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Jeff Ramsay

Since being founded in 2012 by retired BDF Chief Lt. General Tebogo Masire, the THC Foundation has provided support and promoted advocacy, training and education to women and children who are victims of domestic violence. This past week, I was invited by the Foundation to open a Workshop for Media Practitioners on Gender Based Violence (GBV). What follows is a summary of some of my thoughts on the subject.   

While GBV can refer to violence directed against males as well as females, its most pervasive form in our country is the abuse of a woman by their male partners, which is one of the many findings contained in the 2012 Gender Based Violence Indicators Study that was carried by the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs in collaboration with Gender Links Botswana.

The study, which was cited by President Khama in his latest State of the Nation Address, found that at least 67% of our women had experienced some form of gender based violence in their lifetime, while 44% of men admitted to having at some point perpetrated violence against women. This latter figure climbed to 48% when the same men were asked about violence that they had perpetrated on an intimate partner.

The study further revealed that 29% of the women surveyed had in the last twelve months experienced Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Yet, during the same period only 1.2% of the women had reported cases of GBV to the police, evidence that the actual prevalence of GBV in our society is some 24 times higher than what appears in our crime statistics.

A further finding was that similar proportions of women (11.4%) and men (10.7%) reported having respectively experienced or perpetrated non-partner rape. Yet only one in nine of the women had ever reported cases of rape to the police, while only one in seven victims had sought medical attention.

Also in his most recent State of the Nation Address the President cited another, rather more encouraging report, the World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Gender Gap Index, which dovetails with other research that confirms that our country has made considerable progress towards achieving gender equality in a number of critical areas. While in the overall index we were ranked 51 out of 142 countries, in terms of female participation in the economy we were in 8th position in the world.

It is this contrast between the incidence of GBV and various indicators of gender equality that underscores the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide” nature of our gender relations. When looking at issues such as the workplace and educational attainment we do rank among the best in the world, ahead of most of Europe as well as elsewhere in Africa.

Add to this seeming conundrum the insistence on the part of some of our elders that GBV is at a much higher level today than in the past (which is at least partially supported by reported age cohort variations in personal experience as well as historic data in terms of serious assault, rape and homicide) and we are left with a real dilemma as to where we are really going as a society. Can it be that we are somehow both regressing and progressing at the same time?

The answer arguably lies in our social attitudes. The 2012 GBV indicators study, for example, found that while 83.1% of women and 81.9% of the men agreed that “people should be treated the same whether they are male or female”; 78.5% of the same women and 88.9% of the same men also asserted that “a woman should obey her husband.”

If GBV, notwithstanding an assumption of past underreporting, is actually rising might this in part be due to a deep-seeded popular reaction to rapid social change overtaking our social norms?  In seeking an answer, one of the valuable roles media can play is to reflect upon and further serve as a platform to interrogate social change. This moves us beyond questions of media ethics to the harder task of uncovering societal truths through proactive investigative insight.

A common metaphor is that media is a reflection of society and thus society’s mirror for better understanding itself. When it comes to GBV, and indeed many other social ills, one may wonder to what extent do publishers really seek, much less find such understanding. In so far as commercial media is driven by popular demand and taste, by the same token to what extent do we as media consumers actually want to see ourselves as we really are?

Thankfully when it comes to GBV the need for change is not contested. What is questionable is the extent to which local social phenomenon can be understood, much less overcome through analysis that is not rooted in indigenous understanding. For example words like patriarchy are often casually applied by outsiders to indigenous societies in our region without either a clear definition or reference to what may be considered to be parallel phenomenon, e.g. ‘matriarchy’.

What should be clear is that we cannot talk about GBV in Botswana without considering its indigenous cultural context, which is different from predominate Euro-North American perspectives. Logic of circumstance therefore dictates that any informed debate ought to driven by local, indigenous media.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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