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Victoria Falls & the Zimbabwe Ruins

Stuart White

In the Middle East there is a growing crisis caused by the evil ISIS movement, with links to worldwide terror plots and a campaign seemingly against all foreigners and non-Muslims, be they journalists, humanitarian workers or anyone going about their daily business and unfortunate enough to fall into one of their kidnap and capture traps.

Over in the UK there has been a spate of Russian military aircraft over-flying the sovereign state and basically asking to be intercepted.  It’s a cat-and-mouse game redolent of the old Cold War and one which the Royal Air Force is very familiar with, but the question seems to be, why now?  Presumably it’s some sort of taunt and dare trick of President Putin but his motives are unclear.

Closer to home Julius Malema and his EFF seem equally bent on taunting and haunting President Jacob Zuma, interrupting his State-of-the-Nation address with questions, amongst others, about his Nkandla home and the monies spent on upgrades. 

And Eskom’s woes continue, with the power utility supplier warning consumers it will be several years before the situation can be normalised.  And with all of the country’s many economic woes, the Rand is at an all-time low compared to other major currencies, which is also affecting the Pula.

But given all of these serious situations all over the world isn’t it interesting that the biggest news item today seems to be Madonna’s metaphorical fall from grace, or to be more specific her fall from the stage, as she took to the stage at the annual music BRIT awards ceremony in London’s O2 Arena, caused apparently by her cloak being tied too tight and pulling her backwards at an awkward moment. 

Being Madonna, of course, nothing is quite as it seems nor as simple.  Music critics have questioned the timing of the fall, coming, as it did, just as she sang the words  to her new song ‘Living For Love’ which included the phrases “I’m going to carry on” and “Watch me stumble”.

They have questioned whether it was just more one huge Material Girl publicity stunt and sub-editors and wits worldwide have had a field day with their headlines.  The UK Daily Mail used ‘Should’ve undone the Material, Girl!’, whilst another read ‘Magonna’.  

The footage of the fall has been gone over again and again by conspiracy theorists and sceptics.  Some say that it’s very telling that the dancer behind the star who would appear to have been the cause of the stellar trip has not been sacked, implying that it was all a set-up, whilst others point to Madonna’s seemingly shocked reaction to authenticate it as a genuine accident.  The lady herself tweeted afterwards that as Georgio Armani had designed the cloak, it was actually him who was to blame. 

Whatever the truth, the fact remains that it was Madonna’s first live performance for quite sometime and she managed to steal all the social media spotlight and next-day headlines from the BRIT award artists and artistes whose night it was supposed to have been. As the old saying goes, ‘Any publicity is good publicity’ and Madonna is a past master at creating a spectacle and causing controversy.

(Mind you, equally controversial singer Kanye West had already done his best to steal the show by using the no-no ‘N’ word on 3 separate occasions, much to the consternation to the network television companies live-broadcasting the show who did their level best to try and bleep it out!)

Which brings us to yet another famous fall in recent weeks, that of Robert Mugabe who earlier this month managed to trip and fall on the red carpet whilst descending some steps after making a speech at Harare airport.  In keeping with his image and character, however, heads immediately rolled, with all of his closest aides and bodyguards being hauled over the carpet and some relieved of their duties. 

Too late, for the old dictator, though as footage of the incident, obtained anonymously in fear of reprisals, went viral worldwide. He might rule Zimbabwe with an iron fist but he is powerless to control the internet.  A hashtag ‘#mugabefalls’ was created and suddenly the cut-out image of his public embarrassment was made a million times worse as it was superimposed on picture after picture, each one seemingly funnier than the last.

And yet somehow  he has managed to have the last laugh on that one, after all, with the rotational Chair of the African Union having been given to the one person guaranteed to make First World blood boil.  In his new capacity the EU will be forced to lift or at least relax its 2002 travel ban, at least on the man himself, though it is unlikely that this will be extended to his wife and other family members.

He is possibly the most hated man in Africa and now certainly the most humiliated on social media but he’s sadly proved to be down but not out. And who would have thought that in a single month he and one of the biggest female artistes of her generation would ever have anything in common? 

However, Madonna’s trip will probably not make the butt of social-media jokes and the world will laugh with her, not at her – more than can be said for the other one.  And perhaps the star herself will take comfort from the words of another great female singer, that of Gloria Gaynor who famously sang:

“Do you think I'd crumble
Did you think I'd lay down and die?

No, not I, I will survive”

And as for the other one, well, he can’t really last forever, can he?

‏STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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