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Jeff Ramsay

With the date of our Golden Jubilee fast approaching, starting this week Builders of Botswana will be profiling some of our notable nation builders starting with Leetile Disang Raditladi. “L.D.” was the founder of Botswana’s first national political party. He was also a pioneer journalist, community activist and trade unionist who is, however, perhaps best remembered for his contributions to Setswana literature.

Born in Serowe to a family of prominent royal relatives, he was a great-grandnephew of Kgosi Khama III, Raditladi initially excelled as a scholar. After attending primary school in the village, where he was mentored by his cousin Simon Ratshosa, he went on to attend secondary school in South Africa at Tiger Kloof and Lovedale. Thereafter be became one of the first Batswana to earn a tertiary degree, graduating from Fort Hare University.

In 1937 Raditlhadi’s life took a dramatic and controversial turn when his Kgosi, Tshekedi Khama, accused him of both impregnating  his, the regent’s, wife while further conspiring with her to bewitch his the Queen Mother.  Although these sensational charges were never really substantiated, Raditladi was exiled from Gammangwato. Thereafter he became a strong critic of what he labelled “chiefly autocracy.”

In 1938, Raditladi joined the civil service as a clerk and interpreter. Frustrated by the fact that, notwithstanding his higher education his advancement was blocked due to his race, in 1944 Raditladi became the Tribal secretary of the Batawana Kgosi Moremi III.  This new assignment proved to be initially frustrating due to the Kgosi’s erratic behaviour that led the British colonial regime to suspend him from bogosi 1945 with the backing of many of the leading Batawana headmen.

Following Moremi III death in an auto accident in 1946 the Batawana throne was passed to his widow Mohumagadi Elizabeth Pulane Moremi, who assumed the role as regent for the future Kgosi Letsholathebe II.

To the growing chagrin of many of the leading Batawana notables, Raditlhadi continued as Tribal Secretary until 1953, assisting Queen Pulane in reforming the Batawana tribal administration through modern record keeping and accounts that increased tribal revenues. In 1948 Raditlhadi further facilitated what proved to be a temporary settlement between Wayeyi separatist led by Moeti Samatsoko and the Batawana administration through the recognition of the former as an autonomous headman.

Raditlhadi and Pulane’s liberal reform agenda, however, alienated much of the traditional Batawana elite who regarded both as being foreign upstarts (prior to her marriage Pulane was a Morolong).  Allegations that the Queen and her Tribal Secretary were romantically involved led to further accusations that Raditlhadi was power hungry and coveted the throne for himself.

In the face of death threats, Raditlhadi relocated to Francistown, where he made a living operating the Mimosa Café, while also working for the local office of the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WENELA).

Despite the fall from power of his lifelong nemesis Tshekedi Khama, British discomfort with Raditlhadi’s political activities resulted in his remaining barred returning to Gammangwato.  By 1953 Raditlhadi had emerged as  senior founder member of Bamangwato National Congress (BNC), which was established as a youthful as a pressure group calling for local reform as well as the return from involuntary exile of Seretse Khama.

In the BNC Raditlhadi, along with his peer Kgalemang Tumedisho Motsete, helped mentor an emerging generation of activists whose ranks included Lenyeletse Seretse, Moutlkakgolo Nwako, Monametse Cheipe and Kenneth Koma.

 In 1954, Raditlhadi revived the Bechuanaland Protectorate African Workers’ Union, and in the same year founded the Francistown African Cultural Organisation.  The latter served as a forum for educated township dwellers, whose membership included Phillip Gaonwe Matante.

Usually writing under his nom de plume, “Observer” Raditlhadi also became a regular contributor of articles for the Naledi ya Botswana newspaper, which from 1958 was locally edited by Ketumile Masire.

Following Seretse Khama’s return to Botswana, Leetile was finally allowed to move back to Serowe in 1957.  In 1959, when the British announced the imminent formation of the Legislative Council, Leetile formed the Bechuanaland Protectorate Federal Party (BPFP), also known as the Liberal Party.  The BPFP manifesto declared its opposition to the domination of local and Protectorate politics by diKgosi. In this respect it was widely perceived that Raditlhadi was still mobilizing against the influence of Tshekedi Khama and his close ally the Bangwaketse Kgosi Bathoen II.

BPFP growth was stunted at an early age, however, when Raditlhadi accepted the position of Subordinate African Authority for Mahalapye.  The party was finally eclipsed in the early 1960s by the rise of the Bechuanaland People’s Party and Bechuanaland Democratic Party.

During his later years, Raditladi was pushed aside by the new generation of politicians, many of whom had begun their careers in organisations he had formed.

Leetile Radilhadi is widely recognized the pioneering giants of Setswana literature.  His works include Sefalana sa Menate (a collection of poetry), the historical dramas Sekgoma and Motswasele II, and the novel Dintshontsho tsa lorato.  Social justice and royal despotism are central themes in nearly all of his writings.

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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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