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Recognition of former presidents: the case of Festus Gontebanye Mogae

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

Last week we considered the recognition or lack thereof of former President Sir Ketumile Masire. This week we consider Masire’s successor, Festus Gontebanye Mogae. Just like we did with Masire, we first attempt to answer the question: who is Festus Gontebanye Mogae? To answer this question we rely on his biographical information published by the Botswana government.

Mogae, a commoner from a minor tribe of Batalaote, matriculated at Moeng College and went on to train as an Economist at the Universities of Oxford and Sussex in the United Kingdom. He took up the post of Planning Officer in 1968 and progressed to become Director of Economic Affairs. He was Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning from 1975 to 1976.

Mogae became Alternate Governor for Botswana at the International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development from 1971 to 1976. He served in various parastatal boards including Water Utilities, Botswana Housing Corporation, Botswana Meat Commission, Botswana Meat Commission (United Kingdom) Holdings, ECCO Cold Stores Limited and Allied Meat Importers Limited.

Mogae was also Director, and later Chairman of the Botswana Development Corporation, Representative of the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation, Director of the De Beers Botswana Mining Company (Pty) Limited (Diamond Mining Company), Botswana RST Limited, BamaNgwato Concessions Limited (BCL) and Bank of Botswana.

Mogae served in Washington DC as Alternate and Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund for Anglophone Africa from 1976 to 1980. He then came home to take up the position of Governor of the Bank of Botswana which he held from 1980 to 1981.

From 1982 to 1989 Mogae was Permanent Secretary to the President, Secretary to the Cabinet and Supervisor of Elections. He was appointed Minister of Finance and Development Planning in 1989. He ascended to the Vice Presidency in 1992, a position he held until 31st March, 1998 when he became the third President of the Republic of Botswana following Masire’s retirement.

Mogae was Governor for Botswana for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Member of the Joint Development Committee of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on the transfer of real resources to developing countries, Washington DC from 1989 to 1990.

He was also involved in community oriented organizations which include Kalahari Conservation Society, Botswana Society (Research Organization) of which he became President, Lions Club of Palapye, President of the Botswana Society for the Deaf as well as being Patron of Junior Achievement Botswana.

Mogae also became Chairman of the National AIDS Council which was launched 30 March 2000.     He was awarded the highest honor of the Republic of Botswana, Naledi Ya Botswana – Gaborone on 30th September 2003 and the Presidential Order of Honour of Botswana in 1989. Mogae was also awarded the Officier de I’Order Nationale D’e Cote d’Ivoire (1979); I’Order Nationale du Mali and the HATAB’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Botswana’s Tourism Industry (1997).

Mogae was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws – University of Botswana in September 1998; the Global Marketplace Award by the Corporate Council on Africa – Houston, USA in May 1999; an Honorary Fellowship of the Botswana Institute of Bankers – Gaborone, Botswana in July 1999; the Distinguished Achievement Award for AIDS Leadership in Southern Africa by the Medunsa Trust – Washington DC, USA in June 2000.

Additionally, Mogae was awarded the AIDS Leadership Award by Harvard AIDS Institute – Gaborone in December 2001; the 2002 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference Weekend Chairman’s Award –Washington D.C., USA in September 2002; the Africa-America Institute National Leadership Award – New York, USA in September 2002 and the Honorary Fellow –University College Oxford in 2003.

Adding to his awards is The Knight Commander of the Most Courteous Order of the Kingdom of Lesotho – Maseru, Lesotho in April 2004; the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) International Leadership Award –Gaborone in October 2004; the Golden Plate Award by the Academy of Achievement -New York, USA in June 2005 and the Grand Croix – Highest award in Madagascar grated to dignitaries of the Nation Antananarivo, Madagascar in June 2006.

Other of Mogae’s awards include the Pan African Tsetse and Tryponofomiasis (PATTEC) by the African Union – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2007, Doctorate of Humanity by the University of Limkokwing, Gaborone Botswana in January 2008; The Commander of the Legion d’Honneur Grand Croix of the Republic of France – Paris, France in March 2008 and Taylor and Francis Award for significant contribution to women’s development and welfare – Gaborone, Botswana in July 2008.

It is apposite that before we consider whether or not Mogae is getting the recognition he deserves we should have a cursory discussion of the achievements and failures of his presidency. I say cursory because the achievements and failures of a person of Mogae’s stature cannot be adequately discussed in an article of this sort. It requires a book.

In discussing Mogae’s achievements and failures we consider his performance in the area of politics within the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP); his performance as Minister of Finance and Development Planning; his performance as Vice President and President; his performance in the international community; his general social life and his conduct after he retired as president.

Firstly, his performance as a politician. Evidently, Mogae was more of a technocrat than a politician. This is probably because of his strong educational back ground in economics and his colorful career as a civil servant and diplomat.

The aforegoing notwithstanding, in 1994, Mogae contested in the general elections under the BDP and won the Palapye constituency. He was an active member of the Botswana Democratic Party and served in various committees of the party including the Central Committee (CC). He was Chairman of the CC’s Finance and Economic Committee, and Member of the CC responsible for Letswapo Region from 1992 to 1995.

Mogae’s political detractors blame him for a leadership style of favoritism and purging which allowed the continued existence of factionalism within the party. His detractors contend that he failed to curb the factionalism which started during Masire’s tenure. They argue that it is his kids gloves’ treatment of then Vice President Khama which further fermented factionalism within the party.

By his own admission, Mogae did not do well in introducing critical political reforms. Asked by Tefo Pheage of Mmegi newspaper in October 2015 whether he has any regrets he said “Of course yes, my failure to introduce a quota system for women to improve their political representation and my failure to scrap off our current electoral system to replace it with either proportional representation or anything along those lines to accommodate the marginalized groups.”

As reported in the Sunday Standard newspaper edition of 1st April 2007, Mogae rejected such key electoral reforms as proportional representation, direct presidential elections and political party funding though he has reportedly kept an open mind about the latter.   
 
Secondly, his performance as Minister of Finance and Development Planning. Owing to his strong academic background in Economics and his career both locally and internationally as shown by his biography, Mogae performed exceptionally well as Minister of Finance and Development Planning. Consequently, during his tenure as minister and even when he was Vice President and President, Botswana enjoyed unparalleled economic growth.   

Thirdly, his performance as Vice President and President. The highlight of Mogae’s Presidency is his prioritization of the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He was the face of the ‘Ntwa e Bolotse’ campaign which saw the establishment and strengthening of the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) and the National AIDS Council (NAC) which he personally chaired.

It is Mogae’s prioritization of the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic which led to the arrival of such international organizations as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s African Youth Alliance (AYA) project and the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership (ACHAP) which assisted the government and local non-governmental organizations in the fight against the HIV/AIDS scourge.

Perhaps the most telling of Mogae’s presidency is his decision for the government to provide anti-retroviral treatment to those that are HIV positive and/or have AIDS. At the time when such other presidents as former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, were in denial, Mogae acted decisively by ensuring the provision of free anti-retroviral treatment and supporting and partly funding the establishment of such counselling and testing centers as Tebelopele Voluntary Testing & Counselling Centre.

Mogae will also be remembered as a president who, in defence of Botswana’s diamond trade, fought against Survival International (SI)’s campaigns to label Botswana’s diamonds as ‘blood diamonds’, alleging that the real reason why government relocated Basarwa from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) was for diamond exploration and mining.

SI’s campaign, which involved Roy Sesana and the First People of the Kgalagadi, led to a court battle which though government lost with the court holding that it was unlawful for Basarwa to be relocated from their birth land, government compelled many Basarwa to relocate through disconnection of such facilities as water.   

According to an article by Dr. Botswiri Oupa Tsheko in the Sunday Standard newspaper edition of 27th January 2008 when Mogae left office in 2008, “Botswana was classified as an upper middle-income country with approximately 7000 kilometers of tarred roads, a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in 2004 of approximately US$3000, almost universal free education, 68 percent adult literacy, four doctors per thousand population, and infant mortality of approximately 58 per 1000 live births”.

Dr. Tsheko also states that “Botswana was awarded the highest sovereign credit rating in Africa by both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s in 2004. A combination of effective institutions, political stability and sound economic policies allowed Botswana to successfully harvest natural resource abundance in diamonds. Botswana has become the second largest diamond volume producer in the world after Australia, and the largest producer in terms of output value”.

While this admirable economic record cannot be solely attributed to Mogae to the exclusion of his predecessors, he played a critical role in the realization of such an enviable record from the time he was Planning Officer in the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning to the time he retired from the presidency. He indeed lived the Vision 2016 ideals which he in fact championed throughout his tenure.

At no time during his presidency was Mogae proven to be corrupt. He ruled well and avoided populist measures which are often exploited for corrupt purposes. He was, however, accused of maladministration when he granted his then Vice President, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, an unprecedented sabbatical leave and allowed him to fly Botswana Defence Force (BDF) military aircraft.     

Fourthly, his performance in the international community. Mogae was Chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers from 1992 until 1996. Mogae was also Member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Member of the Parliamentarians for Global Action based in New York and the Global Coalition for Africa based in Washington D.C.

Fifthly, his general social life. Demonstrating his value for the family as the basic unit of society, Rra Nametso is married and has children. That notwithstanding, his name was tainted by unconfirmed allegations of lack of marital peace to the extent that at some time there were allegations of an imminent marital separation or divorce.

Still in his social realm, Mogae’s reputation was tainted by unconfirmed allegations of alcohol abuse. Allegations of parental neglect especially in relation to his father, Ditlhabano Mogae, also did not do good to Mogae’s reputation. Those who attended his father’s burial claimed that his father’s home did not resemble that of the father to the state president.

Batswana came to know Mogae as a straight talker who lacked diplomacy. But, they still adored him and even today often relate the story where Mogae, during a Kgotla meeting in Mogoditshane following the demolition of squatters’ houses, took on a person making a mockery of him and said “Oo, ga o nkomanya lenna ke tla ke tlaa go ikomanyetsa…”

Sixthly, his conduct after his retirement on 31st March 2008. After retirement, Mogae continued with his fight against HIV/AIDS by chairing the NAC. He also became a champion of such issues as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered people and commercial sex workers’ rights in as far as access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment measures are concerned.

Post retirement, Mogae has also participated in peace keeping missions. Together with former Mali President, Alpha Oumar Konare and Former Prime Minister of Djibouti, Dileita Mohamed Dileita, he, in 2014, made up a team of the African Union High-Level Panel for Egypt.

In 2013, Mogae and former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, joined a team from the Forum for Former African Heads of State and Government (the Africa Forum) that mediated in the Lake Niassa border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania.

In October 2015, the Chairman of the East African Regional Bloc Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, appointed Mogae as chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) for South Sudan. He heads the commission that monitors the implementation of the agreement to resolve the conflict in South Sudan.

Post retirement, Mogae has also commented on several national issues relating to good governance, inner party democracy and the treatment of such minority groups as gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people and commercial sex workers. Unfortunately, just like Masire, this has earned him scorn from the BDP and president Khama who have blamed him for trying to rule from the grave.  

In view of Mogae’s outstanding achievements as shown above, I was surprised when I realized that there is nothing Botswana has named in his honor. I say honor and not remembrance because I believe that our heroes and heroines should be celebrated during their lifetime and not only remembered when they are dead. A life not celebrated in life is a life killed.
 
Is it not an embarrassment that there is no single road, street, stadium, school, clinic or hospital named after Mogae? Would we rather call our streets by such weird and divisive names as Ditimamolelo and Marapoathutwa than ‘Festus Gontebanye Mogae’? Would we rather name our streets and roads after foreign former presidents than our own former presidents?

Lefesto, as he is affectionately called, deserves to have something named after him during his lifetime and not when he has departed this world. So does former president Sir Ketumile Masire. And so does President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama. Queen Elizabeth II too may wish to consider conferring a knighthood on Mogae just like she did for Masire and the late Sir Seretse Khama.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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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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