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The push back against Dr. Moitoi is motivated by sexism!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima


According to the 2018 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), Botswana scored 21.1%; 69.6%; 70.7%; 75.0%, 0%, 58.3% and 86.3% for promotion of gender equality, women’s political representation, gender parity in primary and lower secondary school, women’s labour force participation, workplace gender equality, representation of women in the judiciary, laws on violence against women and women’s political empowerment respectively.

She attained positions 51; 25; 21; 1; 44; 12; and 13 respectively. Overall, in Gender, Botswana scored 54.4%, taking position 29, but considering the 10-year average of 2008 to 2017 she had an increasing deterioration of -8.2.  This is not surprising. Since independence in 1966, Botswana has never had a female President nor Vice President. Today, out of a cabinet of seventeen ministers only three are women. Of the fifty-seven elected Members of Parliament (MPs) only three are women.

As has been the case with previous Parliaments, despite the low number of elected female MPs, the President did not take advantage of the provision for Specially Elected Members of Parliament (SEMPs) to appoint more women. Regrettably, of the six SEMPs only two are women. It is only as regards the position of Speaker of the National Assembly that women have had a fair chance in Botswana’s political arena. Both the current Speaker, Honourable Gladys Kokorwe, and her predecessor, Honourable Dr. Margret Nasha, are women.   

It is, therefore, not surprising that Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s announcement that she intends contesting the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s forthcoming presidential elections was met with such venom, even from women themselves. Though there is no evidence that suggests that His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Keabetswe Eric Masisi’s decision to drop her was motivated by gender discrimination, one wonders whether he would have reacted in the manner he did if it were a man who stated an intention to challenge him. 

The danger with patriarchy is that it brain washes its victims, women, to the extent that they end up suffering from self-doubt and self-discrimination. It even lowers their self-esteem and makes them regard themselves with indignation. Also, its perpetrators often have seemingly good reasons to perpetuate it. For instance, they would argue that women are not yet ready to assume certain positions since they still need grooming by men. Others portray the few women who attempt to break the ceiling of patriarchy as power hungry.

When such women’s marriages fail, for instance, they are blamed, the claim being that it is because they could not submit themselves to their husbands that their marriages failed. It is never the men’s fault. Words like o ithaya are lelwapa ke ko Palamenteng are often uttered. 
In my view, the claim that Dr. Venson-Moitoi deserved to be dropped because if she had the interests of the party at heart she would not have acted as she did since her action can only further divide the party is a lame pretext. The real reason behind this claim is sexism and nothing else.  

When there were rumors that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s New Jerusalema faction associated with former president Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama intended to field former cabinet minister, Neo Moroka, to challenge His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Keabetswe Eric Masisi, for the party presidency no body raised this argument.  In politics, if people were to wait until factionalism is no more before they could contest elections they would never contest because factionalism has almost become synonymous with politics.

Besides, politics, like many of life’s undertakings, is a game of opportunities and if contesting now when there is this divide within the BDP is opportune for Dr. Venson-Moitoi let it be. Who does not take advantage of opportunities in life? Didn’t H.E Dr. Masisi himself take advantage of Dr. Khama’s discomfort with some senior members of the party to endear himself to Dr. Khama which saw him appointed Vice President?

Didn’t he abandon Dr. Khama after he ascended to the presidency because he knew that will endear him to a significant part of the population which was against Dr. Khama’s rule? Others argue that because Dr. Venson-Moitoi had stated that she will be retiring from politics at the end of the current Parliament, it is hypocritical for her to be now stating her intention to contest the party presidency.

As argued above, politics, like many of life’s undertakings, is a game of opportunities. Dr. Venson-Moitoi may have made the decision to retire then because of prevailing circumstances at the time. Nothing stops her from changing her mind in view of the current political environment, which has changed significantly.

Didn’t His Honour the Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane, announce his intention to retire from politics. Didn’t he change his mind when the vice presidency came his way. Does he talk of retirement anymore? Why is it an issue when it is Dr. Venson-Moitoi? Is it because she is a woman? Some claim that the only reason Dr. Venson-Moitoi is making a U-turn is that she is an opportunist who wants to take advantage of the rift between Dr. Khama and H.E Dr. Masisi, questioning why she never contested the presidency during Dr. Khama’s tenure.

Some, in this category, claim that Dr. Venson-Moitoi is motivated by tribalism since she cannot live with the fact that a none-MoNgwato is a state president, claiming that she had hoped that Tshekedi Khama II would succeed Khama. Regrettably, the tribalism card is often used by people who do not necessarily believe in tribal parity, but merely use it as a sympathy or scare tactic. In this case, some sexists are using the tribal card to hide their real motive which is gender discrimination.

For the many years that Dr. Venson-Moitoi has served Batswana she has never exhibited a grain of tribalism. She can, therefore, not be accused of tribalism now when she wants to contest the BDP presidency, a hitherto male preserve. Others claim that Dr. Venson-Moitoi is an opportunist who wants to take advantage of the gender ticket to rise to the presidency. Deplorably, some, including women in politics, chastise her for being used by men to meet their political objectives.

It is regrettable that when a woman wants to contest for high office, she is accused of being used by men. Which men? In fact, this is an insult to women because it creates an impression that women are weak and only stand up when they are used by men. This cannot be correct.

This same argument was used against former cabinet minister, Tebelelo Seretse, when she, in 2009, challenged party veteran and former MP for Molepolole South, Daniel Kwelagobe for the party chairpersonship. The same condescending attitude was used against her in 2015 when she challenged H.E Dr. Masisi for the party chairpersonship.

Dr. Venson-Moitoi has also suffered the same wrath before. This is when she, in 2012, contested and lost the party chairpersonship against former Assistant Minister of Finance & Development Planning and MP for Tati East, Honourable Samson Guma Moyo who later abdicated the chairpersonship after serving for a few months. What is even more disappointing is that some women, including Opposition activists, have joined in this self-denigration. But, like I said, we may pardon them because they are victims of the evil of patriarchy.

As a sign of utter desperation some are even claiming that the fact that Dr. Venson-Moitoi is attracting support from some countries and foreign based organizations is a threat to national security. But, has anyone ever questioned the source of funding for male contestants? 
I wonder whether there would be such a debate if it were a male who had indicated an intention to challenge H.E Dr. Masisi. They may not say it publicly, but many of those who are so fearlessly opposed to Dr. Venson-Moitoi’s decision are doing that for no other reason but gender stereotypes.

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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