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Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent demystified


Nowadays, young people have an enquiring minds and I recently came across a post of a young person on social media asking who was Princess Marina and why one of the biggest government referral hospitals was named after her.

It would appear that the person in question was not happy about the naming of the hospital after somebody that Batswana hardly knew. There are institutions all over this country that are named after individuals who have made a mark, one way or another in the history of Botswana. Some of the icons who have had the honour of having institutions named after them include She John Nswazwi of the Bakalanga-ba-ka Nswazwi, the legendary segaba player, Ratsie Setlhako, the first  President of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama, Kgosi Kgari Sechele of the Bakwena and the celebrated radio announcer, Phillip Moshotle among others. 

As mentioned before, many of these individuals have made an impact in the history of Botswana and but still many have never heard anything about this woman, Princess Marina. Princess Marina was born on November 30, 1906 to noble Greek and Danish families. Her father was Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark. Her family was generally poor and forced into exile when she was 11 following the overthrow of the Greek monarchy.

She became a member of the British royal family when she married Prince George of Kent, the fourth son of King George V of the United Kingdom (UK) on November 29, 1934 and became known as Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent. Princess Marina was the last foreign princess to marry into the British royal family. After her husband’s death, the Duchess of Kent, continued to be an active member of the British royal family carrying out a wide range of royal official assignments on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II.

Princess Marina represented the Queen at the first Independence Day celebration in Botswana which took place on September, 30 1966. This was the second African country she had visited on a royal assignment the first having been Ghana on the occasion of her independence in 1957. This event most certainly made the princess an important part of the history of the country no wonder,  she is one of the few members of the British royal family who has had an institution named after her in Botswana.

One can only guess that while the Queen was somewhere nicer and cooler, it was the Princess who had to bear the unbearable September Botswana heat and dust as she observed the Independence Day proceedings. There is no doubt that as a representative of the Queen, she was afforded all the respect that a royal deserved and that under the sweltering heat, she delivered a message from the Queen herself. Unfortunately, Princess Marina was not able to make a follow-up visit to Botswana because she died on August, 27 1968.  

Interestingly, a local magazine carried a story that gave readers a glimpse into Princess Marina’s Botswana visit when one Trevor Bottomely, a government officer at the time noted that prior to the event, she like other women in Gaborone wondered if she had chosen a suitable dress for the occasion. The same Bottomely, who had been tasked with executing fireworks display at the conclusion of the handing-over ceremony would also note that, “…another rocket, finished, sparking and spluttering under the car which was waiting to take Princess Marina back to her residence.”

A eulogy published in a UK newspaper described Princess Marina’s funeral thus: “Senior members of the Royal Family have attended the funeral of Princes Marina, the Duchess of Kent, Princess marina, 61 died on Tuesday from an inoperable brain tumour, only hours after it was revealed that she was seriously ill.” According to the report, the mourners were led by her niece by marriage Queen Elizabeth II. Although she died only two years after visiting Botswana, it is clear Princess Marina’s legacy will remain in this country for many years to come given the fact that the largest referral hospital in the country was named after her.

Perhaps individuals who have been present at the first Independence Day will be challenged to write a broader article focusing on the princess. We, as a nation need to rewrite our history so that our children and their children get to understand it better.

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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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