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A case of the Biccups

Stuart White

You’re no doubt aware that last Sunday was International Women’s Day and you might also know that the same week saw the annual conference of the ANC Women’s leagues in South Africa, which saw the voting out of the long-standing Chair and a new candidate voted in. These two events had me wondering exactly how valid such commemorations and bodies are in 2015?

Let me explain.  It’s now more than a hundred and twenty years after the first country legislated to allow women the vote (New Zealand in 1893, for pub quiz enthusiasts and collectors of useless information), just over a century since the start of the First World War when women in Britain deserted the drudgery, low wages and long hours of domestic service in favour of more lucrative factory work, and over half a century since Germaine Greer published her seminal work on female emancipation, The Female Eunuch and women in the Swinging Sixties were burning their bras. 

And let’s not forget the biggest liberator of all – the contraceptive pill, trialled in the same period and for the first time in human history, offering women a reliable means of family planning and freeing them to follow their career paths of choice.

Today it’s fair to say that although there are still complaints of a hidden pay differential in some industries, the gender gap has largely closed.  India, Pakistan, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Germany have all experienced female heads of state, the Church of England has lifted its ban on female bishops, there are female astronauts and airline pilots and even women in combat roles in the military. 

So why, then, should there be an International Women’s Day with the 3-pronged themes of ‘Celebrate Women’s Achievement, Call for Greater Equality,  Make it Happen’ when there would be a monumental outcry should men of the world want to unite and celebrate their collective milestones and maleness. 

Similarly, can you imagine the furore if the sword side of the ANC suddenly decided to form their own arm to be known as the ANC Men’s League?  It would surely be viewed as elitist and discriminatory, in the same way that men-only clubs are thought of and yet how would it be any worse than  or even different to its feminine equivalent?

It’s never going to happen, is it?  But meanwhile there are still corporate faux pas and I don’t just mean the odd glass ceiling. Take this example, thrown up by one company’s attempted homage to women on their special day last Sunday.  The company in question was BIC South Africa, manufacturer of biros and other assorted stationery items. On their Facebook page they featured a picture of an attractive, suited young woman with a caption alongside which read ‘Look like a girl; Act like a lady; Think like a man; Work like a boss’. 

I think you can guess where this is going! The page was flooded with complaints of sexism, a company out of touch with today and utter inappropriateness and the messages quickly went viral, begging the questions how did that ever pass management approval, who in the marketing department thought it was a good idea and were any female employees even involved in the process?

BIC was left red-faced and the social media embarrassment didn’t end there. Appalled at the blatant sexism and patronising tone, some re-worded the campaign, reposting it with new words and links to exhort women to look, act, think and work like "your own magnificent goddamn self" (from 'Kirby Enthusiasm) or just as a 'human being'.

Global news site, Mashable, called it "The world's worst National Women's Day tribute"; and the UK's Guardian newspaper headline was "Bic causes outrage on national women's day". Local comedian and writer Anne Hirsch tweeted: "Dear @BicSA please help.

My little girl’s fingers can't handle your man pens. What should I do?"  South African cartoonist Jerm produced a gem with a mock-up of a BIC yellow and black ad,  the company name changed to a slang word for a part of the male anatomy which rhymes with Bic and a caption reading ‘Our pen is not mighty’.  You’d have thought Bic might have learned its lesson when the parent company in the USA introduced a range of pastel pens with pink packaging in 2012, calling the range ‘Miss Bic’. 

The concept was ridiculed by feminist comedienne Ellen DeGeneres but that apparently didn’t deter BIC SA from copying the range locally last year.  Let’s hope they didn’t take her at her word and send Ms. Hirsch a complimentary selection of pretty, girl-sized pretty pink pens in response to her tweet!

But then again, we come back to the inequality and double-standards here. A day devoted to women only, no male equivalent and men will lampoon it at their peril.  It’s the price they have to pay for centuries of male supremacy and women not just the weaker but also the subservient sex and each and every one man is now expected to shoulder a piece of the collective burden of guilt. 

So they must honour International Women’s Day and mark it appropriately, though I don’t recommend sending pink roses or pens.  And don’t think you can slink off to your men-only club to get away from it all.  The ladies were one step ahead of you and even that last bastion of manliness has now been breached.  It’s called Girl Power!

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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