It is a journalistic ethic and a worldwide practice to grant individuals the right of reply by newspapers to anyone who has a strong view that they may have been misrepresented, to allow them to set the records straight.
However, it seems of late a number of local publications have notoriously violated this principle with impunity when it comes to Botswana Congress Party (BCP) officials wanting to exercise this right, even on the same platforms where someone may have pulled the wool over its views and character.
This unfortunate conduct by some media houses has a potential to stain and defile the integrity and reputation of the fourth state as an important source of unbiased and balanced reporting, which is critical in a democracy such as ours. It is therefore my hope that this time around, a temptation to muffle opinion will be avoided and I will be allowed to respond to some deliberate misinformation and misconceptions about my party, the BCP, that have littered the papers since the last elections.
Denying me that right to set the records straight will be practically the same as violating an ethical standard of true journalism.â€¨â€¨Since what some commentators have called a “dismal” performance by the BCP in the last elections, there has emerged from the woods impressionists, yes, parrots, bo bokolela di tlhabane, who behave like the proverbial lunatic who has stumbled upon a whistle.
We all know how irritating a whistle in the hands of a lunatic can be. They have assumed the role of sangomas and fortune tellers who even have the bravery to prescribe what is good for the BCP ahead of its members and the more than 140 000 people who cast their vote for the party. One ingenious singer has put up a line that best describes such characters in one of her songs when she said, “go lela fela le tse di senang marole.
”â€¨â€¨One such character is a self-appointed counterfeit analyst by the name Bernard Tibone Busani who behaves like a puppy barking without purpose with his uncoordinated rumblings. He is one of the excited zealots who think that the recent performance by the Umbrella For Democratic Change (UDC) in the elections have given them some driving force to venture into political commentary. We want to respond to Busani’s consignment of balderdash.
We ignored him when he first emerged from the trench, but like the proverbial lunatic who has picked a whistle and is making himself a centre of attraction, his irritation can no longer be put up with lest it pollute the minds of the unsuspecting readers with its discordant noise.
His articles are littered with lies, inconsistencies obviously springing from the lack of knowledge of the truth. Makgoa ba re little knowledge is dangerous and that is how sneering crude characters like Busani can be if left unchecked. â€¨â€¨Busani writes, “what has been said and is the truth is that the BCP walked away from the umbrella talks because of disagreement on five if not two constituencies.
The BCP did not finish the umbrella talks, which talks they initiated and embraced”. From the above, it is either Busani is imperceptive or he is downright obtuse. He is not even sure about what was the reason why the talks collapsed yet he thinks he is qualified to charge the BCP with treason. It is Busani’s own testimony that he is not sure if there was disagreement with five or two constituencies.
He also admits that this is not what he knows but what was said. Said by who? Strangely, based on what he is not sure of, he has the bravery to incriminate the BCP. How implausible! This is indeed a gross act of academic dishonesty.â€¨â€¨The truth that Busani and his likeminded need to told is that the BCP never walked away from the talks.
The talks collapsed and a communiqué declaring the collapsed was signed by the presidents of the four negotiating parties being the BCP, Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), and was pronounced by the president of the BNF in full view of the public and the media.
This is not what was said, but rather what happened. It is not the hearsay that Busani and other lost souls are peddling as the gospel truth. Where does Busani pick the walking out he alleges was committed by the BCP here, if this is not a figment of his fertile imagination?â€¨â€¨
The other truth that Busani his bunch of tittle-tattlers need to know and not the things that he has heard in the dark streets is that a few hours before the umbrella one talks were pronounced as collapsed, both the BNF and the BCP, who during the talks never had any disagreements, made a joint offer to the BMD, who were in fact the problem party throughout the talks.
It is on record that the BMD rejected such an offer which had given them all but one constituency were they were incumbent, plus six other constituencies. For starters, the only constituency that BMD were incumbent then and was not included in the joint offer was Ramotswa, but in its place, the BCP had traded off Mogoditshane, a more winnable constituency than the former. â€¨â€¨
There was a reason why the BCP which Busani has already admitted is a champion of opposition cooperation and initiated the talks, wanted to hold on to Ramotswa. It will be remembered, (and Busani should listen very carefully because it will benefit him to better his engagement on issues of opposition cooperation in Botswana), after the BNF and its partner in crime, the BPP, walked out the opposition cooperation talks in 2007, BCP and the former Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM), remained at the table and agreed on a PACT arrangement going into the 2009 general election. The two parties produced a joint manifesto which was titled “The Nation at Crossroads”.
They also had one presidential candidate who at that time was Cde Gilson Saleshando. It is common knowledge the BCP-BAM pact produced impressive results, winning five seats in parliament, one seat behind the BNF who went into the election with nine seats after losing three through irrational expulsions from the twelve it had after 2004 general election, and about seventy six council seats, surpassing the BNF in this regard.â€¨â€¨Immediately after 2009 elections, the BCP and BAM agreed to merge to form a single party, the current BCP which has a cow symbol.
The merger set out preliminary conditions which were to run until the merger has fully matured. One of the conditions was that the BAM president who was then Rre Lepetu Setshwaelo shall assume the vice presidency of the new BCP. Another condition was that Ramotswa, a constituency that Rre Setshwaelo contested under the BCP ticket in 2009 and lost narrowly to the Odirile Motlhale, be reserved for him.
This was in 2010, the same year that other political developments happened such as the formation of a Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) breakaway party, the BMD after the expulsion of the late Gomolemo Motswaledi. â€¨â€¨During the talks the BMD adopted a rigid position that they wanted to be given all the constituencies that they were incumbent.
They even developed a slogan, “incumbency or nothing”, which was quite an irrational position in any negotiation where parties should be prepared for a give and take principle. Both the BNF and the BCP were able to bend to accommodate the BMD which had not contested the elections in 2009. In the case of Ramotswa the BMD was made aware of other concessions that have taken place between BCP and BAM before the talks started such as reserving Ramotswa for Rre Setshwaelo.
The BCP which had performed exceptionally well in Mogoditshane in 2009, winning three council seats and losing the constituency with a margin of less than a thousand to the BDP, was ready to trade off that constituency in place of Ramotswa. But the BMD would not take any of it and they insisted on their incumbency or nothing stance. During the impasse, at some point the labour movements through their umbrella body, were roped in to mediate, but BMD couldn’t budge.
This is what happened and not what has been said which Busani and other zealots should take and avoid peddling falsehood.â€¨â€¨It is absurd for Busani to say the BCP did not finish the umbrella talks. He fails to state at what stage did the BCP abandon the talks. Of course this is an obvious lie that has been peddled by people who seem to master the dishonourable act of lying.
It has already been demonstrated above that the talks collapsed, and the reasons were stated by the conveners, the pronouncement of the collapse was made, publicly by the BNF president, who also doubles as the UDC president and leader of opposition in parliament. Where then does Busani get the walkout by the BCP when all the evidence is there that points to the fact the talks collapsed? â€¨â€¨
We know that the UDC used the above lie as their potency enhancer and fuel in their hatred against the BCP driven “moono” slogan. Like we have said before, moono was a call to hate the BCP because the UDC believed that in order for them to gain some semblance of relevancy to Botswana politics, they should at most be second to BDP and out class the BCP at all costs, even if that comes at the expense of the credibility of some in their leadership.
The case is point is the lies they peddled around to instil fear in the hearts of unsuspecting public in the run up to election. Bed time stories such as the existence of a hit list (which they no longer talk about), allegations that Gomolemo Motswaledi was assassinated (a report which was promised, but seems to be a forgotten thing); that the BCP President was doing business with BDP members, something they failed to bring forth evidence, were all splodges that the perpetrators are ashamed to face the nation at this point to say it was just a polluted, grubby campaign strategy which it is no longer necessary to pursue since it has achieved its intended objective. But the truth is, the integrity of most of them, including at a broader sense, the organisations they represent, have been soiled beyond redemption.
They are now viewed as untrustworthy.â€¨â€¨Busani is clearly wallowing in darkness, he needs urgent help. He claims that the BCP’s grand plan was to kill the BNF when they came up with the umbrella model as a model of cooperation. Tota gatwe motho yo o tswa kae? The umbrella model was the brain child of the BMD.
The BCP had proposed the pact model which it had used in the previous election with BAM and paid off. It is a fact that after the collapse of the umbrella talks that the BCP participated in, the party wrote a letter to the BNF requesting for a formal meeting to see if the two cannot forge a working relationship since they didn’t have any differences during the negotiations.
Most BNF central committee members believed so too. But the BNF president who appeared to have other interests snubbed this gesture by the BCP. He started to play hide and seek with his own central committee. We later heard that he had been promised the presidency of the umbrella party if he can support the BMD on their incumbency stance (maybe that explains why he was never subjected to a vote to become the UDC president). There was even fallout with members of the executive committee of the BNF.
Many would remember that the BNF vice president Rre Isaac Mabiletsa, the Secretary General Cde Akanyang Magama, the Deputy Secretary General Dr Nono Kgafela Mokoka, the secretary of International Affairs, Mephato Reatile, member of parliament for Kanye North Cde Kentse Rammidi and many others, later left the BNF to join the BCP and some the BDP. If at all the BCP had any intention to kill the BNF as alleged by Busani, would the BCP have courted the BNF for further talks after the initial collapse?
The BNF president Duma Boko is on record after the collapse of the initial talks saying that he does not want to work with the BCP because the later hurt the former in 1998 and that he only wants to work with the BMD and BPP under the umbrella model (Reference: The Botswana Guardian). â€¨â€¨Down his article Busani displays his political dwarfism in a dramatic fashion. He is mottled, bamboozled and enthralling.
He lacks composure. He is illogical, lucid and grossly irrational in all manner of imagination. He lists what he purports to be truth about the BCP. But the truth is that none of what his claims are truths about the BCP comes anyway near the measure of truth. He is indeed a prophet of doom,, a political fortuity who is not known in the political analysis market place.
He senselessly asks, “Where are the shadow ministers? What was the real purpose? How do you have a shadow minister outside parliament?” Uhu! Such imbecility is amazing for someone who wants to be taken seriously. â€¨â€¨Busani believes there were no differences in the UDC and BCP manifestos.
Ao bathong! Didn’t the BCP talk about a land audit which the UDC opposed with so much vigour and instead concurred with the BDP driven LAPCAS? Didn’t the BCP talk about bringing back our jobs which the UDC through its president also opposed and instead agreed with the BDP that Botswana is not yet ready for beneficiating its minerals and other raw materials to employ the many unemployed young people? I think Busani needs to have his head examined thoroughly.
He is not in a good way.â€¨â€¨The BCP remain focussed and believes that it remain the voice of the more than 140 000 Batswana who cast their votes in its favour. The BCP will not be derailed by incoherent characters the likes of Busani, but it continues to push its message through its representatives in parliament, local authorities and outside parliament.
We shall continue talking the message of land audit; we will not relent on calling the BDP government to account. Our voice will not deem on issues of youth un-employment, the use of the mother tongue. Lastly, the BCP will never be forced into any marriage of convenience that some see as a fast lane to power, even if it means replacing the BDP with another Domkrag with a different name. We will continue to push the agenda for true transformation of this country, economically, socially and politically. â€¨â€¨
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.
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
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