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Head in the clouds


Stuart White


Where do you stand on hacking v personal privacy?  It’s been a controversial issue over the past few years, most notably in 2011 with the row over the interception of celebrity cellphone calls and messages by several British newspapers, culminating in criminal charges being brought against The News of the World editor, Rebekah Brooks,  against which she was eventually acquitted,  the successful prosecutions of several NOTW journalists and some from other publications and the dropping of unsubstantiated cases against others.  It even drew in former British Prime Minister David Cameron, a personal friend of Ms Brooks and her husband, referred to as part of the Chipping Norton Set, owing to the fact that Ms. Brooks owned a house in the exclusive Gloucestershire village in Cameron’s constituency and where their two families often entertained each other at weekends.  It even emerged that Ms Brooks had bought a retired police horse called Raisa, in order that Cameron, a keen horse rider, could have the use of it when he was at his country residence.  The implications of an editor of a leading scandal newspaper cosying up with country’s top politician made for uncomfortable reading for both of them and played no small part in the ultimate demise of NOTW, a paper which had first been launched in 1843.

And this month comes another hacking exposé, this one concerning the medical records of several Olympic athletes and their drip-feed release to the international press.  The records are of those held by the World Anti-Doping Agency and though to date, no smoking gun or Lance Armstrong-type scandals have been uncovered,  some of the athletes so far named may rather wish the confidential records had remained just that.  Here’s a run-down of the story so far:

“Twenty five athletes, including Tour de France winning cyclists Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins, are the latest victims of the World Anti-Doping Agency's security breach.  On Sept. 13 WADA  HYPERLINK "" t "_blank" confirmed that a group of Russian hackers had accessed confidential medical records of athletes who participated in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.  After gaining access to WADA's Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS) via an International Olympic Committee account, the Tsar Team (APT28), also referred to as Fancy Bear by cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, leaked confidential medical data of  HYPERLINK "" l "WGzJZY8eddq0" United States athletes including Serena Williams and Simone Biles.

A day later a second round of confidential files  HYPERLINK "" t "_blank" was released, including medical records of 25 athletes: ten from the United States, five from Germany, five from Great Britain, one from the Czech Republic, one from Denmark, one from Poland, one from Romania and one from Russia.  Access to ADAMS allowed the hackers to obtain athletes' Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) covering certain  HYPERLINK "" t "_blank" prohibited drugs that athletes are allowed to take if an illness or condition requires the medicine.  For example, after leaked data showed Simone Biles had tested positive for methylphenidate — a banned WADA substance — also known as Ritalin, the gymnast later  HYPERLINK "" announced her ADHD diagnosis on Twitter and assured fans that she had not broken any drug-testing regulations during the games

In response to the second release, Olivier Niggli, director general of WADA, said, "WADA is very mindful that this criminal attack, which to date has recklessly exposed personal data of 29 athletes, will be very distressing for the athletes that have been targeted; and, cause apprehension for all athletes that were involved in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”  

Though the records showed no indication of wrongdoing, the records will likely raise questions about athlete performance.  “To those athletes that have been impacted, we regret that criminals have attempted to smear your reputations in this way; and, assure you that we are receiving intelligence and advice from the highest level law enforcement and IT security agencies that we are putting into action,” Niggli said.”


And from the sublime to the truly ridiculous, this week also saw the arrest of  an unnamed 35 year-old man in connection with the alleged hacking of Pippa Middleton’s iCloud account.  Ms. Middleton is the sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and her photo collection is said to contain at least one image of her Hedge Fund Manager fiancé James Matthews, as well as presumably many intimate images of her famous sister and her family, which would undoubtedly fetch tidy sums of money in the popular press and celebrity gossip magazines.

So in a way this little discussion has gone full circle – from celebrity phone hacking to hacking of celebrity athletes medical records and right back to celebrity phone hacking, though internet storage.  But the thing they all really have in common is this:  that if you choose to store information either online or accessible via the worldwide spy web, sooner or later someone might well, with a little judicious inter-web digging, chance upon it and decided to capitalise.  Because even as recently as 25 years ago, to hack a celeb’s phone you would have needed to have access to their home and put a physical tap on the line or handset; similarly if you wanted saucy celeb pics you would have had to have filched a few of the family albums, also by stealth and burglary.  And if you wanted anyone’s medical records, that too would have taken a Watergate-style break-in to the relevant medical offices to steal or alternatively photograph the hard-copy papers that made up our medical history back then. 

But that was then and now’s now.  Cellphones are a massive convenience but equally they are massively insecure; and if you really don’t want people to see your intimate pics, don’t post them on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram and don’t store them in the clouds here you have no control over who’s trying to view them.  As far as the World Anti-Doping Agency records are concerned, the real pity is that such a body is ever needed in the first place but this latest hack sure puts a new  and very literal interpretation  on that old gum shoe phrase of ‘getting the dope’.

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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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