Connect with us

Why Bofepusu is silent on National Budget?


Bofepusu played a huge role in influencing dwindling of the results for the Umbrella Democratic Change (UDC) for 2019 National Polls. The two were bedfellows during 2014 General elections, as they sung from the same hymn book. 

Bofepusu influenced its membership to vote for the UDC, resulting in the party attaining respectable number of seats in the National Assembly. The labour Federation publicly pronounced their support for the UDC, which was complemented by a hit-list of politicians not to be voted into power. Bofepusu also had a disdain for the BCP since the party then was not part of the Umbrella Project. Unfortunately, UDC was embroiled in turmoil in post 2014 General elections, internal party squabbles characterize its existence resulting in the formation of the then flamboyant Alliance for Progressives (AP). Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) was also booted out of the UDC.

All these shenanigans and disintegration of the UDC pitifully divided the leadership of Bofepusu into fragments of political parties. Those having the heart for the UDC were outnumbered by sympathizers of other political parties. The majority of Bofepusu leadership had solace for the BDP and AP, respectively. This was based on the notion that BDP has transformed into a better negotiating partner in terms of labour related demands. President Masisi’s government was praised for acceding to workers’ demands.

In terms of comparing Masisi and Khama, the leadership gave him more accolades in terms of labour relations. The leadership’s lack of political prowess may have diffuse their thinking capability of failing to differentiate political leaders and political parties’ policies. On this vein, workers were given the latitude to choose parties and leaders of their choice without being cajoled by the leadership of Bofepusu.   

Though Bofepusu membership were asked to vote wisely, it was a concealed persuasion to consider giving BDP a vote.  This is mainly premised on the fact that Masisi was applauded by influential figures in Bofepusu leadership, comrade Motshwarakgole has never minced words in supporting Masisi. He additionally reminded the public of tortuous ten years labour endured under tyrannical Khama. The trade union “Godfather” commendably negotiated better deals for his trade union cohort.

It was for the first instance the lowly paid bracket in public service to benefit substantial salary hikes. Customarily they received paltry salary increment calculated in percentiles. It was easy for their leader to convince them cast a vote for the BDP.   Also a faction that rallied behind the AP, knew that their actions will weaken the UDC to defeat BDP. This group has always doubted Boko’s leadership acumen, especially in dealing with BMD’s debacle and general leadership shrewdness.

Bofepusu members expected the leadership to strategise on how to make the Federation relevant. Firstly, the leadership has to wake up the Federation from the sleep by resuscitating the organisation into members’ decision making edifice. Members cannot take the initiative of resuscitating the Federation because they have always been strategically alienated from structures, by a design to make the Federation leader driven. They need not go far, but borrow a leaf from Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) on how they run their structures. The Federation also need to pump energy into better organising models in order to bring youthful leadership and women into its fold.

Unfortunately I had professed a dull period for Bofepusu for the entire existence of the new government. Divisions and tensions are likely to characterize the once formidable labour entity. This will be a consequence of support ushered to Masisi’s government prior to elections. The bargaining council formation will not be re-established soon because its formation will need overhauling of statutes governing the body.

Normally, Bofepusu’s activism has been anchored around bargaining unit. Its voice became praiseworthy mainly during budget speeches and salary negotiations, then faded, only to resurface in the next budget speech session. Promise of constitutional reviews and labour statutes will prolong commencement of bargaining forum. Further, salary hikes for 2019/2020 were concluded therefore the Federation will be on holiday given its lack of creativity and commitment of leadership in growing the entity.

It is like Masisi has been given more individual responsibility than his government. Many people are expecting him to make public pronouncements, rather than his party. He may quickly jump to accede to workers’ demands, and make labour organisations quitter. Rivalry between Federations may also delay some conclusions, which may possibly give the government opportunity to apportion blame on two warring factions. After all, trade unionism in Botswana is bedeviled by sheer rivalry.

There has never been any attempt to invest in solidarity and collectivism between Federations or within trade unions. It is very important for trade unions to emphasise the importance of working together against capital and governments. Probably if the UDC had attained power, the Federation will be all out in knives demanding drastic changes particularly that affect labour and social protection beneficiaries. That would have made Bofepusu more active since the UDC had promised more jobs, and more jobs calls for additional organising.

It was going to be ease for Bofepusu to turn into a social movement trade union by partnering with society to pressurize the government avail its promises. The Federation would easily influence the pensioners’ demand their increased stipends, tertiary students would collaborate with the Federation in making their demands, and the general population. You watch the space, in the new government Bofepusu will be in abeyance, conducting lukewarm activities irrelevant to the course of labour.  

Turning to the budget speech by Minister of Finance Dr. Matsheka, the expectations was for the Federation to make their submissions pertaining to its entails, which was pro-capital and private enterprise focused. The Minister in his endeavour to promote private sector, has failed dismally to promote socio-economic outlook for common Batswana. The Minister falls under the school that has strong admiration of privatization, with the conviction that it brings efficiency, productivity and dividends.

While the Ministry commendably lamented on collapsing some moribund parastatals, he should have resuscitated state enterprises, which used to absorb sizeable number of Batswana. Institutions such as Water Utilities, Botswana Telecommunications Corporations, need to be state owned and given adequate capital and human resource to optimally operate effectively. Brazil under President Lula da Silva drastically improved the state of the economy by raising productivity and employment levels by giving the state control of major enterprises.

Giving such enterprises to private entities results in shedding off workers to maximise profit. Putting right people in strategic positions will result in these organisations meeting the desired expectations. The Minister also lamented on their endeavour to move the country from a medium income economy to a high income economy. While the term high income invariably used interchangeably with developed country.

But as a country can we attain a status of a developed world when we still have rampant corruption in government enclave, nepotism, demagoguery and party affiliation syndrome? High per capital income, low incidence of poverty, High standard of living, low levels of unemployment and low growth rate of population.

Bofepusu should have counteracted Dr. Matsheka’s over-ambitious dream of coming up with unrealistic dream. Failure to provide employment automatically sabotage the ideal of reducing incidences of poverty. The Minister should have a clear path on how jobs will be created, let alone a dream of becoming a high income country. Labour had wanted the Federation to come out clear to introspect the budget speech.

Continue Reading


The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosi’s actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as ‘international waters’.

Pelosi’s visit to China’s Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqués.  In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to China’s position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The People’s Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been  the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades — first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwan’s administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials – this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Biden’s words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan – another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region.  The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as “Taiwan independence”.  The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: “The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”  Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for China’s People’s Liberation Army to “safeguard China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests”. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to “prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard China’s overseas investments, projects and personnel.  It then follows that President Xi’s administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part.” Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The People’s Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, “We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces.” This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijing’s military exercises will certainly shake Taiwan’s confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwan’s central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As China’s military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit China’s Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to “Taiwan independence” separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

Continue Reading


Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

Continue Reading


The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

Continue Reading