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Time Bomb: Rural to urban migration

Botswana continues to be held up as Africa’s shining example of peace, democracy and good governance. Among other positive aspects rural development was always the envy of most African countries.


As a filmmaker my focus has always been on promoting a positive image of Africa. On my film  interviews with great statesmen including Kofi Annan, Tony Blair, FW De Klerk, Tony Benn, Thabo Mbeki and others, I have been impressed and gratified by the many accolades exclusively expressed about Botswana which always include its exceptional service delivery and commitment to the development of its people.


Closer to home, in one of my interviews with Sir Ketumile Masire, contrary to his humble character and political modesty, the elder statesman does not shy away from expressing great pride in the fact that as soon as diamonds were discovered Sir Seretse Khama and his government immediately accelerated rural development. This he says was in order to equally share the poor country’s new found wealth and ensure that jobs were created across the country to avoid the usual African chaotic situation whereby everyone suddenly drops everything and runs to the city.


 Faced with the mammoth task of having to start from scratch and develop a grossly neglected, tribally divided, drought ridden former protectorate, the Khama /Masire administration adopted a policy of equal development with greater concentration on rural development.


Rural to urban migration was therefore slowed down ushering in a general feeling of ownership and responsibility amongst the different tribes which developed and consolidated into one united peaceful prosperous nation.


The fact that over the last decade rural to urban migration with all its problems and complications has drastically increased cannot be argued against. That rural development also slowed down is certainly without a doubt. That the capital city Gaborone is an overcrowded, edgy, sometimes eerie, increasingly dangerous and generally unpleasant place to live in clearly printed on the faces of its dwellers.  


The reasons behind this are varied and somewhat complex. It has however become a ticking time bomb that threatens to explode and reverse the hard earned developments the country continues to enjoy.


One clear and simple cause is the rapid mushrooming of mostly foreign owned private tertiary institutions which continue  to churn  out half educated  degree holders most of whom cannot  even write a  sentence  of English, let alone use a computer or effectively implement any of the many so called skills and qualifications they  were told to have earned. Even with the added advantage of internship most are simply unemployable.


Urban migration has been hugely increased by these so called private tertiary institutions which for some reason are crowed up in Gaborone with a few in Francistown.


Year after year, secondary School leavers from across the country are enrolled in hundreds to join the already existing thousands at these institutions. This is  at great cost to the government and tax payers but even greater cost to the poor kids as they end up roaming the streets of Gaborone  looking for jobs with very little to show but the  false compliments  and hollow certificates they have received after  their  three or four year long ‘city holidays’.


 High expectations soon develop into frustrated disappointment, anger begins to mount. The very same generous government is now faced with a lot of blame and bitterness not only from the ‘graduates’ but their parents and relatives.


 The dependency syndrome also begins to rear its ugly head. The government is expected to provide jobs immediately. Just as it provided free education, free meals, living allowance etc from standard one to tertiary, the free ride must continue to the point of being guaranteed a job, regardless.


 When this clearly impossible task is not fulfilled the time bomb continues to ticking towards zero. The ‘graduates ‘and their relatives are now government enemy number one. In their thousands they begin to resent their erstwhile provider, they want more where there is none. According to them a degree holder in a generous country like Botswana deserves to yet another donation by way of a cushy job. An angry spoilt misguided youth is a danger to society. The continued creation of thousands is simply courting trouble.


Perhaps we need to go back to basics in terms of our education system. The fact that from primary to secondary school students no longer have   to repeat standard four, seven and form three when they fail and in truth do not deserve to proceed is grossly unfair to the mislead students, their parents and indeed the teacher who has to deal with an oversized classroom and give equal attention to all at the expense of deserving academically inclined.


 A decade or two ago many were compelled to drop out at standard seven, form three or five because they were simply not academically inclined. It was not a sin, it did come with a bit of stigma, but the sooner one was made aware of their academic ability or lack thereof, they either found their real talent at the brigades, started a successful business or as life would have it started working at the lowest level and got on with it.


Sometimes to everyone’s surprise the same academic failure ended up right at the top as a permanent secretary, government minister, ambassador, vice president etc. As it so happens some of our former and even current leaders started and ended that way.


 The academic gifted were fairly assessed and afforded their rightfully earned positions in life. Just as much the business minded excelled through hard work and pride in their God given talent which perhaps the academically gifted could never have. The naturally hard working hands on leader also took pride in their ability to take direction, implement ideas and progress through the ranks.


This was normal and fair to all. It continues as the separator and equalizer even in the developed world. It has and will continue to create billionaires, top civil servants and some of the best politicians and presidents at home and abroad.


The rural to urban migration is also caused by our government’s inexplicable abandonment of aggressive rural and small town development. Clear examples are Lobatse, Phikwe, Orapa, Jwaneng, Ghanzi, Maun, Serowe, Kanye, Molepolole, Good hope SowaTown, Kasane, Masunga and others with great potential to be the centers of tourism development, mining cities, industrial cities and much more. This would obviously attract numerous small, medium and even big business to set up there and create jobs and ease pressure on Gaborone.


Headquarters of entities such as CEDA, LEA, Water Utilities, Institute of technology and research and Botswana Innovation Hub, DE BEERS DEBSWANA, Botswana Tourism and many others could easily relocate to these relevant areas. Given the success of BUIST in Palapye this should be encouraged.


Most of our government’s policies and initiatives are still the envy of the world. There is peace and economic prosperity. It is however time to evaluate and change some of the general people centered development, beginning with an effective education policy and rural development.


 A spoilt misdirected nation develops false hope, anger and becomes a time bomb that if left unchecked will certainly turn and explode on its creator.

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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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