The BDP regime is running scarred and making suicidal blunders in the process. The best example is how President Khama recently de-campaigned his own part in Maun by engaging in character assassination of Kgosi Tawana and in the process insulting the very Batwana whose votes he craves. We say, let the BDP tremble because it is time they are told in clear categorical terms that; Mene Mene Tekel Uphrasin – ‘the writing is on the wall.
Their days are numbered. And no one should in any way temper with the verdict of the people on October 24 because as they put it Latin; vox populi, vox Dei i.e. the ‘voice of the people is the voice of God’. For many years the opposition has endured and accepted the results of the elections, including dubious ones, and now it is the turn of the BDP to endure and accept the unpalatable verdict of the people.
As the election day draws closer, the single most important question each and every voter must ask him/herself is whether this is just another routine general election or whether this election must be turned a referendum on Ian Khama’s dictatorship. This is the opportune moment for Batswana to speak in one powerful voice and say ; enough is enough of Khama dictatorial regime? They must vote the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to save their country from Khama’s dictatorship.
When he assumed office Khama promised to deliver on five Ds, – ‘democracy’, ‘ development’, ‘discipline’, ‘dignity’ and ‘delivery’. It has been a period of spectacularly broken promises and yet he still thinks he can get away with making even more promises. As the English expression goes; jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never jam today! Batswana are sick and tired of empty promises and want their development ‘jam’ today, not tomorrow.
Once upon a time Botswana was a nation internationally renowned for being at peace with itself. Indeed when Botswana was surrounded by white minority ruled regimes in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa Sir Seretse Khama’s description of this country as ‘an island of sanity, peace and tranquility in a sea of turbulence’ was spot on and quite apposite. Then Batswana lived in fear of Ian Smith’s ‘hot pursuit’ of so-called ‘terrorists’ who allegedly mounted attacks on Rhodesia and fled to Botswana for hiding.
We also lived in fear of military incursions by the South African apartheid regime in pursuit of what they claimed were ANC military command and control centres in Botswana. That was the apartheid regime’s excuse for killing South African refugees in Botswana.
Ironically, since 1994 when South Africans regained their independence and Southern Africa ceased to be theatre of revolutions instead of Batswana enjoying the peace dividends the country now lives in fear once again. This time Batswana live in fear of Khama’s abominable monstrosity called the Directorate on Intelligence (DIS) secret gendarmerie.
We are now witnessing a vicious assault on the institutions and traditions of democracy that were developed, nurtured and agreed upon by past leaders of the country, ruling and opposition, as well as the general populace of Botswana for 42 years. In a short space of time Khama has transformed this country in the wrong direction almost beyond recognition. Never before have this country’s civil liberties and freedoms been so severely threatened.
Khama’s DIS ostensibly set up to protect Batswana from foreign enemies is ironically presiding over state terrorism in the country – the magnitude of which has never been seen in this country before. Today Batswana live in fear, not of the imagined foreign enemies, but in fear of the all-powerful DIS which was supposed to protect them from foreign enemies.
The real tragedy is that this state of affairs does not seem to bother Ian Khama one little bit. One cannot identify a single Khama initiative designed to enhance, strengthen and consummate the country’s democracy which his father correctly described as a plant that must be carefully nurtured. Instead of strengthening the institutions of democracy Khama is preoccupied with intimidating and silencing the nation while attempting to build a personality cult.
Extreme intolerance, heavy-handedness and unbridled white-collar theft are assuming alarming proportions. The President is not amenable to advice from any quarter – all he wants is to be surrounded by a bunch of head-nodding puppets and stooges who tell him what he wants to hear.
Political activists, journalists, human rights lawyers, trade unionists, authors, the clergy and even musicians are intimidated, harassed and sometimes tortured and beaten up by the notorious DIS, which has, to all intents and purposes, become a law unto itself. Hit-lilts of politicians and journalists are being bandied about.
BMD leader Gomolemo Motswaledi died under mysterious circumstances and the Khama regime did not care. Even former Presidents Masire and Mogae are feeling the pinch and have already sounded a warning to Ian Khama. Sadly, with every day that passes the prophetic words uttered by former BDP Assistant Minister, Oliphant Mfa that under Ian Khama democracy will be enjoyed only by those in prisons and in their graves ring true.
There is a growing number of extra-judicial killings of criminal suspects without recourse to courts of law or due process, because as former President Mogae observes, this ‘’regime’ does not respect the rule of law. Where is the ‘dignity’’ of the people who are cold-bloodedly murdered by state agents without recourse to the courts of law? For the first time in the history of this country the UNHCR reports that there are 229 Batswana refugees who fled to other countries. They have since been joined by Kgosi Kgafela of Mochudi and Edgar Tsimane of the Sunday Standard.
The DIS taps our telephone messages and jams private radio stations. According to former President Mogae, Khama has expelled over 2, 000 people from this country – more than all the foreigners expelled by former presidents of this country combined. A country which once enjoyed the reputation of welcoming refugees under Khama’s tyranny is beginning to produce refugees.
Certainly, this is not the Botswana we need and we must speak out against this unfolding dictatorship through the ballot. If this opportunity is not seized the next five years will be the longest five years in the history of our five year electoral cycle because as the saying goes, he who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount i.e. this dictatorship can only worsen if, God forbid, it is given another term in office.
Regarding discipline and delivery, if Khama was serious he should have come up with a Ministerial Code of Conduct to reign in his corrupt ministers . What we seeing instead is that ministers facing criminal allegations are arrogantly allowed to stay in office and continue with their court battles.
This is an affront to social justice and insult to Batswana who were promised ‘discipline’ and ‘delivery’. By now laws on the Declaration of Assets and Freedom of Information Bill to enable Batswana to fight the cancer of unbridled kleptocracy should have been passed by parliament.
That international organizations report that the ruling class has stashed a whopping P50 billion in foreign banks while nearly half Batswana are languishing in needless poverty does not bother Khama one little bit. Many of the poverty-stricken Batswana are regularly paraded on Btv surrounding Father Christmas Ian Khama as he doles out soup, diphaphatha, blankets and other cheap election bribes in gross violation of their personal ‘dignity’ – the very principle he promised to uphold in 2008.
For me the major highlights of this year’s election campaign was to share the political platform with Johnson MOtswharakgole representatives of BOFEPUSO who took the correct and historic decision to abandon petty bourgeois trade union neutrality and forge a strategic partnership with UDC. The UDC’s human rights approach to development and commitment to the second generation of rights as encapsulated in the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is the single most important reason why the 100 000 strong BOFEPUSO has rallied behind the UDC.
For many years this is what we have been calling for – as the first step towards the emancipation of the working class 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.
The labour movement came to this historic decision after being subjected to sustained harassment by the Khama regime to a point where they were told that even if they went on strike for five years he would never succumb to their demands. October 24th is pay-back time. Workers must jettison the BDP regime from power for the next five years.
My lowest point in this general election is the BCP’s decision to renege on its commitment to work with other opposition political parties in a broad anti-Khama United Front even when there is enough evidence that his tyranny will not spare anyone, not even the BCP.
Recently their activists have been roughed-up apparently by members of the DIS. Our only saving grace is the statement Dumelang Saleshando made before his organization abandoned the Umbrella project – that any party that withdraws from the project must be punished by the electorate.
To all those who understood the imperative necessity of forging a broad anti-Khama, and this includes BCP members themselves, October 24th is pay-back time. Let us punish the BCP leadership by voting the UDC to save our country from Khama’s terror tactics. On October 24th the poverty-stricken masses of this country will have real power in their hands to changes all this and usher in a new democratic dispensation under the leadership of the UDC.
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