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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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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021


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:

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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.

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


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.

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