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Tis the season to be merry!

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White


Every year around this time my mother would proclaim “it doesn’t feel like Christmas this year” as if some invisible Scrooge with a big vacuum cleaner had sucked away Santa along with the world’s supply of tinsel and whatever else makes Christmas what it is. I would roll my eyes and think ‘Oh mother, you say that every year’.


So when I caught myself thinking the very same thing this year I stopped dead in my tracks, wondering if this was this my mother’s spirit speaking through me? Or maybe, on reflection, this is what happens as you get older?  Or is it simply a case of this year something really just doesn’t feel right?


I am not particularly drawn to any specific holiday although I do look forward to and appreciate the time off from work and the license and freedom to do guilt-free things like not work, be lazy, overeat and drink and not go to gym. There is complete permission for immoderation and to be what you weren’t for the whole year.


As I am not a religious person the holiday holds no sacred significance for me, but of all of the holidays, Christmas has a heart and soul and is my most favoured because of its energy, charm and “camp-ness” – shopping, tinsel and sparkly baubles!  Let’s face it you can't get much camp-ier than that!


There is a allure about Christmas that you can only properly appreciate in the northern hemisphere where the sky is dark  for a good part of the day which contrasts magically with the Christmas trees with its pretty flashing lights, illuminated street decorations and Christmas window displays like tableau works of art.


And if the Gods are kind, snowflakes will be falling,  covering the ground in a white blanket of snow.  As a little boy taking a train ride to Glasgow to see the shops was as good as a trip see Santa’s Grotto in the North Pole.


The real thing might have been out of my parent’s budget and inclination but it was all quite unnecessary anyway as most big department stores had artistically and magically recreated Santa’s Grotto in their premises and brought the big man himself to Glasgow to boot! He was always tucked away in some secret corner where lines of kids would queue before getting to sit on his knee for a picture to be taken.


He would always whisper “have you been a good boy?” and even though you knew the answer was no, you lied and received your present. The experience was terrifying, exhilarating and magical.


This morning as I sat in a coffee shop sweating in the 30 degree heat (cool I know, but it was only mid-morning)I hearing the first Christmas music of the season playing. It felt premature, yet we are in the first week of December. It’s not that I haven’t been exposed to any festive activities yet.


My work Christmas party is tonight and last night I wrapped staff Christmas presents for the party when I had for a moment, toyed with the corny idea of playing one of Bony M or Michael Buble’s Christmas Albums, but this thought vanished just as quick as the rolls of wrapping paper. 


Last week my daughter also commented that it didn’t feel like Christmas to her because we had not put up any decorations. Clearly this ‘where is Christmas’ feeling is affecting multiple generations in my family. I admit I love Xmas decorations as you get to spruce up your house for a few weeks with kitsch ornaments that otherwise would never be allowed on the premises but which twinkle and sparkle and ostentatiously proclaim the season.


My reasoning for not having the makeover  this year is perfectly logical in that as I am off to Europe next week to spend Christmas in France, there is no point: getting out the boxes with all the Christmas paraphernalia, putting  the tree up, untangling the fairly lights, buying poinsettias from the nursery etc. As my mother’s son it’s a waste of time!


My mother rarely made any effort with Christmas and every year was known to say “I can’t be bothered this year” which by implication suggested it was a one-off reaction, which it wasn’t. There was one year however when she could be bothered and which I can recall vividly because of its extraordinary nature.


I had come home from school and my normally working mum was at home. This was most unusual.  She had cleaned the house, done some baking  (both out of character), the Christmas tree had been put up and dressed, Christmas decorations adorned the house; white plastic reindeers pulling Santa’s glittered sleigh…it was spellbinding. 


It looked amazing, smelt fantastic and felt like what I imagined coming home is supposed to feel like. In truth it may have been none of these things but as perception is reality to me it was as if Betty Crocker, Mary Poppins and Mother Clause had morphed into one – my mother. She looked happy AND it was Christmas. It’s a treasured memory.


As I write this I realise that to capture the magic and wonder of the season—the spirit of Christmas – you have to become involved. It can’t happen by accidentally hearing a Christmas carol and asking yourself “oh is it December already?”


And while you might not deck the halls with boughs of holly, for the most obvious reasons not least of which is you wouldn’t be able to find holly not to mention comprehend what the heck ‘deck’ means and besides, which hall?  Boipuso?, you can make Christmas, just like my mother made it for me that year by psyching yourself up and properly getting in the mood!


So no more Scrooge for me. I am going to put up the Christmas tree this weekend, have an early Christmas lunch with friends and family before I leave on my holiday, play Bony M until the neighbours complain and I am going to search the stores for white plastic reindeer ornaments and sparkly glitter Santa’s and feel the joy and gratitude for what was and what is!  Bon Noel!

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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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