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Is Polygamy Really the Solution?


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.

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Over 2 000 civil servants interdicted

6th December 2022

Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.

According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reaching WeekendPost shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.

In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.

This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publication’s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, “as you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,” she said.

She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.

Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.

Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.

Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.

“It is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,” he told WeekendPost, adding that “when a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolved”.

Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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African DFIs gear to combat climate change

25th November 2022

The impacts of climate change are increasing in frequency and intensity every year and this is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. African CEOs in the Global South are finally coming to the party on how to tackle the crisis.

Following the completion of COP27 in Egypt recently, CEOs of Africa DFIs converged in Botswana for the CEO Forum of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions. One of the key themes was on green financing and building partnerships for resource mobilization in financing SDGs in Africa

A report; “Weathering the storm; African Development Banks response to Covid-19” presented shocking findings during the seminar. Among them; African DFI’s have proven to be financially resilient, and they are fast shifting to a green transition and it’s financing.

COO, CEDA, James Moribame highlighted that; “Everyone needs food, shelter and all basic needs in general, but climate change is putting the achievement of this at bay. “It is expensive for businesses to do business, for instance; it is much challenging for the agricultural sector due to climate change, and the risks have gone up. If a famer plants crops, they should be ready for any potential natural disaster which will cost them their hard work.”

According to Moribame, Start-up businesses will forever require help if there is no change.

“There is no doubt that the Russia- Ukraine war disrupted supply chains. SMMEs have felt the most impact as some start-up businesses acquire their materials internationally, therefore as inflation peaks, this means the exchange rate rises which makes commodities expensive and challenging for SMMEs to progress. Basically, the cost of doing business has gone up. Governments are no longer able to support DFI’s.”

Moribame shared remedies to the situation, noting that; “What we need is leadership that will be able to address this. CEOs should ensure companies operate within a framework of responsible lending. They also ought to scout for opportunities that would be attractive to investors, this include investors who are willing to put money into green financing. Botswana is a prime spot for green financing due to the great opportunity that lies in solar projects. ”

Technology has been hailed as the economy of the future and thus needs to be embraced to drive operational efficiency both internally and externally.

Executive Director, bank of Industry Nigeria, Simon Aranou mentioned that for investors to pump money to climate financing in Africa, African states need to be in alignment with global standards.

“Do what meets world standards if you want money from international investors. Have a strong risk management system. Also be a good borrower, if you have a loan, honour the obligation of paying it back because this will ensure countries have a clean financial record which will then pave way for easier lending of money in the future. African states cannot just be demanding for mitigation from rich countries. Financing needs infrastructure to complement it, you cannot be seating on billions of dollars without the necessary support systems to make it work for you. Domestic resource mobilisation is key. Use public money to mobilise private money.” He said.

For his part, the Minster of Minister of Entrepreneurship, Karabo Gare enunciated that, over the past three years, governments across the world have had to readjust their priorities as the world dealt with the effects and impact of the COVID 19 pandemic both to human life and economic prosperity.

“The role of DFIs, during this tough period, which is to support governments through countercyclical measures, including funding of COVID-19 related development projects, has become more important than ever before. However, with the increasingly limited resources from governments, DFIs are now expected to mobilise resources to meet the fiscal gaps and continue to meet their developmental mandates across the various affected sectors of their economies.” Said Gare.

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