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Kudos to UDC – BOFEPUSU strategic partnership

Everywhere I go people say to me, ‘Thank you. We are really thankful for a job well done’ . Such is their excitement that many of them go the extent of shaking my hand and giving me a hug. The people hail the leaders of the UDC for a spectacular electoral performance, but I always reply by saying; ‘give yourself a pat on the back because, in the final analysis, it is your victory, you made it happen’.

In Gabane I was among the mainly youthful voters who braved the scotching heat and stood in the queue for over 8 hours in order to cast their ballot. That is how determined people were to embrace change.  Newly elected Molepolole legislator Mohamed Khan put it more succinctly by saying, ‘it was our collective effort’.

Strictly speaking, history is made by the ordinary people, and  not individual leaders – for no individual, however intelligent and strong-will, can alter the main course of historical events. If history was made by individual leaders this country would have long undergone a revolutionary transformation under the leadership of people like Dr Kenneth Koma of the BNF or Phillip Matante of the BPP.

But the subjective conditions for change did not exist at that time. Leaders who appear to shape the main course of events are those who come as the last link in the concatenation of supra-individual circumstances and correlation of  social forces that drive the change process. Such leaders are like the straw that breaks the camel’s back or the drop that overflows the cup.

Those who believe that individual leaders are the locomotives of history claimed that the defection of former BNF and BMD leaders like Isaac Mabiletsa, Akanyang Magama, Mephato Reatile, Samson Moyo, Botsalo Ntuane to the BCP and BDP sounded the death knell of the UDC.

The masses have just proved them wrong. Many of these political turncoats were rejected by the masses during the elections.  Of course, people do not make history at will, but rather under definite objective conditions and a historically determined mode of production. We owe  the voters of Gaborone Central a special debt of gratitude for paying their best tribute to one of our fallen and illustrious heroes of the UDC, Comrade Gomolemo Motswaledi, by voting for the UDC – a movement about which he was very passionate. He paid the ultimate and supreme prize i.e. he paid with his very precious life for the victory we are celebrating today.

Of the masses that supported us in our formidable electoral xbattle with the BDP regime I wish to single out the working class – the  five workers unions organized under the banner of BOFEPUSU for special commendation. BOFEPUSU is a trade union federation of five unions namely, BLLAHWU, Manual Workers Union, BTU, BOSETU and BOPEU.

To the historical partnership between UDC and BOFEPUSU, we say bravo! Hats-off to BOFEPUSU!  My most abiding memory from the 2014 general election was to share the political platform with Comrade Johnson Motshwarakgole representing BOFEPUSU. Not even the wavering and vacillating tendencies of the traditionally conservative BOPEU bureaucratic leadership can alter this historic fact.

It remains to be seen if the BOPEU trade bureaucracy represents their own interests or those of their membership. The BOFEPUSU trade union federation must be applauded for having plucked-up courage to forge a historic partnership with the UDC in the .just ended general election.

Of course, in the run-up to the 1994 general elections there was an unwritten alliance between the BNF and Emang Basadi which contributed in no small measure to the good electoral showing of the BNF evidenced by the capturing of an unprecedented 13 seats in parliament. The was BNF poised to capture state power in the 1999 general elections but this was largely tacit endorsement of the BNF by the women’s movement.

This time the working class movement took up the cudgels and stood side by side with the UDC activists in the battle trenches  against the BDP regime and put their very lives on the line. Not even the mysterious death of BMD honcho  Comrade Gomolemo Motswaledi intimidated them. This time around not only did the unions play a pivotal role in the formation of UDC but they also actively campaigned for it.

This all dates back to the 2011 public sector strike or ‘school of war’ when their demands for a 16% salary hike were dismissed with bluster and reckless abandon by the Khama regime.  In the famous words of  Frederick Engels, strikes are ‘the military school of the workingmen in which they prepare themselves for the great struggles which cannot be avoided… and as schools of war, the unions are unexcelled’.  

Perhaps the single most important outcome of the public sector strike is that it taught workers, not through theories delivered by some revolutionary politicians, but through their own battles with the arrogant but shortsighted Khama regime that salvation can only come about  if unions took a clear principled stand on politics.

Salvation will only come when all the trade unions get together and write a Workers Charter of Botswana beginning with, ‘We the workers of Botswana demand that…’ Salivation will only come when all the workers, irrespective of their different employers, come to the realization that they are all oppressed by the same ruling class. And indeed salvation will only come when workers and poor peasants come to the realization that they are all  oppressed and exploited by the same bourgeoisie both in towns and the rural hinterland and forge a worker-peasant alliance.

Writing on the historic public sector strike of 2011 I observed that ‘. If any one has a sense of triumphalism because the 16% wage hike has not been granted then they are only celebrating a pyrrhic victory. There are no winners and losers in this battle. 

The  impact on the country’s rapidly deteriorating democratic credentials  has been massive and the damage will only become clear when the country goes to the polls. If this government is unwilling to pay the money prize, it must be made to pay the political prize. After all, workers constitute a huge voting constituency. On that single day when elections are held workers will have the power in their hands  to punish these dictators once and for all’. 

And ‘punish’ them they did! For the first time in the history of this country the opposition has scooped an unprecedented total of 20 seats in parliament (17 for UDC and 3 for the BCP) with several marginal constituencies..  And as the results of the elections eloquently illustrate, it was pay-back time for the workers. Today the BDP regime is a minority regime elected by 320, 657 people, while the combined national vote of the UDC (207, 113) and the BCP (140, 998) is 348, 111  i.e. 27, 446 more than the national vote cast for the BDP.

Since 1999 the BDP is sustained in power by the split vote of the BCP. The BCP leadership has a mammoth decision to make; either to find ways of jumping onto the UDC bandwagon or face possible relegation to the great dustbin of history. The mass exodus from the BCP to the UDC has already started. Our call at the beginning of this year for a UDC-BCP electoral pact in an open letter to Dumelang Saleshando was ignored with disastrous consequences.

In the Global Post of November 11, 2014 it is regrettable that BCP activist Lotty Manyapetsa is reported as having said, ‘leaders of the BOFEPUSU should abstain from politics because that is bound to break the union as evidenced by the contradicting statements issued by the leaders of the same union’.. Such reactionary drivel is enough reason why the workers must shun the BCP. The BCP is the one which nearly divided BOFEPUSU by pulling out of the umbrella. 

The first step to freedom in the labour movement is to abandon  false political neutrality and consciously  build strategic alliances with revolutionary parties  while safeguarding their relative autonomy as trade unions. BOFEPUSU has just taken that giant step to emancipate themselves and the rest of the oppressed masses of Botswana.  As far back as 1921 the third Congress of the Communist International addressed the question of trade unions and politics. They made the following observations;

The bourgeoisie keeps the working class enslaved not only by means of naked force, but also by subtle deception. In the hands of the bourgeoisie, the school, the church, parliament, art, literature, the daily press – all become powerful means of duping the working masses and spreading the ideas of the bourgeoisie into the proletarian milieu. One of the ideas which the ruling classes have succeeded in inculcating into the working masses is trade-union neutrality – the idea that trade unions are non-political organizations and should have no party affiliations.

The Communist International argued that the bourgeoisie cannot openly call on the workers’ trade unions to support the bourgeois parties, so it urges the unions not to support any party. The sole aim of the bourgeoisie, however, is to prevent the trade unions from supporting progressive parties or political formations like the UDC. Trade union neutrality amounts to tacit support for the capitalist status quo and denies workers the opportunity to forge strategic partnerships with like-minded revolutionary political parties and movements.

Since 1966 the BDP has been propped up employers, including De Beers while it lulled the workers into a false of political neutrality. The irony of it all is that the millions that De Beers, Dada and Derrick Brink contribute to the BDP political campaign is the sum total of the workers’ unpaid surplus value which accumulates in the hands of the capitalist employers by virtue of the fact that they privately own and control the means of subsistence – land, cattle, diamonds, automobile industries etc.

The fruits of the workers’ sweat are effectively used against them by financing a political party which is ideologically hostile to the interests of the workers.  Even the blankets and radios used to buy votes are made by workers of other countries but are now used to oppress the workers of Botswana. So it is only proper and fitting that workers identify with a party or political movement such the UDC that addresses some of their concerns.   

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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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