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Traditional leadership and religion could redirect our moral compass!

Our country needs moral regeneration as another important pillar to build our nation and propel it to greater developmental heights. I recently listened tentatively to a  Botswana TV programme; ‘matlho a phage’ where they had a representative from the house of chiefs, a representative from the Botswana Council of Christian churches and a representative from the Muslim Association of Botswana.

They all had a spirited discussion on how we have lost our moral values and the need for the nation to consider restoration of some of our basic religious and traditional values in order to bring some order in areas of our society where our moral values have clearly decayed.

The discussions were informative and thought provoking. I was very impressed especially by our young chief who so passionately and in my view correctly identified some of the root causes. This inspired this submission.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about chieftainship and suggested that some restoration of our traditional leadership original role and authority need to be considered. I advocated for more responsibility to be given to these leaders for them to meaningfully help shape the future of our country.

I believe that the colonial and independence era ‘stole’ authority from our traditional leaders depriving us much needed local leadership. The politicians gave themselves too much power which they have used to sideline traditional leadership and to manipulate the unsuspecting nation using democracy and modernisation as their tools.

There is nothing wrong with democracy and modernisation but these should have been applied without breaking our social fabric; the very threads that kept our nation together for many decades. Modernisation and development is different from westernisation. 

Westernisation which we also adopted implies applying western culture and values in our society. This was wrong for a nation that was not ready and competent to adopt such.   In fact we totally misunderstood the western cultures and instead created a culture of greed, dishonesty and laziness that has now become the order of the day. This has potential to destroy us as a nation and make us totally dependent on others.  Greediness, dishonesty and laziness which were foreign to us before independence are now evidently imbedded in almost all facets of our lives.

We are now a nation under siege. Greediness, dishonesty and laziness have now established themselves firmly in almost all public institutions where corruption especially through the tendering processes is endemic.  It is known in business cycles that it is almost impossible to get a tender without having to ‘grease’ some hand in the process.

They say corruption is institutionalised in this country, that is, it is part of the system and it is almost impossible to detect hence the perpetuity of international reports that states that we are ‘the least corrupt country in Africa’ when on the ground the contrary  is true.

‘Njise sengwe’ is now a common expression that means ‘give me little something’ in order for me to help you.  Sometimes service is delayed deliberately to force some kind of ‘greasing’ to take place. It is sickening, but what are the root causes of this rot in our society?

There are two types of people who ask for ‘greasing’. One is the lowly paid individual who cannot afford lunch and cannot survive on his monthly paltry salary. He or she is in desperate need for extra cash.  This person has a survival need and will do anything to survive and to find means to look after his or her family.

That is why we should call for full employment and a living wage for all workers. No one should be in a place where he or she is working and cannot look after himself and his family. This will result in dishonesty and corruption. The society through government has a moral duty to look after those without work as it happens in other countries, otherwise these people will find unlawful ways to survive.

The second one is one who wants to live beyond his or her means, who wants a bigger house and a bigger car, who wants to go on an expensive holidays and to take children to private schools when such a person clearly cannot afford it. This is motivated by nothing but greed which has far reaching consequences for our society. This is the one that we must address through the regeneration and redirection of our moral compass.


In schools, we have our kids doing all sorts unusual things; drug abuse, cell phone abuse, satanism, pornography, lack of respect for their teachers, adults and the elderly.  Who is sponsoring these kids to do all these? These kids are sponsored by a society that has lost its soul; some adults in our society. Where do these kids get the money to buy the expensive drugs that get them ‘high’? 

When they are ‘high’ will they respect their teachers, elders or even their own parents?  Where do they get money for the expensive cell phones?  Is it not through these expensive cell phones that they have access to the dark world, where they meet satalism, pornography, weird behaviours and all sorts of other evils? We all blame these kids, ‘bana ba gompieno ga bana tsebe’ but we forget that we are responsible for their behaviour as a society.

We give them money, we corrupt them and then we turn around and say ‘bana ba gompieno’!  We have to ask ourselves where did we go wrong as a nation, then find and implement corrective actions. These kids are parents tomorrow. What kind of parents are we bringing up? We are without doubt building a broken society?  The family is the nucleus where we start building a community, a country and eventually the world. The family is the foundation. What happens if the foundation is wrong; the building will not stand for long. We definitely need to do something different to correct the foundation.

The moral decadence in our society today which the Bible refers to as ‘sexual immorality and impurity’ is now largely accepted as normal. As a nation we are all largely guilty of this offence as we have condoned it and allowed it to spread.

Divorce is increasing at an alarming rate leaving behind angry and disadvantaged children, multi concurrent sexual partners is openly or covertly practiced leading to diseases, passion killings, and divorce, children born out of wedlock and co habiting  increasing and accepted creating a society that is largely devoid of good traditional and Christian values. All these points to a broken society that needs to introspect and do a though self soul searching to correct its moral standpoint.

Within some religious institutions including Christian churches, the fear of God has gone.  People go to church now for all sorts of reasons other than to find true salvation as exposed by the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is now for many people a source of community where people get material and moral support for bereavements and difficult situations. Some of us go to church to seek God’s blessings i.e a good job, promotion, marriage, favours and riches; nothing wrong with this.

The bible says, ‘ask you will be given, knock the door will be opened…’  Some of us though conveniently forget that there is a condition, ‘seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these will be yours’. The Bible, the Quran, other religious teachings including original African religious teachings are in agreement on  what is required for us to live godly lives  The Old Testament and the Quran moral teachings are similar to our own original traditional beliefs.

The concept of ‘botho’ is imbedded in our culture and traditional values. This is no different from other religious values. God wants His people to unite and live in peace and harmony amongst each other. He wants the strong to look after the weak.  He wants fair play in all our dealings. Stealing, killing, cheating, disorderly behaviour are ungodly. God central message is love of one another without conditions. ’ Love thy neigbour as thy self’, so says the Bible.

The question is where did we go wrong and how can we correct ourselves. This is a very difficult question but we will not be responsible citizens if we do not attempt to find the answer. In my view the answer in part lies in us acknowledging that we have abandoned our moral values. We failed at independence to take time to define ourselves first and deliberately decide what we should take into the new republic. 

We now need to introspect; take what is good from our traditional beliefs, from all religious institutions operating in our country and infuse this with democracy, liberty and the rule of law and come up with what is uniquely Botswana. I believe that in this country we have men and women who can pioneer this movement for change.

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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