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Land Issues: A Theological Perspective


Rre KT Motsete, a genius and a true patriot reminds us in our national anthem that: Fatshe leno la rona ke mpho ya Modimo ke boswa jwa bo rraetsho!  This is our land, a God given gift and inheritance from our forefathers. It is “Boswa jwa rona”, meaning the community and nation, not any particular individuals.


In the past, the land belonged to the people. Balete, Bangwaketse, Barolong, Bakalanga, Banaro, Batawana, Bangwato, Bangologa etc, we all used to have land and there was no private ownership of land. Land belonged to the people. Under the private ownership of land system, the best and fertile land in the country is owned by very few rich people and the majority of them are not even indigenous Batswana.


When you look at the best land ko Gamalete the best land is in the hands of Batswana ba letso la seisemane (Batswana of English descent). Move along the Notwane, there is no Molete there all along you will find British citizens because they have dual citizenship. Balete are in the mountains where the land is barren! The same applies to other areas in Tswapong, Bukalanga and Ghanzi, the fertile land in those areas does not belong to the indeginous Batswana. It is only now that the rich few Batswana are starting to buy land in Gammangato, Ngwaketse, Ngamiland, Kgalagadi and other places in Botswana.


It is also interesting to note that today the Gaborone dam is dry and the government is going to use tax payers’ money to pump water from the north while there are seventeen dams in privately owned land full of water along the Notwane and Moswane rivers. If these dams were not in privately owned land, the two rivers would be flowing into the Gaborone dam.


How do you ask people to preserve water while the few rich people around Gaborone use water to irrigate their big gardens where they plant vegetables and sell to Balete who own the land but who have no water and land?


Theologically speaking this is sinful because Balate and Batlokwa have been robbed of their land, their children have become destitutes and criminals. Because they have no land to stay and cultivate, they come to the city and in the city they are paid slave wages by the same people who robbed them of their land. Now who is a criminal, the one who has robbed someone of his land and forced him to go to town where there are no jobs and ended up stealing from the shop of the same person who stole his land?

The question is not a legal question but a moral and theological question. We want to know who issued land ownership certificates for this British / Batswana citizens in Notwane and Mmokolodi. Balete and Kweneng land boards must tell us. Balete and Kweneng land boards must do what Tawana land board did when they told Batswana that they are the one who gave the Khama brothers our land in the Okavango. We are going to take them to task because they will explain to us who authorized them to do that. The Tawana land board has no right what so ever to give people land or plots, without the approval or recommendation of the land overseer in the area plus the neighbours. All the lands, in Ngamiland have the land overseers.

Let me put it in Setswana. The land overseer’s ke batlhokomedi ba lehatshe. Traditionally ba tlhokometse lehatshe mo boemong jwa beeng ba lehatshe kgotsa kgosi. They must approve any application for any plot. We want Diseta Island to be returned to the Shakawe community immediately and the chiefs island in the delta to be return to kgosi Tawana II immediately because Chiefs Island is the property of the Batawana chiefs where they were hidden by Bayei during the Bakololo war. Now we are told the island has been taken by the central government.

How on earth can government deprive Tawana what is rightly fully his? This land was allocated to Tawana’s grandparents by Bayei during those wars. And remember if it was not the combination of the Batawana and Bayei forces, this area could be part of western province in Zambia or Barotseland. Did our parents fought for this land so that Khama can come and take it from us? Or does Khama don’t know the history of this country? I mean history of Batswana as told from generation to generation by word of mouth not the one written by those who want to please their masters in order to be rewarded by those they praise at the expense of the heroic history of our people.


We also want land certificates in Gantsi from those who took the land of Banaro and Bakaukau in Gantsi. We are fully aware that most if not all white farmers in Gantsi district have South Africa citizenship. Remember in 1966 some of this white farmers flew to South Africa, claiming that they cannot be under black government. Ga ba kake ba nna ka fa tlase ga puso ya botho montsho bone ga be battle go busiwa ke kafore. Baraye Seretse. Can you imagine. And some of them sold their farms to Rra Gaone, Rre Masire bought some of the farms. They only returned later. Now this same racist people are the ones who decide where we should sell our beef! They must never forget that Banaro, Bakaukau and want their land, not only in the CKGR but in the whole Gantsi District.


We should know that, the monopolization of land and other resources necessarily results in the exploitation of non monopolized resources, that is, labour, and in the underutization of all resources. Thus one primary purpose of ownership of large amounts of land, both on the individual and on the social level, is not to use it but to prevent its use by others. These others; denied access to the primary resource, necessarily fall under the domination of the few who controls it. And then they are exploited in all conceivable ways, typically through low wages. We must not forget that majority of our towns started as mining towns.

People were removed from their lands and forced to work as cheap laborours in these towns. Right now in Toteng in Ngamiland people have been removed from their grazing land to pave way for the mine. Now we are told the mine is being closed or going to be closed soon. We are also told that diamonds have been discovered in Shakawe and people are going to be removed from their places. People are going to be removed along the delta either for mines or tourism. And remember this mines, and tourist industries are not owned by Batswana. Our fertile land is being taken from us and given to foreigners in the name of foreign investments. We want our land not foreign investment because we can invest in our land ourselves!


We are being deliberately being impoverished. In the so called foreign investments the workers are paid slave wages. This maldistribution of wealth rewards parates at the expense of workers. Many are diverted from grasping that inequitable land arrangements are a fundamental cause of poverty because of the common habit of associating land only with agriculture and rural life. Because society is increasingly urban and industrial, this outlook makes land seem a quaint concern from by gone past.


Land looms much larger than that. All human existence still rests on the land. Urban poverty is not only exacerbated by the influx of landless people from the villages. It arises directly from maldistribution and over concentration of land rights within town or cities. City people also live and work on lands.


From a theological point of view poverty is preeminently a problem of land ownership, it becomes imperative to examine the moral basis of ownership. What gives us the right to own anything? And how does this apply to land? The right of ownership does not come out of thin air but rest n our faith that human beings have been created as free moral agents, called to glorify their creator through voluntary obedience to his will. To function as such, an individual must have a right to his or her person and to his or her labour, which is an extension of this person.

The exercise of this right includes the right to consume exchange, give away, or simply keep what you produce. This right obtains against all other human beings, limited only by acts that interfere with the rights of others to what they produce. It is on this account that theft is wrong, it constitutes a sort of partial murder – taking of someone’s crystallized past life. If it is on this account than humankind finally came around to consider slavery wrong as an unconscionable total theft of someone’s labour. Ownership is thus justified by labour.


This concept, associated with John Locke can also traced back to the Deuteronomy 25: 4 and 1 Cor. 9: 7 – 10 we own and consume what we produce. Human labour never produces land. God’s labour produced land, so from theological point no human being should own land. John Locke affirms that God gave land or the world to human being in common usage. In my view no nation or community ever had a legitimate right to grant to private parties absolute title to something created by God / nature for the use and benefit all. It is from this background that we want all lands to be returned to their rightful owners the communities including Diseta, chiefs Island Mmokolodi, and Notwane farms!

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Opinions

The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 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 Pelosi’s 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’.

Pelosi’s visit to China’s 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 Communiqués.  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 China’s 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 People’s 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 Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwan’s administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the People’s 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, Biden’s 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 Pelosi’s 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 China’s People’s Liberation Army to “safeguard China’s 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 China’s overseas investments, projects and personnel.  It then follows that President Xi’s administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector China’s 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 People’s 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.

Beijing’s military exercises will certainly shake Taiwan’s confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwan’s central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As China’s military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit China’s 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 António 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 People’s 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 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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