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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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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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