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Can BDP redeem itself?


During the elections last year BDP promised to ‘move Botswana forward’ and itemised five key areas which the President put in a red card on which he appended his signature for unequivocal ownership. This is the yardstick that Batswana will use to measure success during the next five years.  Let me remind you of what the Presidential Promise Red Card contained;

Making job creation priority number 1
Taking Batswana out of poverty
Increase education funding
Eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV
Fight corruption in all its manifestations

It is clear that Batswana who voted for BDP and are directly or indirectly affected by the above list will measure success; when they see change in their own lives, when they see change in the lives of their loved ones, when they see change in the lives of the people they know; when they see themselves, their loved ones, their neighbours getting employed meaningfully; when they see themselves, their loved ones, their neighbours graduating  out of poverty and becoming ‘bo se mang mang’ in society; when they see the schools where their children, where the children of their loved one’s and where the children of their fellow citizens go have enough classrooms,  have decent desks and chairs in the classrooms, have no broken widows, falling ceilings and dangling cladding, when all their schools have happy and motivated teachers and above all their children performing just as well as those in private schools; when no more children are born with HIV and  when most of us understand and gallantly fight to eliminate new HIV infection; when journalists are free to report anything that looks like corruption (proven or not proven); when most if not all of us truly abhor corruption and all its manifestations and when we can talk without fear or favour about real or perceived corrupt practices anyway in our public or private institutions; when the tendering and recruitment processes in public and private institutions are corruption free;  when all tenders and jobs are awarded on merit and merit only, not on who knows who or who can financially corrupt who.

Success will therefore be declared in an unsophisticated way when people observe positive change in their lives.  However, my advice for the President is for him to have another card that he shares with the public, a score card with targets against each area on which HE can measure progress objectively.  Without targets, some people might even think this was just electioneering noise (gimmick) never intended to be achieved. This would be veritable travesty and dishonesty that cannot be expected to come from our President. I wish the President well and trust that he will work hard together with his team to put targets and get positive results on these chosen five areas.

My observations and free advice on the five areas for consideration by the President and his party;

JOB CREATION AS A NUMBER ONE PRIORITY

The president is right and need to be commended for identifying job creation as a number one priority.   However, seven months after the election there are no apparent positive signs to indicate that job creation is indeed a number one priority.  The economy has lost close to a 1000 jobs since the elections and there are indications that more job losses are on the cards in both private and public domain.  I am not aware of any new jobs that have been created since the elections. The youth policies that the government has recently introduced will not create employment but will severely eat into government coffers with no worthy returns. The leather park has potential to create over 5000 jobs but I am not convinced that government has invested enough resources in planning and finding what is required to sustain the leather park.

Where is the government going to get the requisite engineers, chemists, marketing gurus to sustain this park? Where will we get the artisans, technicians and operators to run these leather plants?  Have we identified the markets and marketing challenges that we will face? If we are going to rely on expatriates do we have the schools, the medical facilities, accommodation, entertainment and the pay packets that will attract the right caliber of expatriates in Lobatse?  I ask the same questions about the pula steel and the planned SPEDU agro industries in Phikwe. Diamond beneficiation has potential to create much more than the 3000 jobs offered by De Beers and sadly even these jobs are being lost as factories close and retrench.  Government needs to look closely at their agreements with De Beers and get their thinking and independent hats on and make diamond beneficiation a reality that we can be proud of. Beneficiation is doable; viable with potential to create more jobs than we can supply; it only needs government willingness to engage.

We desperately need job creation for both young and old for us to graduate out of government imposed poverty. We must not remove older productive people to replace them with the younger ones for the sake of creating youth employment. This will be ’robbing Peter to pay Paul’ and is disingenuous and will rob Botswana of much needed experience. The youth need to be employed on their own merit, trained and skilled without necessarily displacing others. We need growth in our economy so that all employable Batswana can be meaningfully employed.

TAKING BATSWANA OUT OF POVERTY

Batswana are poor because they have not been given the opportunities they deserve in their own country.  We seem to be glorifying and celebrating poverty by the schemes that we have employed which in my humble view are totally ill advised and burying Batswana deeper into poverty. We need to empower Batswana by providing rewarding jobs and creating business opportunities for business minded Batswana to thrive. We should not be seen to be spoon feeding the nation. Like the Chinese I say, ‘do not give me fish but teach me how to fish and go away’.  The government scheme of building houses for the poor is populist, ill informed and demeaning as well as unsustainable and creating a poverty mentality that says ‘sit back government will provide’. How many of these so called poor people do we have countrywide?  How many houses are we going to build? Are we going to feed and clothes these people and for how long?  The poverty eradication schemes are wasting government finances and should be suspended and the money redirected towards education, training, skilling and job creation.  Creation of decent jobs is the key and a number one priority that will pull our people out of poverty.

INCREASE EDUCATION FUNDING

For me this should also be a number one priority together with job creation. The two are connected together like siamese twins.  It is through education that we will fill positions created by employment opportunities.  It is through education that we will create employment opportunities, hence the irrefutable twinning of the two areas.  Our education is in a mess. Considering the appalling conditions under which most of our students and teachers have to contend with, we must consider ourselves lucky to be still producing graduates. Sample a few primary schools, junior secondary schools, senior secondary schools and see the conditions under which our children and teachers face daily; the broken chairs, broken tables, broken windows, falling ceilings etc; the winter winds and the hot summer days when both the teacher have to be in these classrooms teaching passionately and student listening intently and absorbing what’s being taught; those teachers teaching and students being taught under trees?  How many of us would like to be teachers and can we really get the best from our children? What kind of feedstock are we giving to our institutions of higher learning and subsequently industry? Finally how are these teachers remunerated considering what they are charged to deliver and the conditions under which they operate?

The presidential housing appeal and the monthly presidential and ministerial walk abouts and public servant community services days should be countrywide and redirected towards our schools. They should help with the maintenance and upkeep of the local schools. The housing appeal money must build more classrooms and put air conditioning in our schools for conducive learning environment.

ELIMINATE MOTHER TO CHILD HIV TRANSMISSION

When it comes to HIV, they are two people in this country who will go into our history books as having been real champions in the fight against HIV and aids. These are Rre Louis Nchindo (May he find peace and may his spirit live on) who was very futuristic  in his outlook and realised that HIV and aids had the potential to wipe out our people if nothing was done and done fast. He introduced free HIV monitoring and treatment for all Debswana employees. This was a first in Africa if not the world. President Festus Mogae then followed suit for the country. These are the two men who saved this country from what would have been a national disaster of unimaginable proportions.  This one is an area where all Batswana must champion to honour the efforts of Louis Nchindo and Festus Mogae.

FIGHT CORRUPTION AND ALL ITS MANIFESTAION

I do not real want to talk about this one, but corruption is bleeding this country regardless of what the transparency international says about us being ‘the least corrupt country in Africa’. I really do not know how they gather their data.  Their intelligence gathering systems must be flawed.  For me it seems they just use information supplied by government agencies and embassies.  One of the major reasons why projects fail dismally and why productivity levels are low is because of corrupt practices that we covertly and sometimes overtly condone. How on earth do you get anything to be done properly when some key people in the economy are employed corruptly with no requisite aptitude for the job they do and when many tenders are awarded corruptly to companies that do not qualify? Throttling merit and competency in our procurement and recruitment processes has a devastating effect on productivity and in advancing our economic progression.

In conclusion, can BDP redeem itself? I want to believe so.  The President must redouble his efforts on job creation, education and corruption to regain some ground.  He does not need money as money is being wasted daily in useless endevours and corrupt practices through out government departments. Surely DIS must know where the rot is if it is not corrupt itself and together with the ministry of finance must clean the rot and rechannel the resources. The government needs to change its mind set and begin to engage well meaning and competent Batswana and experts to help in job creation, improving education and curbing corruption.  The rest will then fall in place. The president must demand measurable targets and annual progress report in these three areas and heads must roll if the targets are not met.  He need now more than ever competent people on his side; people with integrity; people who will tell him nothing but the truth to redeem himself and the legacy of his father.

My final advice to the President and BDP is that to survive beyond 2019, BDP needs Ndelu Seretse as chairman and Botsalo Ntuane as secretary general. These are the two men seeking leadership of the party with the requisite intellectual capacity and political savvy to help BDP survive beyond 2019.  This country will need a strong opposition to keep the new government in 2019 in check. Posterity will judge BDP and the President harshly if they fail to see the winds of change that are sweeping the country and if they fail to refocus BDP by getting new capable leadership who will engage and collaborate meaningfully with the up coming astute and transformational leadership of the country!

E mail; bernard.busani@gmail.com;  Tel; 71751440

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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 Botswana’s 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, Mogae’s 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 the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, 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 Ditswe was 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

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 consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, 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 don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s 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 musician’s 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 Botswana’s 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 Africa’s 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 Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t 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 Botswana’s 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 country’s 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, it’s 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 economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s 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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Opinions

Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022
Craig-Cloud

Putin Chose War.  We Remain United with Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Craig L. Cloud

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient.

They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world.  The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.  By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.

When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.

United in Our Response

This will not end well for Vladimir Putin.  Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable.  As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.

President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology.  After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.

Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.

By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime.  In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.

We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military.  We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy.  And we are prepared to do more.

In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.

We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies.  President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.

He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.  Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.  There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world:  NATO is more united than ever.

The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies.  We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.

Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War

This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.

He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.

Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do.  We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas.  We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine.  We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.

Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there.  We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.

We have been transparent with the world.  We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up.  Putin is the aggressor.  Putin chose this war.  And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.

Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever

Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed.  In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity.  We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.

Putin has failed to divide us.  Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies.  And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.

The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine.  Putin has unleashed great suffering on them.  But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.

The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

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