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Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White


This interesting revelation appeared in the online Daily Maverick this week:

“Amazon announced Wednesday it was extending its on-demand video streaming service to more than 200 countries, placing "The Grand Tour" and other shows in head-to-head global competition with "Narcos" and other Netflix hits.  Until now, Amazon Prime Video was available only in the United States, Britain, Germany, Austria and Japan.


The giant retailer announced it was offering the service at no additional cost to existing customers of Amazon Prime in Belgium, Canada, France, India, Italy and Spain. For customers in the new markets, the service is being offered at an introductory price of $2.99 (euros) per month for the first six months, instead of the standard $5.99 (euros).


Programmes can be watched at any time through an app for smartphones and tablets, and through internet-enabled TV, Amazon said. Subscribers can also download all titles to mobile devices for viewing offline.  Netflix expanded to 190 countries at the start of 2016, billing itself as the first global television service.


Amazon's flagship programme is "The Grand Tour," a lavishly-funded and critically-acclaimed version of BBC's laddish car series, "Top Gear".  The company hired its colourful host, Jeremy Clarkson and two loyal co-stars, after the BBC dropped Clarkson for punching a producer.  The BBC came back with a rebooted version featuring new presenters but the programme suffered mediocre reviews.


Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are investing heavily in programming, winning plaudits for creativity.  Together they have spent some $7.5 billion — more than competitors CBS, HBO, or Turner, according to analysts IHS Markit.  Netflix's hit series include "House of Cards," "Orange is the New Black" and "Narcos".  It has planned for more than 1,000 hours of original programming next year and expanded its content budget to some $6 billion.


Original Amazon productions "Transparent" and "Mozart in the Jungle" won prestigious Emmy Awards in the US.  Prime Video is a perk of an Amazon subscription service that includes free delivery of products bought at its online store, which has moved dramatically beyond its early days as a bookseller.”


Research Company CIRP estimated in late September that in the US alone there were 65 million, up 38 percent from a year earlier.  That’s an awful lot of subscribers, even for a big country like the USA so they must be doing something right and of course the company expanded coverage to southern Africa earlier this year, though there are no available figures on subscriptions; and only time will tell if Amazon Prime will overtake the mind-boggling Netflix numbers but already The Grand Tour is a grand pull and that’s just one of their offerings.


What this expansion means locally is that DSTV Multichoice will shortly be experiencing a seismic shift in its broadcasting stranglehold and regional monopoly.  With only one satellite television service on offer hereabouts, they have enjoyed almost 2 decades of Hobson’s choice subscriptions and it’s fair to say that they have played on that fact in terms of output and economics. 


You only have to browse any social media site to come across complaints about its service, though often the nature of the complaints indicate that the general public – i.e. their customer base – does not fully understand how a satellite provider operates.  Oft times, for example, you will hear moans of how there are too many repeats, something the moaners lay firmly at the feet of Mulitchoice, not understanding that the company has no control whatsoever over the content of their bouquet of channel broadcasters.


So what will those same customers make of subscription viewing providers like Amazon Prime and Netflix, then?  The best way to describe them is that it’s akin to having a superlative collection of DVDs and series which you have somehow put together on a massive memory stick and which you can access 24-7; and that from time to time you can add to your collection with some new offerings. 


So there are no presenters or personalities because they are neither channels nor networks; there are no news broadcasts nor sports fixtures; there are no adverts; and there are no reality shows:  All there is is a vast selection of popular drama and comedy series and movies, which are added to from time to time and the only ‘repeats’ are by subscriber choice – just like re-watching your favourite DVDs. 


So if you were to throw caution to the wind and drop your Multichoice subscription in favour of these 2 subscription giants, you would need to source an additional sports provider such as ESPN and you would lose out on all news coverage. 


And yet, would that matter too much?  After all, much of our viewing is now done on computer, tablet or smartphone so it’s perfectly possible to watch some happening events such as rolling news and sports matches online, then turn to your big home television screen for your comedy, drama and movies.


The way the world watches television has shifted dramatically over the years from a single set in the sitting room and a handful of available channels with families all sitting down together and enjoying the same programmes, through to multiple sets throughout the house and multiple channel options with everyone in the house watching their personal favourites on their own; and now our viewing is undergoing arguably the greatest innovation since John Logie Baird first invented the television set. 


There is, in fact, no real need for a television set at all.  Our viewing can be completely portable, miniaturised, blown up; it can be at our desk, in our home, out and about and even in the car; and it can be made to measure and cherry-picked, no longer restricted to a choice of this bouquet or that. 


In fact there’s only one sure thing we can say about this mind-boggling array and surfeit of choice which is that if, like millions all over the world, you were devastated by the loss of Jezza, Hamster and Captain Slow when they left the Beeb, weep no more – just cough up for an Amazon Prime subscription and it’ll be as though they never left.

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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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