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In defence of The WeekendPost

It is no longer just a subtle suspicion that something is brewing inside the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.

By the time the public gets a glimpse of what it is all about, there would be a scary number of dead bodies scattered all over the place.

Last week the WeekendPost newspaper ran a story in which the BDP Secretary General said his party would have no problem consorting with Botswana Congress Party.

It is a statement that has annoyed the BCP big time.

The BCP spokesperson has since called Ntuane’s words “blasphemous infidelity”.

By far the greatest anger has however been reserved for President Ian Khama.

Those who attended the BDP Central Committee meeting on Monday say the President was foaming at the mouth over words attributed to Ntuane.

Another BDP insider told me that the last time he saw Khama that angry was during the time when he was at loggerheads with Gomolemo Motswaledi who shortly thereafter was sacked from the party.

Ntuane did not attend the Monday Central Committee as he was in England taking part in the annual conference of the Tory Party.

But still that did not stop the Chairman of the BDP Publicity Sub-Committee, Thapelo Pabalinga from releasing a damning statement calling The WeekendPost report “false, mischievous and deliberately misleading.”

“We continuously urge the media to ensure they report facts and nothing else lest their media houses loose [sic] credibility… Our office is always open to the media to give them information as they require, so kindly do call. ”

“There has never been a discussion at Central Committee or any party structure,” continued Pabalinga “about the BDP pushing for a coalition with the BCP or any of the other insinuations mentioned in the said newspaper.”

While forming a coalition with the BCP might expressly not be a BDP policy, it is manifestly disingenuous for a ruling party functionary to blame The weekendPost for running a story to that effect especially when it originates from no less a figure than the Secretary General.

It is very clear from Pabalinga’s statement that once again the media is being used as a scapegoat to divert attention from what problems are besetting the BDP.

Instead of the BDP dealing with the public fallout coming from their eagerness to align with the BCP as espoused by their Secretary General, they choose to go for the soft target by casting aspersions on the integrity not just of The WeekendPost and their reporter, but also of the media in general.

The posture of the current BDP Government has been nothing if not outright hostile to the media.

But still the statement by Pabalinga reached new lows in the party’s contempt for the media.

The tone of the statement effectively depicted the media in general and The WeekendPost in particular as irresponsible fools.

This is not the first time in the recent past that we have seen this kind of insidious behavior coming from that quarter.

Exactly two weeks ago the Office of the President started a thumb-sucking rumour by accusing the media of peddling allegations that President Ian Khama was planning to go for a third term. The Office of the President did not substantiate on this immensely serious and scandalous lie that they attributed to the media. No media house was mentioned by name.

At the time we let that pass because we erroneously believed that it was really an issue not worth engaging on. With hindsight, we now realize we should have called off their bluff and called on the Office of the President to account and explain themselves.

This time around the allegations against The WeekendPost are pointed and much more damning. And they cannot go unchallenged.

Having talked at length to the reporter who penned the story quoting Ntuane, I am wholly convinced that indeed the Secretary General of the BDP had said something to The WeekendPost.

That may put Ntuane into trouble, but it inherently should be of no concern to the media.

Rather than vent their tantrums on The WeekendPost, the BDP should have privately engaged their Secretary General and shown him what a public embarrassment his statement has been to the party, to the President and indeed to the ordinary members.

It is thus malicious and indeed reprehensible for Pabalinga to say “… Rre Ntuane for the record has never given The WeekendPost an interview on this and distances himself, all-together from the article.”

As it is the WeekendPost has become a scapegoat in a subterranean fight for the soul of the BDP.

To his credit, the Editor of The WeekendPost has since publicly stood behind his reporter and the story as published.

It is nonetheless important to put the whole saga into a proper context.

The events surrounding The WeekendPost speak out to the gravity of problems besetting the BDP.

The Secretary General is on a mode akin to hysteria.

He feels that it is up to him to save the BDP from itself.

He has as a result come up with a suite of reforms he says will be necessary if the party is at best to retain state power beyond 2019.

That by itself is an admission that the BDP is in un-chartered territory.

The trouble with the Secretary General is that he somehow believes that what glory might come from saving the BDP should exclusively be his alone.

Unfettered by any historical baggage Ntuane has been making pontifications that at times may sound like he is the one in charge of the BDP.

He is getting ahead of himself. He is also opening himself to all sorts of vulnerabilities.

He believes, with some justification that the cabal that was in charge before him are responsible for the disaster that has struck the party.

That cabal, it has to be pointed includes President Ian Khama.

And as the Secretary General would know from experience, it is blasphemous inside the BDP to apportion any kind of blame, however innocuous to Ian Khama.

What war Botsalo Ntuane has ignited has all the hallmarks of a previous one by another Secretary General, the late Gomolemo Motswaledi.

To survive, the BDP will need reforms way beyond those prescribed by Ntuane.

While there are those inside the who feel that Ntuane’s reforms are too broad, far-sweeping, unbridled and potentially destabilizing, the fact of the matter is that such reforms are acutely inadequate, half-hearted and possibly  too little too late  save a party whose real problems are not just internal structural defects, but also general malaise as magnified by those besetting the country.

In here it is important to pause and remind Ntuane that he is not, at least not as yet, a member of Khama’s inner circle, let alone in charge of the BDP.

He is an outsider who is still looked at with suspicion.

If he was accepted by both hands, his immediate predecessor, Mpho Balopi under whose watch the party experienced a train-smash would not have been appointed to the Central Committee.

Balopi’s appointment was calculated and directly crafted to spite the incoming Secretary General.

The ongoing controversy over members of the BDP Communications Sub-Committee should serve as a reminder to Ntuane that power rests elsewhere – and that he is by no means anywhere close to power.

The anger aroused by an innocent article in The WeekendPost is a cherry on top.

Ntuane is not known to suffer fools gladly. He is obviously angry at what he perceives as BDP inertia. But boy, be warned! Reduce your zeal, no matter how passionate you might feel about your reforms.

To the media in general may this be a resounding lesson of the difficult circumstances in which we operate today.

We must thus be vigilant with our sources, make sure we keep our notebooks ready and tape recorders at hand, and also be ruthless in the screening of our sources.

Gullibility, credulity and blind faith are at this moment our biggest threats.

*Spencer Mogapi is Chairman of Botswana Editors Forum

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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 Botswana’s 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, Mogae’s 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 the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, 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 Ditswe was 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

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 consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, 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 don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s 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 musician’s 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 Botswana’s 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 Africa’s 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 Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t 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 Botswana’s 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 country’s 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, it’s 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 economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s 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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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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