost more jobs than it has created. The official rate of unemployment remains at about 20 %.  The mining sector has lost over a thousand jobs due to restructuring and closures caused by the market and possibly poor planning on the part of owners including government inability to positively influence the developmental direction.  We have created and lost jobs in the diamond beneficiation industry. In my humble view, we could have done better if our planning was robust and far sighted.

CREATION OF BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

The relocation of the Diamond Trading Centre from London to Gaborone should have created a lot of business opportunities for Batswana but how much have actually been created?  This should not only be measured by the number of Batswana who have benefitted directly but by how much compared to the total value available. Without measuring these numbers, we are just talking and fooling ourselves.  The diamond business is a multi dollar business and for Batswana to meaningfully benefit they must be credit worthy, must have access to requisite financial resources and must also have the requisite business skills? These skills will not necessarily come from having a degree in business, but in adequate exposure to the diamond business. A proactive government would have ensured that our people are adequately prepared and equipped to benefit immensely from the relocation of the diamond business.

OTHER JOB AND BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

There are also a number of failed projects that would have created both jobs and business opportunities if we had been more proactive and far sighted.  What happened to the 1200 MW Mmamabula energy project?  This was a coal mine and power station to supply electricity mainly to South Africa and Botswana. Due to poor long-term planning by both Botswana and South Africa, this project was suspended because the two countries thought they would have enough power by 2012 or thereabout. Look where both South Africa and Botswana are now? We are still constantly in the dark. This project would have created thousands of mining, energy and logistics jobs as well as revenue from energy sales and possible business opportunities for local investors. The business losses ad expenses incurred as a result of power outages would have been averted. We could have created more industries and attracted more foreign direct investment.  We must all learn that short-termism is really expensive.

What happened to the ACTIVOX Refinery plant in Francistown whose bankable feasibility was completed and construction of the plant commenced only to be stopped due to the drop of recessionary nickel prices and uncertainty in the power supply. We know recession come and go and astute business minded people invest during the recessions in preparation for the next boom cycle. This plant was a unique patented hydrometallurgical plant that would have recovered copper and nickel metal from sulphide concentrates at high recovery rates. This would not only have obviated the need for expensive smelting process and refinery oversees but would also  have enabled us to recover more metals from low grades. This would have made Botswana a regional hub for metal refinery allowing us to export finished products to Europe and elsewhere. What a missed opportunity!

There are others like the famous fengae glass factory project in Palapye that was abandoned because of incompetency and possible corruption after close to P550 million was disbursed and plant built. This factory was going to source coal, silica and soda ash from Botswana and would employ over 500 people.  We have lost millions of Pula, job and revenue opportunities. We have lost an opportunity to be a regional glass exporter. Indeed a decade of lost opportunities.

OTHER ASPIRATIONS FROM ANTICIPATED DEVELOPMENTS

I will now group the other aspirations that include health care, education, safety, security, recreation, transport and competitiveness among others. I am not aware of any improvements in this area accept perhaps in the area of sport competitiveness and global recognition in some good and bad ways. We have done well in the sporting arena. Our athletes have done us proud and we need to motivate them all the sport codes to do more.  We have built more stadia albeit grossly outside budget and time. We expect more in the coming years on our sports and art Development.

As for education, we have deteriorated badly in terms of quality and infrastructure. We have lost the reason for sending our children to school as they graduate and stay at home or do ipelegeng. The situation is dire and needs argent attention.

We have added heath facilities but our hospitals remain over loaded, under staffed and in many cases without medicines. We have cases of millions of pula worth of expired medicines that have been thrown away.  We seem to have an incompetent health system that builds hospitals and clinics when there is no provision for requisite medical staff including just medical doctors and nurses?

The transport system is a failure as evidenced by many people hiking on all our roads. It becomes a nightmare during the holidays. The Bechuanaland train finally gave up the ghost increasing the load and cost on our road transport. Safety on our roads has thus been severely compromised by bad road behaviours, congestions and possible increase of unqualified drivers with fraudulent acquired licenses.

Depending on what a Motswana calls recreation, the reduction of night life hours has deprived many Botswana from their livelihoods. This was not replaced by any modern facilities where people can meet and mingle in public and have fun and share their life stories and miseries. We have not seen theaters and recreational facilities being built to support the performing art industry. The billions of pula from the alcohol levy that we seem to be so proud of should have been used for some of these alternatives.  

How about our personal security and security of our properties?  We continue to experience increased breakages in our homes and people killed by thugs and some disappearing.  We continue to hear increased cases of car theft.  When we were growing up, we never locked up our homes and cars. We never imagined someone snatching and running away with our belongings. These are now daily occurrences and the nation is increasingly getting scared.

CONCLUSION

It is very clear that our development vehicles as well as the road they are travelling on require carefully planned maintenance including appropriate schedules and man power.  How can we have developments when we have failed to produce enough electrical power for domestic and industrial use? How can we have developments when we cannot supply enough water to drink and to propel our industrial growth?   How can we have developments when our people do not have land to develop for themselves and industrialise? How can we have Development if we do not have adequately trained manpower to support industry?

I believe the water situation is dire and first priority in our development together with power. If no developmental measures are taken urgently, we are headed for a rapidly collapsing economy. The water from Letsibogo and Dikgatlhong dams will not sustain the SPEDU region with its planned agricultural projects together with the entire eastern corridor and southern parts of the country including Lobatse, Barolong, Bangwaketse and Bakwena regions. It is impossible especially with our erratic rainfall patterns and on going irresponsible use of our rivers.  My advice is that each area must have its own local fully equipped underground water supply.  We must not entirely depend on surface water including possible supply from Lesotho and Chobe. These should just be available as and when required to supplement our own local efforts.

The much talked about ESP should have focused only on sustainable water and electricity supply. We need massive underground water exploration across the country and fully functional supply infrastructure. We also need to urgently treat and re-use all the waste water in our towns and major settlements.  To avoid the massive evaporative losses we experience on our dams we should be spending money on infrastructure for using available surface water to recharge and keep our water in our underground aquifers away from the evaporative losses we experience as a result of hot weather and large surface areas of our dams.  With electricity we should know what to do.

Instead of praying for rain, we should pray for wisdom to enable us to deal effectively with the Developmental challenges we face.

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

 

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Opinions

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

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosis actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as international waters.

Pelosis visit to Chinas Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqus. In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to Chinas position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The Peoples Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijings position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwans administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Bidens words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region. The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as Taiwan independence. The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for Chinas Peoples Liberation Army to safeguard Chinas national sovereignty, security and development interests. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard Chinas overseas investments, projects and personnel. It then follows that President Xis administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector Chinas sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part. Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The Peoples Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces. This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

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

As Chinas military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit Chinas Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to Taiwan independence separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the Peoples Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

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Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

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

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

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

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

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswanas democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogaes assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in theBulela Ditswedispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswewas an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties ruling and opposition have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumers piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswanas, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they dont imagine that their one download will do anything to the production houses pocket or make a dent in the actors net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musicians music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth.

As Botswanas creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africas respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswanas economy are being diverted.

Why cant our local creative industry grow? Why dont we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana? are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswanas local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the countrys economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, its imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economys growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artists music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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