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Touch my Grave and Go!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

“Here I cease no further can I go; go into the winding hills beyond; here I end where my journey ends; for my strength has reached journey’s end; here I lie gazing into the void; the void of my tired eye-lids; here I call and smile at you, so touch my grave and go in this journey without end”. These words from Tokyo Sexwale’s poem, “Touch My Grave and Go!”, which he wrote in honor of Nelson Dalibhunga Rolihlahla Mandela, will forever echo through the mountains for their meaning is greater than we think.

When Mandela said “many a battle have we fought; many a battles have we lost and won” he was obviously referring to worthy battles aimed at redressing the injustices suffered by his people. Have you, like Rolihlahla, fought any worthy battles?

Have you made any sacrifice for the good of your people? Have you not turned a blind eye to the subjugation of minority tribes, women and gays, lesbians and bisexuals? Nelson Mandela says “…we have lost and won against foes small and might”.

Have you not shied away and abandoned your people for fear of the might of the Oppressor? Have you not betrayed your people for the like of power, privilege and material gain?

Did you know that if you remain true to your course you will, like Dalibhunga, conquer sights and heights; that you will, when you finally depart this world, have death as your one and last fight which you will win and you will, like Madiba, say to your fellow liberators “tis time for you to march on, so touch my grave and go in this journey without end.” Yes, if you fed orphans and destitutes and housed the homeless we will, at the end of your journey, tell you that “yonder lies greater glories to take, yonder waits better victories to make, to scale and triumph over Everets”.

You will, when you cannot see and speak anymore, rest if you never exploited your workers. Nobody can say to you “so I ask: shall you ever rest” for you then shall lie and rest for your day will be done and sunset will have come. But for you to rest you need to have known the poor; you need to have never thrown away food when your neighbor slept hungry; you need to have put your people’s life and happiness ahead of yours; and you need to have been your people’s servant, not master.

If you have really lived a life worth living, a men as great as Mandela can say to you “just do your last duty for me, for the grave of a fellow warrior is dug in the heat of battle by the wayside, so touch my grave and go in this journey without end”. This is not an honor you can get if your hands have the blood of innocent men and women.

Nor can you get such an honor if your people sleep thirsty and in the dark because you mismanaged their resources. Who can accord you such an honor if you steal from your people? Such an honor cannot be yours if children cry all because of your mercilessness.

Madiba says “ take with you my fighting tools; take with you my trowel to build; take with you my book to read; take my pen to write; take this song to heart; take my rifle; take my icon”. This is such an honor that it cannot be asked of you if you defiled innocent children and abused your spouse.

What can you build if you thrive in covering your people’s light so that yours alone shines? Which book can you read if you are drunk with power which you drink from the skulls of the slain? What can you write if you hate writers whose only sword is the pen while yours is a nuclear bomb? Which song can you take to heart when you hate musicians simply because they are unionized workers? Which rifle can you take when your every rifle is torture, espionage and sabotage?

Can you have an icon when you are the only icon? Can you even listen to Dalibhunga when he says “off to newer battles yet as you do touch stone touch my grave and go in this war without surrender”? Can you have newer battles when you have abandoned the old? Can you not surrender when you have retreated from speaking the truth and telling truth to power?   Are your hands clean enough that they can touch a grave as clean as Madiba’s?

You cannot touch Madiba’s grave without leading. And ‘To Lead” is another poem I righteously steal, for I pledge to use it fruitfully. Can you, like Rolihlahla, lead ever from the front, but not too far? Can you like Sir Seretse Khama lead never from the back no matter what? Can you like Sir Ketumile Masire be ever in sight not out of sight? Can you like Festus Mogae lead from amongst the people but one step ahead? Can you like Baledzi Gaolatlhe be within hearing but not too close?

Can you like Gomolemo Motswaledi sing your people’s chorus but take the solo? Can you like Kgalemang Tumediso Motsete sing like a lark with no discord and change the tune but check with your people? Can you like Madiba chart new paths but fight for your people? If you listened to Rolihlahla and you are Duma Boko you will remember to lead the opposition and win the opposition. You will remember not to win the enemy, but to win your enemy’s followers.

As we celebrate twenty five years of Mandela’s release from prison, take with you Madiba’s fighting tools; take with you Dalibhunga’s trowel to build; take with you Rolihlahla’s book to read; take Utata’s pen to write; take this song to heart; take Mandela’s rifle; take Madiba’s icon”. It is only if you have taken these that Utata may say to you “Touch my grave and go in this journey without end!

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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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