In recent months there have been vigorous discussions on the growing anti-social behaviour in Botswana society. This is mostly evident in the way the youth is behaving, starting from misbehaviour at school age, such as abuse of alcohol and other substances, vandalism, sexual activity, so-called Satanism, violence, lack of respect of elders etc.
It is also manifested by teenage pregnancy and dropping out of school. There are other aspects of the social breakdown syndrome that manifest in adults, such as alcohol abuse and lack of responsibility at home including the neglect of family obligations.
Some regard all these as symptoms of the breakdown at family level. There is evidence, for example, that the majority of children are now born out of wedlock. This means that most children are raised by single parents, another way of saying raised by the mother alone. In many cases this means there is no male figure in the homestead, because modern life has to all intents and purposes put paid to the extended family system.
The maternal uncles, who used to play the role of the father in such circumstances, are now too far to fulfil the role as they are likely to be living away from the single mother. Some attribute the breakdown in social behaviour to this disintegration in the family structure. So the debate rages on, what can be done to bring about what some have called a “moral regeneration”?
As is expected, proposals are being generated from different perspectives, based on the background of the person making the proposals. Some believe that our society should go back to “culture and tradition”; even suggesting that a revival of initiation ceremonies like bojale and bogwera would do the trick.
The young ones would be taught during these rites of passage how to be responsible members of society in the mode of the traditional Tswana agrarian society. Others believe that we should go the religious way, the Christians leading the way. According to them we should all embrace Jesus Christ, and then everything will come right. According to them, we have all strayed from the Christian path; that is why our society’s morality has gone haywire.
There are, according to them, all sorts of demons at large in our society. The solution- we should all practice Christianity. Still others, myself included, believe that our society and culture have evolved, and we cannot solve our problems by simply going to old ways. We are not an agrarian society anymore; we are a modern society, more of a commercial industrial entity than an agrarian one. As for religion, it cannot be the guarantor of morality.
Immanuel Kant’s “categorical imperative” is operative here; we are now more products of the Enlightenment rather than of religion, hence our embracing the secular State. Our society should develop its human values and empirical reasoning, allowing its members the choice to approach morality from various angles; religious, traditional, deist or secular. The family is the fulcrum, the place where these values should be developed. Our problem is that the family has broken down, and that is where leaders in our society should invest their energies.
After this long introduction, let me now come to the gist of my message. In the last two weeks, it was largely reported in the press that a Traditional leader has advocated Polygamy as the solution to the family breakdown problem.
According to reports, the leader believes there are so many more women than men in Botswana that Polygamy should be allowed, so that the extra women can be married. In that way, we would avoid the problem of the extra women being concubines, and the children they bear growing up without father figures as these women would be recognized wives.
I have a problem with this thinking. Firstly, are there really that many more women than men in Botswana? According to the 2011 Census in Botswana, there are 95.5 males for every 100 females in Botswana. To me this does not suggest that every man can have two wives, because everything being equal, the ratio would not support such a scenario.
To all intents and purposes, there is one female for every male in the country. The apparent preponderance of women over men is relative; it is a social consequence of our societal structure, not a product of numbers. In polygamous societies, when a 70 year old many has four wives, the wives’ ages will range from 20 years to 60 years. Men go for women who are far below their age, whether to make them wives or concubines, and this makes it look like there are many more women than men.
What is more, women tend to be choosy when it comes to selecting men for marriage, they will tend to go for men who are older and offer more security, whether economic or social. That is why the so called shortage of men is really a social construct and not a reality.
Polygamy tends to die away as societies lose their agrarian structure and move into the cash economy. Other influences could also be religious; we know that mainline or orthodox Christianity dictates strict monogamy. These two factors have probably been responsible for the decline of Polygamy in Botswana.
The law itself has not prohibited Polygamy- if a man wants to be polygamous, he simply has to marry by traditional law and he can have as many wives as he wants. Why is it that many men in Botswana don’t take that route? We should realize that whereas in the past, and in the polygamous societies in general, women tend to have to fend for themselves, producing their own food in the fields etc.
In modern Botswana society wives tend to depend on the husband for livelihood. A man who marries more than one wife therefore has to fend for all the wives. This may be another factor that drove Botswana men away from Polygamy.
Marriage in Botswana has been declining. Couples tend to have children but not marry. That is why most children are now born out of wedlock. In many cases the man simply goes away after the woman falls pregnant; in some cases the couple will cohabit but not marry.
According to the Analytic Report of the 2011 Botswana Census, while in the 1971 Census 47.1% males and 42.9% females were married, in the 2011 Census 18.8% males and 17.9% females were married. This shows a very profound decline in the percentage of married adults in the four decades. The reasons for this decline should make the people of this country wonder what is going on. Polygamy is certainly not going to solve this problem, because shortage of men is not the source of the problem.
The problem is most probably economic, and the costs of getting married, especially bogadi and related costs are most likely the main problem. Of course there are likely to be other problems, many men are now just afraid of responsibility.
We should also note that people are not bearing as many children as they used to. According to the 2011 Census, the Total Fertility Rate (the average births per woman) for Botswana is now 2.7 children. In the 1971 Census it was 6.5 and in the 1991 Census it was 4.2. So fertility has been declining steadily, or to put it in other words, women have been bearing less and less children in the last four decades.
This is to be expected; it always happens when women get more educated and get more engaged in the job market and work for careers. Unfortunately, the women in the lower socio-economic classes tend to be left behind, and we see in Botswana that the women with little or no education tend to bear more children, in many cases out of marriage and with more than one man. This is unfortunate as these are the very women who cannot afford to raise these children properly in economic terms. Again it is difficult to see how polygamy will solve this problem.
The question of Polygamy takes one to the very core of equality for women and their empowerment. With the secular modern democracy on which our Republic is based, and looking at modern developments in such a liberal democracy, I believe that Polygamy is very incompatible with the very basis of the kind of society we are aspiring to.
This is because by its very nature, Polygamy treats women as inferior and not equal to men. I know that there are some who try to argue biologically and say that in all mammalian species males mate with many females, but humans have developed a brain and a level of intelligence not found in any other mammal, even in primates, our nearest relatives. Human development, and the attendant human rights, dictates that the time for Polygamy is gone.
One of course accepts that we still have those who would like to practice things they regard as traditional or cultural (bear in mind that culture is dynamic and changes all the time), and therefore traditional practices like Polygamy cannot be banned even if they are incompatible with our worldview. However, I believe as a State we should not be seen to encourage such a practice.
Lastly, we should not forget that two decades ago (I cannot remember the actual year), an attempt by Government to unify the traditional and modern laws which would make polygamy an option in all marriages was thoroughly rejected by the people of this country. It shows that Batswana have generally outgrown that kind of marriage and do not want it to come back.
We should not labour under the impression that marriage was a bed of roses when Polygamy was still a common practice. There must be a reason why it was called “go nyala lefufa”. It implies that there was always considerable jealousy in such a marriage.
Let us move forward, not backwards. Our leadership should find ways of dealing with the breakdown in social mores that we are experiencing, but trying to revert to an agrarian mode of life is not a viable alternative.
Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.
These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.
The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”
The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.
“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”
Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.
The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.
Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.
One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.
But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.
One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.
Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.
In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.
Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.
Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.
United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.
According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.
“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.
A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.
Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.
In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”
While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.
Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility. Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.
For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies. European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.
It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.
According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.
The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.
“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”
“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.” The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”