I was one of the many to attend a breakfast event hosted by Americans to celebrate, as the invite described, the process of democracy on the occasion of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections. In attendance were Americans, Batswana and many ex-pats. When I received the invite a week ago I jokingly remarked that I was delighted to accept the opportunity to come and see Donald Trump become the new president, a jokey aside met with corresponding amusement from my American friends.
The night before, most of the guests thought they were going there to welcome in Hillary Clinton as the new president; by 6am, although the final result was not known, the writing was very much on that Mexican wall and the first bricks had been metaphorically laid; for many they had woken up to a nightmare. Someone asked at the breakfast “Do you think I am dreaming and still sleeping?” I said ‘No. The food is too bad and you wouldn’t notice that in a dream.’
Let me tell you, the mood felt somber, people seemed stunned and the feeling of disbelief palpable. What just happened? A week or so ago I questioned how could this racist, rude, arrogant misogynist, Trump even make it to the final scene of what I called America’s finest political soap opera, never mind now being President elect?
A few months ago Donald Trump was accusing Barrack Obama of not having been born in the USA and demanding his birth certificate and today, as I write this, the two are taking tea together at the White House. The past few days radio stations and television shows have been awash with discussions on what happened and why and all it seems to boil down to half of America’s people want change and it doesn’t matter what it looks like.
The way I see it is that you have a whole bunch of people (white working class folks) who are so fed up with their hard knock life, the way Washington is run, immigration, and healthcare and so on that they wanted to send a message. With nothing left to lose I suspect that they won’t really expect Trump to deliver on everything he promised, they most likely just want jobs and if that is all he produces, then it will be enough, for them at least.
But then there are the others …many typified by those Americans at this event, where the Donald Trump win leaves them feeling confused, hurt and depressed. No-one said as much but I suspect that as Trump is now their presumptive new boss (over a million civil servants indirectly report to the President) it would be wise not to verbalize as such. A few hours previously these people were readying for an historic and progressive event where the first woman president of the US would be declared.
They had not bargained for the appointment of a man who had been described as the least qualified in experience and temperament to ever run in a US presidential contest. It was as if they could not fully comprehend what was happening and why; with fear that the progress which had been made under Obama was not only being halted but that the country was regressing on issues of race, sex, civil values and so on.
The conundrum was illustrated as the final results of the nail-biting presidential election rolled in, CNN correspondent Van Jones articulated what many were thinking: A Donald Trump presidency is hard for parents to explain, and scary for immigrants to experience. "People have talked about a miracle. I'm hearing about a nightmare," he said early Wednesday morning. "You tell your kids: Don't be a bully… don't be a bigot… do your homework and be prepared. And then you have this outcome. You have people putting children to bed tonight, and they're afraid of breakfast.
They're afraid of 'How do I explain this to my children?' I have Muslim friends who are texting me tonight, 'Should I leave the country?' I have families of immigrants that are terrified tonight." He continued, with wet eyes: "This was a rebellion against the elites, true, it was a complete reinvention of politics… but it was also something else. We haven't talked about race but this was a 'white-lash' against a changing country … against a black president in part. And that's the part where the pain comes."
As I write this there are protestors in the streets of major cities with signs saying “Not our president”. Perhaps not but it is your electoral system. I am not sure what the protesters wish to achieve or can achieve. It is clear that Trump has a mandate for 4 years with many pressing problems ahead. I know this is going to be tough. Hillary Clinton herself has appealed to Americans to give him a chance. As the US is a democracy and the people have spoken, they have a responsibility to accept this decision (ironically even though I guess Trump wouldn’t if the tables had been turned).
For me I will be watching with interest. He is unqualified and unsuitable for the job and that in recruitment is a recipe for disaster. But there is also something called a surprise fit and as this is a surprise election result perhaps a surprise will surprise us all. It can’t get any crazier, surely? Only time will tell.
STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at www.hrmc.co.bw
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.
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.
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.