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There is more to culture than singing and dancing

There are some people who have reduced our Setswana Culture to mere singing and dancing. There is a lot we can learn from our heritage in order to build a better Botswana for the future generations.

Ours is a human centered culture, this means that whatever we do, human beings come first. We do not plan to do things in order to make profit or individual gains.

Our economic plans, political governance were always geared towards the interest of the community as a whole. Nobody was regarded as inferior or less privileged because the society was giving equal opportunities to all.

If for whatever reasons someone is found to be less fortunate either due to ill health or disability the society or community will come to his or her rescue and nobody will announce it at the top of his voice that so and so is poor and I have brought him or her out of poverty.

It is a taboo in Setswana culture to boast about your wealth. The wealth someone is having does not belong to him or her but to the clan. We speak about dikgomo tsa rona, dikgomo tsa gaetsho, Dikgomo tsoo rra Moenga kgotsa dikgomo tsoorra semangmang. This is the culture which makes every child in the family, clan, community, tribe or society to be equal because the wealth of the society belongs to all.

As Steve Biko said, in traditional African culture, there is no such thing as two friends. Conversation groups were more or less naturally determined by age and divisions of labor. Thus one would find all boys whose job was to look after cattle periodically meeting at a popular spot to engage in conversation about their cattle, girl friends, parents, heroes etc. All commonly shared their secrets, joys and woes. No one felt unnecessarily an intruder into someone’s business.

The curiosity manifested was welcome. It came out of desire to share. This pattern one would find in all age groups. House visiting was always a feature of the elderly people’s way of life. No reason was needed as a basis for visits. We did not need hired pastors or borra le bomma boipelego to visit the sick and the needy. It was all part of our deep concern for each other.

These are things never done in the westerners’ culture. A visitor to someone’s house, with the exception of friends, is always met with the question; “what can I do for you?” This attitude of viewing people as agents, for particular functions either to one’s disadvantage or advantage is foreign to us.

We are not a suspicious race. We believe in the inherent goodness of human beings. We regard our living together not as an unfortunate mishap warranting endless competition amongst us but as a deliberate act of God to make us a community of brothers and sisters jointly involved in the quest for a composite answer to the varied problems of life.

Hence in all we do we always place human beings first and hence all our action is usually joint community oriented action rather than the individualization which is the hallmark of the capitalist approach. We always refrain from using people as stepping stones.

Talking to each other is one of the central concepts of our culture. We talk to each other not for the sake of arriving at a particular conclusion but merely to enjoy the communication for its own sake and to learn from one another.

This talking to each other freely will erase suspicion from one another. Today you find people belonging to one organization, either a political party or church but not greeting each other when they meet in the streets, let alone talking to each other. You hear the secretary general of a particular party does not see eye to eye with the president of the party. This is not African and is evil to say the least. People see each other only in meetings or church gathering on Sundays.

African culture, our Setswana culture teaches us to communicate with one another and by so doing build trust and respect on each other. I don’t need to greet you when we meet only if I know you. Greetings, in our culture are the key to conversations.

When Batswana meet they greet each other and ask about relatives’ welfare, even about their cattle, sheep, and goats because in Setswana you cannot be well if your uncle or mother is not well, or if your animals are dying of drought. We believe in a holistic approach to life. Our Setswana culture must be reflected in all spheres of life i.e. in our politics, economic and social life. Batswana believe in consensus methods in dealing with national issues.

We debate issues politely, honestly with respect to each other until we reach an agreement. It is in the best interest of the majority that we agree. We don’t believe that everything discussed needs to be voted for. Voting is a foreign concept. In a world where money can buy anything most voters are being bought as one intelligent journalist put it, “under capitalism – democracy is on sale!”

Sometimes people vote without knowing why they are voting and who they are voting for, simply because they are given money or they are given alcohol. We no longer debate issues, because of lack of African culture in our politics, evil people are in governments in Africa while honest and intelligent people are left out of power.

In African culture a leader is prepared even before birth, groomed and nurtured to be a leader. This reminds me of the story I was told by Kgosi Mareko Mosielele of Bahurutshe on how he trained Kgosi Letsholathebe Moremi. Kgosi Letsholathebe II graduated with a degree but in accordance with our Setswana culture.

Batawana royal house found it fit to send Letsholathebe II for more studies at the Bahurutshe royal house. Anybody who knew Kgosi Letsholathebe II will agree with me that he was the best among the best when it comes to leadership qualities. He was a down to earth person but highly respected kgosi.

On several occasions, I met him in Gaborone when he was attending house of chiefs meetings and I being a student he will always say,” dumela morwa Moenga, you always remind me of your parents”. Somehow Kgosi knew my parents and respected them and I benefitted from that in a way.

The point I am making is that, a leader is trained to lead. It must be the people to decide who leads them, not money as it seems to be the case in our society now. Our culture also was reflected in our economic systems as Africans or Batswana.

We helped each other when it was ploughing season since we did not have tractors and used oxen for ploughing. Those who did not have oxen would just go and borrow from the neighbor, borrowing oxen, easily, as if borrowing a simple knife. That is African culture. What was important was assisting someone.

At the center of our culture is the human being. Whatever we do or plan to do is done in the best interest of the human being. Poverty is a foreign concept. As I said rich or poor we were always using oxen for ploughing. If you didn’t have milk to provide for your children you would just go and ask for dikgomo tsa mafisa. 

Our economy was not profit driven, unlike the western culture that places profit ahead of human beings, although they smartly refer to it as individual rights. The right of individuals to do whatever they want to do, even at the expense of other human beings.

This is why at the time of bo Sir Seretse khama & Sir Ketumile Masire we used to have price control department to ensure that prices were not set to exploit people. Goods and services shouldn’t be produced for the simple purpose of making money at the expense of the consumer.

As Steve Biko said,” we are tolerated because our cheap labor is needed. I will add,”also because our money is needed”. Biko is right to say that in rejecting the western values, therefore, we are rejecting those that are not only foreign to us but that seek to destroy the most cherished of our beliefs or that the corner stone of our society is man himself – not just his welfare, not his material well being but just man himself, with all his ramifications.

We must reject the power based society of the west that seems to be ever concerned with perfecting their technological know- how while losing out on their spiritual dimension. We believe that in the long run the special contribution to the world by Africa will be on this field of human relationship.

The great gift is not money, industrial or even a military look but the greatest gift to the world which can only come from Africa is to give the world a more human face. It is from this background that when we talk of our culture and how to preserve it we must know what we are talking about because it is the culture which will serve the world.

It seems in Botswana we are busy destroying our culture. Because if we are really serious about preserving our culture we must start with the teaching of our languages in schools, like Sekalaka, Seyei, Sesarwa and many more found in this country.

The good thing is that we are surrounded by countries where these languages are taught. We can easily take teachers & text books from Zimbabwe to teach Sekalaka, take teachers & textbooks from Namibia to teach senaro, Seyei, Sembukushu; take textbooks and teachers from South-Africa to teach seXhosa & Afrikaans. We can take teachers & text books from Zambia to teach Serotsi & Sesubiya.

In my view music, art and dancing are means to communicating in our culture and are not as central to our culture. At the center of our culture is the Human Being.

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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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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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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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