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Gender equity: Time to think differently!


The question of gender is one that raises emotions when discussed, but it is a subject that we should engage in with honestly, without fear or favour and with carefully moderated emotions. In many cases I see that a lot of us try desperately to be political correct when addressing this issue because of fear of backlash from activists who can be very aggressive and emotional.

Gender equity should not be about women; it should not be about men; it should be about empowering all our women and men, all our girls and boys so that they can all play their full part in society not inhibited by any discriminatory laws and societal norms.

Only biological or physical differences should limit us; a man for obvious reasons cannot bear a child but he can fully take care of a child; a crippled man cannot climb stairs but he can be assisted to get to the very top.  Any human-made discriminatory tendencies should be eliminated to allow full use of all our human capital, male and female, to meet the needs of the individual as well as the interests of humanity.


It is no accident that we have both women and men. God created both man and woman; he created them equal in his own image. However, he created them at different times and differently in order for them to perform certain Godly assigned complementary functions. God said after creating man, ‘It is not good for a man to be alone; I will therefore make a helper suitable for him’.

Therefore, although women and men were not created biologically, physically and emotionally the same, the differences where a deliberate act of creation meant to empower us for the different roles and functions we were created to play in filling the earth and building it to serve humanity. We need to understand this in order for us to appreciate and to help each other to reach full potential. We must understand that no one is better than the other because of the accident of gender. We do not choose to be female or male, do we?


Since creation we have distorted and manipulated God’s plan. Over the years we have created structures, systems, customs, laws, dogmas etc that discriminated and disadvantaged God’s people based on gender. It looks like women suffered the most, but there are many areas where men are also discriminated against, but gender activists turn a blind eye. One can also say men are largely responsible for the creation of these inequalities and therefore to a large extent men must be urged to champion and lead the reversal of these bad practices.


In Botswana although there are still many discriminatory practices, practices and laws that unjustly prevented women from doing certain jobs and women being paid less than men for the same jobs have long been scrapped. I am not aware of any law in Botswana that discriminates against women, but if they are any they ought to be repelled immediately by parliament. I am however, aware of many entrenched practices that are discriminatory.  Gender activists who happen to be largely women do not talk about discriminatory practices against men.

For instance, the adoption law or practice where permission for adoption is only sought from the mother and not the father of the child; customary marriage where men must pay a bride price (lobola) for them to marry; customary practices where men must pay for ‘damages’ when a child is born out of wedlock.

These examples clearly demonstrate discriminatory tendencies against men. Both men and women must take equal responsibility in such cases. If a girl gets pregnant before marriage, unless the girl was raped, all the parties concerned must bear the consequences; the boy, the girl and parents of the two must take equal responsibility because they have all failed the society.


Maybe I should explain why! As society we must firmly place responsibility on the family to bring up their children in a manner that promotes social harmony, integrity, cohesion and moral uprightness. Society must demand that both the girl and the boy child cannot have sex until they are married. It used to be like this in our society, even before Christianity was entrenched in Botswana. 

It was uncommon, even a taboo in the 40s, 50s and 60s to have children born out of wedlock.  It was just not cool. This is also what the Bible preaches. Nowadays, besides pregnancy and the fact that it is ungodly, we have all sorts of diseases to contend with. 

Therefore if a girl gets pregnant before marriage both the parents of the girl and of the boy must be made to account by the society for failing their children. The consequences for pregnancy before marriage must be severe including forcing them to get married.  I think it used to be like that in the past, even king David in the Bible had to marry Bathsheba, the mother of king Solomon after the indiscretion he committed that led him to impregnate her (2 Samuel, chapter 11).


Assuming that most Batswana are Christians, we should perhaps use the Bible to attempt to understand the vexing question of gender equity.  After God had created the world and everything in it and saw that it was good, He created man and gave him have dominion over everything he created. 

God then said, ‘it is not good for a man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.” So God created a woman (Eve) and gave her to the man (Adam). The Bible then says, ‘therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh’.

The Bible also says, ‘He created both male and female in His own image’ as equals and gave them dominion over everything he created. Why should we then want to redo what God has done for us by denying people God given privileges based on gender?  How can we expect God to be happy with us when we do this?


God created man first and appointed him head of the family, but he commanded him to love and cling to his wife, and the wife to submit to and respect his husband. Submission does not imply making the wife a servant.  She is one with you, the same flesh. The man’s role as head of family is to protect his wife and family and not to abuse and enslave them. 

Women and men have complementary roles in building the family and consequently the nation.  If you love your wife, if you love your daughter, if you love your sister, if you love your mother, if you love your neighbour as the Bible commands, how then can you discriminate against anyone at all? The society including myself and all of us must change and go back to what God demands from us for our families and people.


The Bible does not say, therefore a man shall pay lobola and then leave his father and mother to cling to his wife. It says, ‘therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh’ Where then did paying of the lobola come from? I believe it is a practice created by men to enforce male dominance over women.

No wonder some men interpret this to mean buying and owning a wife. This practice has become a source of conflict in marriages; in many cases resulting in increased rate of divorce when women start demanding equality and men denying them that equality because they ‘bought” them with a price.


The lobola practice also denies many men from marrying because they cannot afford to pay lobola (bogadi) and the expensive ceremonies that go with our contemporary marriages. This results in social ills such as cohabitation; children born out of wedlock; single parenting of children etc, leading to the creation of an unfulfilled society that despises the institution of marriage.  I have never heard gender activists complain about these malpractices. This is a serious discriminatory practice that has been created and accepted by society, but does it promote gender equity?


To make it worse, when a child is born out of wedlock, the man who also cannot marry because he cannot afford the expensive marriage system that the society demands is punished by the parents of the girl who demands payment of ‘damages’. The society is treating women like property to be ‘bought’ and ‘damaged’ like pieces of furniture. This cannot be right.  We definitely need to change this.


Normalising our marriage processes in order to promote gender equity, healthy and fulfilled families is a must do now. We must simplify our marriage processes and promote the marriage institution. Why should marriages be so expensive for men anyway? Why should men pay lobola and all the expenses pertaining to contemporary marriages? Why do our women accept this practice? Many of our societal ills (single parentage, divorces, passion killings, unfaithfulness, wayward behaviour of children etc) are a result of us having strayed away from God’s principles of marriage and His ways of justice for all.


There has been a lot of talk about the SADC gender protocol that Botswana has refused to sign. The protocol in my view is just another ‘feel good’ document that is meant to pacify gender activists and nothing else. Botswana government has been steadfast in stating that it does not support some clauses in the proposed protocol and therefore it shall not sign.

Why do we want to pressurize Botswana to sign, when it is not ready? Botswana has also said that she supports gender equity and is doing everything in its power to promote gender equity and added that 43 % of public institutions are headed by women.  The problem is with political representation where women continue to fail to make a significant mark.

However, women cannot and should not be imposed on the electorate. The call for changing our electoral system to enhance democracy is valid and must be adopted for a number of reasons including leveling of the political playing field, but should not specifically be done to get women to parliament. This would be against the guiding principle of gender equity which should be to empower all to reach their full potential. Everyone should be given the same opportunities regardless of gender.


In a democratic dispensation, we cannot and should not force people to elect women to positions of power simply because they are women; they must be elected based on merit and their ability to represent their people. The people must have a choice provided by an unbiased democratic set up, not an affirmative action as some gender activists demand. 

Appointments to positions of any kind should not be based on gender but the superior ability by the individual to carryout the functions of that office; otherwise we will be promoting unacceptable mediocrity in our country.  We have very capable women in this country; we must just support them and encourage them to reach their full potential, but without disadvantaging anyone.  Any self respecting and honourable woman would not want to be given a position simply because she is a woman.


In conclusion we must as a country work towards gender equity; by empowering all our people through education; by eliminating all discriminatory practices and adopting and enforcing best practices that will also inspire women aspiring for political office. But let us not be in a hurry to sign some of these regional and international protocols that binds us. If we adopt some of these protocols we must do so because they serve our purposes as a nation and are aligned to our national aspirations; fits in with our own realities, our own priorities, our time frames and our fiscal constraints.

Bernard Busani
Email: bernard.busani@ gmail.com Cell: 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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