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Government agenda impoverishes Boteti

ALFRED MASOKOLA
POINT BLANK


Government approach to development of districts in the country has only one outcome – creating unjustifiable wealth disparities. Our development approach leaves many other Batswana in the extremes of poverty while on the other hand a few enjoy the economic privileges which are causal effect of the country’s wealth of resources.


Boteti is one of the regions that are severely disadvantaged by the government’s development agenda. The area is rich in minerals and tourism but without doubt one of the poorest in the country, maybe in the same bracket with Kgalagadi, Ngamiland and Okavango regions.


Many will recall that Boteti forms an integral part of the country’s economy and contribute more to the GDP than any other region in Botswana.  Boteti has three mines operated by Debswana (a joint venture between the state and De Beers). Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Debswana Mines are all based in Boteti.  


Boteti also contributes considerably to the country’s tourism sector which is the second largest revenue contributor after mining, through several avenues including being a gateway to Game Reserves and National Parks like Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Makgadikgadi National Park.


Under normal circumstances, one would expect Boteti to be one of the most developed in the country. We must appreciate that Boteti region includes villages in the mould of Rakops, Mopipi, Toromoja, Khwee, Kedia, Mmadikola, Khumaga, Makalamabedi and Moreromaoto. All of these villages are synonymous with poverty, social ills, unemployment and devastating state of health.  


Boteti schools are among those with the worst pass rate (save for Orapa schools) in in the country at all levels i.e PSLE, JC and BGSCE. I am old enough to be aware of Government’s view that natural resources should belong to the state and be shared equally by citizens. But I am of the view that this argument is merely a fallacy because the status quo in the development agenda shows the opposite.


As a result of this policy, Government no longer feels obliged to contribute towards economic development of regions such as Boteti which are the generators of wealth for the country in the name of equality.


The people of Boteti will not buy the notion of equal distribution of developments because they have nothing when compared to other regions in the country? I will give a simple and honest observation – If you look at the tertiary institutions in the country, 80 percent are located in the southern part of Botswana.


To reinforce my argument, let us take the Institution of Health Sciences (IHS) as a case study. There are eight (8) government funded IHSs in Botswana. Six of them are located in the Southern part of Botswana; Gaborone, Mochudi, Lobatse, Ramotswa, Molepolole and Kanye, all within a radius of not more than 100 KM from Gaborone.


While the remaining one goes to Francistown and of course one to Serowe. But honestly, six IHSs within a 100km radius is mockery of the equitable distribution gimmick! It is unfair to other communities. Is it wrong for the people of Boteti to feel deliberately left out and that the development agenda is discriminatory?  


If you look at villages like Mochudi, Molepolole, Kanye, Ramotswa and other semi-urban areas – they have all benefited from the development agenda of today and yet there is almost no single economic activity in those areas contributing significantly to the country’s GDP when compared to Boteti.  


We are not saying the mineral revenues generated by the mines in Boteti should not go to state coffers and instead to Boteti. Our view is that since the government’s development policy has disadvantaged those communities under the pretext of equally distribution of developments, it would be wise if, say 10% of the revenue goes straight towards community based projects in Boteti. This could help in infrastructure development in the area and consequently uplift the communities in Boteti economically.


Under the current approach even privately operated mines like Lucara Diamond Corporation which ‘proudly’ trades as Boteti Mining (Pty) Ltd is not compelled to contribute a few millions of Pula from its annual revenue towards the development of Boteti and its communities. They do not feel the need to do so because government is not doing it either.


Another injustice against Boteti is that of all diamond associated industries none has been set up in Boteti. Everything is in Gaborone, including Orapa House, which is strangely in Gaborone and not Orapa. In turn these benefits communities on the outskirts of Gaborone instead. The same applies to the relocation of the Diamond Trading Centre (DTC) which sadly was located in Gaborone, creating economic opportunities for the Gaborone dwellers and those around the city at the expense of those in Boteti, where diamonds are mined.


Government then went out to explain that it wants to turn Gaborone into a diamond hub? But why Gaborone? Why not turn Orapa, Letlhakane or maybe Jwaneng into diamond hubs? My opinion is informed by few but reasonable variables; 1) If DTC relocated its operations either to Orapa or Lethakane, it would have created more opportunities for those communities in terms of job creation. 2) It would have boosted the growth of the private sector in the region and even the expansion of physical infrastructure. 3) Gaborone is already faced by many challenges including shortage of land, inadequate housing, and shortage of water among other challenges.


All these show that government does not necessarily believe in equal distribution of developments in Botswana. There is a silent agenda to satisfy the needs of certain areas at the expense of the people of Boteti who by all accounts have a legitimate right to claim the economic benefits associated with what is found in their area.  


There are those who say developments are entirely based on tribalism and only villages which belong to eight prominent tribes or “The Big 8” namely; Bangwato, Bakwena, Bakgatla, Batawana, Bangwaketse, Barolong, Balete and Batlokwa are given priority. It is no secret that not only are these tribes recognised through representation in Ntlo ya Dikgosi they also seem to be influential in getting government developments.


Currently there is a burning issue of shortage of land in Botswana. But really, what shortage of land in Botswana are we talking about? The truth of the matter is that there is shortage of land in Gaborone, and we all know the causes. People flock to Gaborone in search of opportunities, including jobs, because the way we have structured our economy, Gaborone is the only prime business area in all forms of commerce including industrial business.  
In Boteti there is no shortage of land, it is very easy to acquire a business plot there. But under normal circumstance no one would go and acquire a piece of land where there is no purpose – it has to make economic sense. If government had pushed the DTC relocation to Boteti, the area could be prime land today.


We must take a leaf from South Africa, whose governance is based on the decentralisation model, where provincial governments have their own budgets and play a vital role in infrastructural development of communities.  
South Africa has nine provinces (Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga, Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal and a staggering number of cities sparsely located countrywide in those provinces. The cities almost share similar infrastructure including stadiums and state funded universities.


We can do the same in Botswana and bring developments and resources closer to the people. The Palapye industrialisation, which caused government to deliberately take major projects like Morupule B Power Station, Glass Manufacturing Project, Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) to the village is a case in point, albeit the challenges faced by individual projects.


The problem with Botswana is that we have chosen one city, Gaborone (Francistown still not fully recognised by the development agenda) where we currently overloading developments and this has caused problems and it is impoverishing other communities like my beloved Boteti.


When Vice President Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi outlined the government economic development strategy in the last session of parliament when responding to President Ian Khama’s State of Nation Address he revealed the economic development strategy.


He said it will focus on comparative advantage of different development nodes in Botswana. Masisi says they will promote and focus support for the following sectors in the regions as follows; Chobe/Kasane- Tourism, Pandamatenga- Agro business, Maun/Okavango/Makgadikgadi- Tourism and Mining, Gantsi- Cattle Industry, Kgalagadi- Small Stock Industry and Tourism, GoodHope- grain production, Gaborone- Diamond Centre, Palapye/Mahalapye/Dibete-Energy Sector and Agro Business, Selebi Phikwe- Industrial Tourism and Mining, Francistown- Service Industry, Mining and Tourism. But where is Boteti here? Boteti has three mines contributing immensely to the GDP but still the region cannot be considered by government in the economic development strategy. Are we fair and just to the people of Boteti?

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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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Opinions

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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Opinions

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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