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.
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.