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Stuart White

You may have come across the phrase  ‘the Fourth Estate’ in regards to The Press, though you may not know how the name came about.  Its origins lie in 18th century England and are attributed to Edmund Burke, who used it in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up of press reporting of the House of Commons .   In using the term, Burke made reference to the earlier division of the three Estates of the British Realm; The Lords Spiritual, The Lords Temporal and the Commons.  Said Burke “There are Three Estates in Parliament; but in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sits a Fourth Estate more important far than they all”

His meaning was clear – that the 3 Parliamentary representative bodies may have existed to govern the land with a mandate from the electorate or through the rights and privileges of inherited peerage but the newly-invited members of the press, there to report on Parliamentary debates and decisions, held in their hands an even greater duty – that of informing the public and acting as their watchdog, guarding against any potential abuse of privilege and power amongst the governing elite.

More than 2 centuries later this vital function of the press is largely regarded as the cornerstone of democracy and open government.  Whenever a dictatorship or oppressive form of rule raises its ugly head, its first rule of business is to muzzle the press, to silence any criticism and shroud its operations in secrecy.  Such totalitarian states may have a form of press or reportage but it is tightly controlled and censored and amounts to little more than state-approved propaganda.  In today’s world an obvious example is North Korea where a succession of totalitarian dictators from Kim Il Sung, to Kim Jong Il and now his son., Kim Jong Un,  the country’s self-appointed and self-styled Supreme Leaders,  rule like Japanese concentration camp commanders. 

State broadcasts from North Korea would be laughable if they were not so obviously state-controlled mouthpieces, singing the praises and prowess of the leader, condemning the evil western puppet masters and glorifying the bounties of a country whose masses are starving and brought to their knees in subservience.  It is a classic cautionary tale of what happens when the 4th Estate is controlled by the State itself.  There is no watchdog for the people.  They have no voice.  They have no say.  And they have no rights. 

So much for North Korea:  But consider what is happening right on our doorstep in neighbouring South Africa where the national broadcaster SABC is becoming increasingly state-controlled and censored, following the 2014 ANC-approved appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as SABC CEO.  Earlier this month the opposition Democratic Alliance  filed an affidavit urging the Supreme Court of Appeal to deny the SABC board, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, and Motsoeneng’s petitions for leave to appeal an earlier Western Cape High Court ruling which in effect set aside his permanent appointment as chief operating officer. 

The case was based on Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings against Motsoeneng in her 2014 report, When Governance and Ethics Fail. Madonsela found that Motsoeneng had fabricated his matric qualification and had irregularly increased his salary from R1.5m to R2.4m in one year.  Judge Dennis Davis, presiding over the case, said the information before Muthambi at the time of Motsoeneng’s promotion was "muddled and unclear", and put her "in no position to exercise a rational decision to elevate him". In May, Judge Davis dismissed the SABC and Motsoeneng’s application for leave to appeal that court’s ruling.

However, Motsoeneng’s lack of qualifications is not the only thorny issue at the SABC.  The SABC only this week announced its intentions to appeal the Labour Court order that it reinstate the four journalists, and would not allow them back into their offices.  Waiting outside, acting head of news Simon Tebele told the four that the SABC was appealing the judgment.

"It has been communicated to me that you cannot come back to work at this stage," Tebele told the journalists.  The journalists were dismissed because they had criticised the broadcaster's policy to not show footage of violent protests.‎  In response to his statement, they  then asked Tebele how the broadcaster could dismiss the labour court judgment.  Tebele responded by saying that SABC lawyers had written to the SABC 4's lawyers "informing them that you could not report for duty". Solidarity trade union’s Dirk Hermann, who is representing the four, told News24 on Wednesday that the SABC was in contempt of court.

“They have done so despite the appeal papers not being processed yet, so technically the SABC is in contempt of court," he said.‎

The Labour Court ruled on Tuesday that four of the eight SABC journalists axed by the broadcaster had to be reinstated.  It also ruled they were entitled to return to work and that the SABC was interdicted from proceeding with their disciplinary hearings before they were dismissed.  The four journalists are Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay and Jacques Steenkamp.  Three other SABC journalists who were recently fired are also heading to Labour Court on Thursday to argue a similar case as the first four.  Busisiwe Ntuli, Thandeka Gqubule and Lukhanyo Calata will also argue for their dismissals to be overturned by the Labour Court, Bemawu representative Hannes du Buisson told News24 on Wednesday.  The three had not been fired at the time of the SABC 4's first application, hence the separate application.

In summary, 7 SABC journalists have been fired by the South African Broadcasting Corporation for objecting to its effective news blackout on the mass protests and destruction of property which have been taking place around the country over the past few months, effectively whitewashing the true state of affairs.  The 4th Estate watchdog is being muzzled in the continent’s largest economy.  Like the 3 brass monkeys, journos are being told to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil; a watchdog with no bark or bite is no use at all and from there it’s but a short hop, skip and a jump to Jacob Zuma proclaiming himself the Supreme Leader he clearly already believes himself to be.  Be afraid, be very afraid.

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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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