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Gaborone Dam and Morupule B: Disasters and Delusions of our time?

It never amazes me to see how our leaders take Batswana for granted without any shadow of shame or remorse. For many years Batswana have accepted any word from government as gospel truth. It seems the government has used this as a license to legitimise peddling of untruths to the nation. 

We can no longer accept government word as gospel truth, it never was. If we continue to do this, all of us, will at the end be guilty of taking this great country down the road to self destruction. We must be resolute and stop turning a blind eye when our resources are being grossly mismanaged by a leadership that has become viciously manipulative and devoid of all honesty in its public discourse.

The minister of minerals, energy and water resources and his senior officials have been on national TV and radio repeatedly telling us and the world that climate change was responsible for drying up the Gaborone Dam. They have also been telling us and the world that all is well at Morupule B, that the Morupule B contractor is sorting out few teething problems with boilers and soon we will be getting our 600 mega watts from that plant. This untruth has been peddled relentlessly since 2012.

Increasingly though, everyone except perhaps the government is feeling the pinch and is aware that Morupule B is not performing and it is unlikely in the short term to perform to expectations. The government and its senior officials, however, seem to be living in another planet where for them shortage of power is not a daily debilitating challenge.

The minister and his officials are saying annual rainfall in the catchment area; the greater Gaborone has been declining from an average of 500 mm to 300 mm due to climate change. This cannot be further from the truth. Not only is talking of such marked drop in rain fall the height of dishonesty, it is also mischievous and foolhardy to attribute it to climate change.  I will show you why the government is not telling the truth later.  The government is misleading the unsuspecting nation and uses a real life threatening phenomenon to cover its reckless disregard for good governance and accountability.

The world knows the truth about climate change and its impacts. Drying of the Gaborone Dam even by any stretch of imagination cannot be said to be due to climate change. The drying of the dam like I have said before in another submission is due to the government reckless and dangerous disregard for our delicate environment and our future generations.

The government has over time shamefully allowed 200 small dams to be built by their powerful friends on the rivers that discharge into the Gaborone dam. The government continues to fail to explain how and why these dams where built in the first place. The government fails to tell the nation, what the total capacity of these dams is and what the impact on the flow to the Gaborone Dam is.

The government will not tell the nation how much water is lost in these dams due to evaporative losses and seepage. The government will not show the nation the environmental studies done before these dams where constructed. The government is simply failing to account and to take responsibility. In their desperate attempts to further mislead Batswana recently they have said the 200 dams are silt traps, meant to prevent silting on the Gaborone dam. What hogwash!

In addition, the government has shamefully allowed the construction industry to build Gaborone and the greater Gaborone infrastructures using sand mined from these same rivers literally and inadvertently ‘draining life’ out of these rivers. The government is on record, saying, ‘there is nothing they can do to stop sand mining as they need the country developed by mining these rivers’, this was recently said by a senior government official on BTV.

How shameful coming from a government that is supposed to be so caring and passionate about protection of the environment to the extent that our president would rather attend an international environmental meeting than to attend an international  or even a regional  leadership conference where international relations and businesses are discussed. We all want development, but these developments must be done sustainably without jeopardising the future of this great nation.

There are a number of quarries that can provide all the building materials requirements around the country. By allowing river sand mining, government is actually stifling the growth of the quarrying industry and by extension stifling national development and economic diversification. Our government has become irresponsible beyond measure and this must be strongly condemned by all who care for this country.

To add salt to a festering wound, government through its weak monitoring and enforcement apparatus has inadvertently allowed unscrupulous business interests to dump industrial waste in these same rivers, further expediting the ‘death’ of these rivers.  

We ought to be ashamed as a country that we have allowed these environmental atrocities to continue for so long unchallenged. We must now remove the blinkers to see evil and remove the ear plugs to hear evil and with all our might take action to redress the ills we have allowed to visit our country.

The three evils stated above have unfortunately conspired to dry up the Gaborone Dam, resulting in the massive water rationing that we have to endure three times a week in Gaborone.  Minister, climate change is not responsible for this mess!  The government must simply accept the blame, own up and come up with a solid remedial action plan to redress these evils.

The man made disaster, if it is allowed to continue will dry more dams in the future. In the next few years those dams in the north  that are now providing water to almost the whole country, which dams government is also unwisely trying to use for irrigated agricultural purposes will also dry up and we shall without shame blame ‘climate change’. It is time for us Batswana to wake up and be real before it is too late.

I think it is only the government, the minister and his officials that believe all is well at Morupule B.  The whole world knows that Morupule B is a disaster and it will never reach its maximum capacity of 600 megawatts. The whole world knows that if we do not stop Morupule B now and re build it, we are waiting for a time bomb that will explode very soon possibly resulting in major infrastructural damages including possible loss of life. Our government would rather than own up, wait to see whether indeed the bomb is real. 

When this disaster strikes, the government will blame ‘climate change’ or no, this time the poor Chinese contractor will carry the blame; a contractor that was knowingly given a job by our government that they had no capacity to implement; a contractor that was given a green field and never supervised by government during the construction phase; a contractor who has been given P600 million vat exemption by our government; a contractor that is now the reason we are having  load shedding and living in the dark after spending over P15 billion  of our  hard earned money on this plant believing that the plant will provide power self sufficiency by 2012. Yes disasters and delusions of our time!!

The government has forgotten that they told Batswana and the world that by 2012, Botswana will be self sufficient in power supply, that Botswana will no longer need any power from ESKOM by 2012. The same government is now telling Botswana and the world that by 2019 we will be self sufficient in power supply. They are not even saying why this was not achieved in 2012 as promised.  They take us for fools. We must not accept this anymore?

Climate change is a serious phenomenon which should not be trivilised by anybody especially our government, who should know better. Climate change requires international response to cap global warming by reducing global carbon emissions by increasingly using renewable energy sources, like solar, bio mass and other such technologies that are friendly to the environment.

We have heard and seen mind boggling evidence of climate change, glaciers melting down due to increasing temperatures, sea levels changing, unexplained devastating changes in the weather resulting in loss of life and massive destruction of property etc, but we will be lying if we say we have seen evidence of climate change in Botswana. We have since the ‘beginning of time’ always experienced erratic rainfall patterns and high temperatures.

It is not true from the annual rainfall statistics that rainfall has dropped from an average of 500 mm to 300mm in the greater Gaborone. We cannot take isolated rainfall figures and making sweeping statements about climate change. This is wrong and irresponsible.

The above graph has been constructed from raw rainfall data from the department of meteorology. This is just one typical example of annual rainfall since 1980 in Gaborone and the pattern is similar around Gaborone and indeed around the country.

This is typical cyclic nature of rainfall patterns in Botswana since time immemorial. When we design our dams and when we ‘plan’ our plans, we must base these on our natural rainfall pattern reality. This pattern has nothing to do with climate change. I am sure if you go back another 34 years you will find the same pattern.

Let us all stand up and challenge our leaders. They must not take us for granted any more. They must tell us the truth so that we can help them move this country forward.

Bernard Busani   E-mail:  Cell: 71751440

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021


This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi:

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media.

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021


The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media.

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