After fifty years of independence, which coincides with the end of Vision 2016, and the commencement of Vision 2036, it is apposite that we take stock of our successes and failures. As shall be shown below, though Botswana has done well in most facets, there are certain arears that need improvement.
Various international rating agencies such as the Legatum Prosperity Index (LPI) have ranked Botswana highly. The LPI has, for many years, ranked Botswana top of the 142 African countries. In 2013, the African Leadership Index (ALI) placed Botswana 1st in Africa and 41st in the world in good governance while emerging 32nd out of 162 countries in the most peaceful index.
Even our leaders have been ranked highly. In 2008, former president Festus Mogae won the Mo Ibrahim prize which is given to a democratically-elected African head of government who leaves power peacefully, according to their nation’s constitution. In 2013, the ALI ranked President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama as the best leader in Africa, getting an A grade.
Consistently, under personal wellbeing, which encompasses freedom of speech, and religion, national tolerance for immigrants and ethnic and racial minorities, Botswana has fared well. The area of freedom of press and speech has, however, not been without fault.
Notable was the 2008 enactment of the infamous Media Practitioners’ Act, which, if fully implemented, could curtail both freedom of press and speech. Also of note is government’s refusal to enact the Freedom of Information Act which allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by government.
That notwithstanding, Batswana generally enjoy freedom of press and speech. People are rarely persecuted for criticizing government. There are, however, instances where some government media talk shows have allegedly been censored because the hosts or guests propagated anti-government views.
There has been reports that some journalists, e.g. Sakaeo Jane and Joshua Ntopolelang, have been victimized, maliciously transferred, sidelined and suspended from Botswana Television because they are believed to be pro-Opposition. Fortunately, in both cases our courts, which are truly independent, intervened.
In 2014 Sunday Standard Editor, Outsa Mokone, and reporter, Edgar Tsimane, faced sedition charges for publishing a story which alleged that President Khama was the driver of a car that was involved in a night-time road accident. While Mokone was arrested and charged, Tsimane fled to South Africa to seek asylum.
According to Sunday Standard’s online edition of 3rd May 2015, this resulted in Botswana’s press freedom rankings dropping by three points, from 41 to 44, something which, no doubt, tainted our democratic credentials.
Also, in the past, private media regarded as sympathetic to the opposition were denied government advertising under the guise of cost saving. In the run-up to the 2014 general elections, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) declined to participate in Parliamentary debates hosted by a private radio station, Gabz FM, accusing it of being pro-Opposition.
Not even the most fervent of government and Khama’s critics can claim there is no freedom of religion in Botswana. All religions practice their faiths without censor. Almost all the world’s religions are taught from primary level though this is contradicted by the fact that school events, e.g. assemblies, are conducted in terms of the Christian faith.
There is, therefore, room for improvement since this suggests Christianity is the state religion. For instance, while in courts Christians make an oath in terms of the Holy Bible, non-Christians, including adherents of other religions, make a non-religious affirmation. Further, only Christian festivals, e.g. Christmas, Good Friday and Easter are recognized as holidays.
Though some immigrants, e.g. Professor Kenneth Good have been declared Prohibited Immigrants for being critical of government, there is national tolerance for immigrants. Even illegal immigrants, once arrested, are put under secure custody, and are provided with basic needs until repatriation. However, government needs to improve in terms of allowing immigrants access to health care, including AIDS treatment.
It was an embarrassment when our government fought all the way to the Court of Appeal (CoA) to deny non-citizen HIV positive prisoners access to Anti-Retroviral (ARV) medication and treatment. This stood against what our country is renowned for, Botho and respect for human dignity.
Thankfully, in 2015, the CoA upheld these values, and ruled in favour of the prisoners, saying the constitutional declarations that the foreign inmates sought only served to bolster the central complaint, which was that they were being denied the right to medical care as per the provisions of the Prisons Act.
Botswana has fared badly regarding respect for ethnic minority rights, especially Basarwa. Government has trampled on the rights of Basarwa by, among other things, in 1986, attempting to forcibly relocate them from their ancestral land, the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR). Even after the courts ruled that as unlawful government attempted to force Basarwa out of their land by ceasing the provision of such basic services as water.
Mother tongue education and recognition of cultural diversity can go a long way in improving respect for ethnic minority rights. That notwithstanding, government has resisted calls to introduce mother tongue education. However, government needs to be commended for amending the constitution to entrench ethnic parity though tribal discrimination still subtly exists at a practical level.
Under the Social Capital sub index, which includes the percentage of citizens who volunteer, give to charity, help strangers and feel they can rely on family and friends, Botswana has, over the years, also fared well. This is in fact the hallmark of our being as Batswana.
It is these attributes that form the basis of such institutions as Home Based Care, Village Development Committees, Parents Teachers Associations, Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society Organizations. In fact, it can be argued that were it not for such attributes our economic prosperity and peace and stability would have been diminished.
Under the Economy sub index, which measures performance in the areas of macro-economic policies, economic satisfaction and expectations, foundation for growth and financial sector efficiency, Botswana has also fared well. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund and such rating agencies as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s have repeatedly rated Botswana as one of the most stable economies.
That notwithstanding, Botswana needs to do better in such areas as economic diversification, poverty reduction, employment creation, rural development, etc. While government hand-outs and such relief programmes as Ipelegeng are of assistance to the poor and vulnerable, emphasis on them at the expense of real economic development can only be to our detriment.
Under the Entrepreneurship & Opportunity sub index, which measures entrepreneurial environment, innovative activity and access to opportunity, Botswana has also fared well. Though corruption hampers delivery, such agencies as Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency, Local Enterprise Authority, Youth Development Fund and Young Farmers Fund, avail entrepreneurial opportunities for Batswana.
The easing of the company registration process; tax regime liberalization and establishment of such regulatory entities as the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority and the Competition Authority have also gone a long way in entrepreneurship development. There is, however, need to improve access to entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth, women, people with disabilities, and those in remote and rural areas.
Under the Governance sub index, which measures effective and accountable government, fair elections, political participation and the rule of law, Botswana has also fared well. We have regular elections; there is multi-party democracy; no political party has ever been banned and we do not have political prisoners.
However, Botswana needs to deepen its democracy through political party funding; direct presidential elections; abolition of Specially Elected Members of Parliament and Nominated Councilors; fair delimitation of constituencies; making the Independent Electoral Commission truly independent of government; respect for trade unions, and increased representation in governance for women, the youth and other marginalized groups.
The Ombudsman, though in existence, is toothless and has not effectively addressed issues of maladministration within government. For instance, despite the then Ombudsman, Lethebe Maine, in 1999, finding that it was wrong for the then Vice President, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, flying Botswana Defence Force (BDF) aircraft, his finding was not taken heed of.
That there is access to justice and judicial independence means there is respect for the rule of law. However, the rule of law is threatened by politically motivated presidential pardons, and the occasional disregard for procedural propriety by the Directorate on Public Service Management, especially in relation to trade unions.
One issue which has left a stain in our judicial independence was the 2015 suspension of four judges, justices Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Ranier Busang and Mercy Garekwe, who were suspended on allegations of misconduct and bringing the name of the judiciary into disrepute.
According to Mmegi online edition of 23rd September 2016, “The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has challenged President Ian Khama’s government to respect the independence of the judiciary following the suspension and impeachment proceedings…” We can, however, not comment more on the matter since it is still before the courts.
Under the Health sub index, which measures performance in basic health outcomes, health infrastructure, preventative care, physical and mental health satisfaction, Botswana has also fared well. There are health posts and clinics in almost all villages and settlements; hospitals which include 16 primary, 7 district, 3 referral, 2 mission and 2 private hospitals.
There is free preventative vaccination; there is free treatment for such diseases as AIDS, etc. We also have such world class mental and/or psychiatric health care facilities as Jubilee and S’brana hospitals in Francis town and Lobatse respectively.
Under the Safety & Security sub index, which measures performance in national security and personal safety, Botswana has also fared well. There is no civil strife; no civil wars; no curfews; no terrorist attacks, etc.
There has, however, been troubling incidents of torture and extra judicial killings, notably the 2009 murder of John Kalafatis by security agents. That when the Directorate of Public Prosecutions prosecuted the accused the BDF paid for the accused’s legal fees, and following conviction, President Khama pardoned them, diminished some Batswana’s sense of security and safety. It also brought into question the President’s respect for judicial independence.
In view of the aforegoing, one can conclude that though there is much to celebrate as we look back at fifty years of independence, there is need for improvement in the areas highlighted above if we are to celebrate our independence in full.
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.
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”
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.”
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.
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.
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.