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Beyond patriotism! When pittance remuneration is normal!


This week I would like us to recognise some very special and dedicated ordinary people in our society who relentlessly and judiciously carryout extraordinary work for our country with very little recognition by the establishment.

These are the people who toil long hours under very difficult conditions for the love of their profession and nothing else as their pay packages are miserly. I want to recognise our teachers, our law enforcement personnel and our nurses. 

We ought to wake up, change our mindsets, start recognising and rewarding them appropriately before they rebel and there are signs that they are beginning to feel the pinch and agitated.  I believe they need to be rewarded handsomely for what they do regardless of their level of academic qualifications. 

Academic qualifications now seem to have overtaken common sense. I believe people should be rewarded or remunerated not only for the academic qualification they possess but also more importantly for the performance and delivery of expected results. Noting however, that minimum educational requirements for any given job, is mandatory.

Allow me to digress a little, to clarify my point above. Given a particular job, a teacher for example and four candidates, one with a diploma, another with a degree, the other a masters’ degree and the forth a PHD graduate. Is there any guarantee that the one with the highest qualification will produce better results than the one with the lowest in the same job?  If these four people are doing the same job, they should be paid the same basic salary.

However, there should be a portion of their salary that is performance based, performance being measured by the results as determined based on set criteria. If the qualification helps the individual to get better results that individual will automatically get better remuneration based on the results produced not the qualification. I am sure a lot of you will understand why I am saying this.

People especially government employees are acquiring more and more qualifications for the sole purpose of getting a raise in their salary and not necessarily to increase productivity. This is a serious weakness in our remuneration system.

The above is my own personal views and a lot of people may agree or differ with me but I believe strongly that we have shifted disproportionately towards the need for higher and more qualifications at the expense of increased productivity which productivity is loosely measured by quantity and quality of results achieved given specified means of production.  We have to move away from a situation where academic qualifications are more important than experience and superior job execution, otherwise we will continue to experience increasing decline in productivity levels.

OUR TEACHERS

I am proud of our teachers because I am a proud product of all my teachers especially those from primary and secondary school. I do not believe most of my teachers were degreed but they were exceptionally talented, both in the class room and outside in the extra curricula activities.

I will not talk about tertiary education because it is different.  At university we have lecturers who are facilitators and students are required to be self taught. The lecturers provide guidelines and resources for the student and the student must be mature enough to know why they are at university. Hence primary and secondary teachers are very critical in preparing our children for higher learning and to a large extent the world of work.

I know the conditions under which our teachers work and the remuneration they attract. When I was given an option to become a teacher I said, ‘not me’. Teachers accept children from varied backgrounds in our societies, some with unknown learning disabilities, some disadvantaged children with all sorts of societal challenges, some with average and others with superior learning ability. They have to teach all these kids to learn how to learn together.

To make it even more difficult for our teachers there are no preschools where kids are prepared for public schooling.  There is no screening to help identify different learning abilities. There are no special needs teachers to talk about in our public schools. Hence the teacher has to be a jack of all trades and get these kids to learn and graduate from primary to secondary and from secondary to university or the world of work.  I salute all the teachers out there and understand why they now demand overtime, which was never the case before.

Recently I went to a certain school where I was again reminded of the deplorable conditions under which our teachers operate, where a special needs teacher, uses a corner of the school hall as her classroom, when other activities are taking place in the same hall at the same time.

She has no where to store her teaching aids and she was appealing for help for the sake of these children. Her story was heart wrecking; the hours she spends at school for the various activities she has to carryout for these kids are ridiculously long.

Many times she hardly has enough time for her own family and what recognition does she get for all this from us and the government?  Most of us know how much these people earn; pittance. Can she afford a helper at home to help her with her home chores while doing this thankless national duty for our kids? The answer is no, so her family suffers as a result of her dedication to duty; a duty that is squarely ours as a nation as taxpayers and when our taxes are used to fund corruption.

OUR LAW ENFORCEMENT PEOPLE

The police force and army are charged with our personal and national safety and security. These people work long hours and are required to be available 24/7 should the need arise. My concern is how well do we look after these people? How much do we care about their welfare? I want to share two incidents which will always haunt me. I know many of our men and women in uniform experience the same dilemma. 

A gentleman in the army approached me and told me he wanted to leave the country. He wanted to go overseas to Canada or to America to look for a job; ‘any job for that matter’ he said. He believed there, he will find a job that will pay him enough to look after himself and his family. 

He needed financial help to migrate. I wanted to know why this young gentleman charged with looking after our security wanted to leave and leave for an undefined, unsecured job overseas. He told me that his father passed away in a tragic accident. His mother is not working and he has six siblings still at school. He is not married yet but he has a child he is maintaining. He would like to marry but he cannot afford it. He has to look after himself, his mother and his siblings including his girl friend and child. 

I said to him, ‘but you are working and have been working for some time now and some of your age mates are not working and you should be thankful that you are at least working and serving your country’.  He said, ‘uncle, I am earning only P2000 per month and in fact those colleagues of mine not working are better off than me  because they earn more than me doing only odd jobs there and there, may be I should quit and join them if I cannot afford to go overseas’.  This was few years ago, this chap actual quit his job, failed to go overseas, is still unemployed and unmarried.

My house was broken into recently, three special constables where the first at the house and some other regular policemen came later for finger prints.  The special constables traced the tracks and spent half a day in the bush searching frantically and tirelessly.

The culprit was later apprehended and stolen goods recovered through their work. One of the constables, a young lady with two kids said to me she was looking for accommodation and perhaps I knew someone who has a servant quarters to rent. 

She said she could afford only up to P800 per month. I was curious and asked how much she earned and how long she has been employed as a special constable. She has been working for years and earning less than P2000 per month. 

She does not see any prospects for her advancement, any time soon. Now with two kids, having to pay for her accommodation, food for her and her two children and travelling to and from work. Maybe she also has a mother and father who she also has to help look after as per our traditional way of life. How do we expect this young lady to make a living?

OUR NURSES

If you have been to any of our public hospitals and see these people at work 24/7 looking after patients suffering from all sorts of ailments, some with no prospects for survival, but the dedication to serve by these nurses remaining solidly intact. The conditions in some of these hospitals are deplorable; where some of the patients have no beds, no blankets and hygiene in many cases severely compromised. My heart goes for these people. There are always smiling and willing to go the extra mile to assist the patients and their relatives to come to terms with the reality and the situation they find themselves in.

My concern is despite the nature of their job which put them at risk of all sorts of infections, despite their dedication to serve despite these deplorable conditions and despite the fact that we can afford to pay them more we continue to pay them starving wages.  

WHY I PICKED ON THESE PEOPLE?

I have singled out the three categories of employees because these are the people we cannot do without and they do their jobs with so much dedication for such low wages.  It breaks my heart knowing the cost of living in this country and our extended family set up to see our government paying such low salaries to the people who are literally carrying such a heavy load this republic, while we pay more to people we have to bribe before they provide service we pay them to provide, people who spend their eight hours at work reading newspapers, on the phone chatting to their friends, doing their own businesses and other notorieties.

What can we do without our teachers, without our nurses and without law enforcement people?  Can we develop as a country without education?  Can we survive without health care?  Without law enforcement would we still want to stay in this country and would we attract any foreign investment as a country?

The question in my mind and the frustration in me is how do we remunerate these people adequately? As a nation do we think we are dong justice to these people? The majority of our teachers, police men, soldiers and nurses earn between P2000 and P5000 per month. We do have some of our people paid as low as P900 per month, while we have others paid over P45000 per month. This to me is diabolical. We need to change and reduce the gap. We all live in the same country where the cost of living is the same for every one.

While there must be different in pay for different categories of work, the difference must be justifiably earned and reasonable.  We need a pay structure that enables a more equitable remuneration distribution system that recognises not only academic qualifications, but also level of productivity and the conditions of work.

E mail;  bernard.busani@gmail.com;  Tel; 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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