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I’m unhappy to report…..



Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

If I had a pula saved for every article I have written on happiness, its absence, depression and the like I’d have a tidy sum of money so, adding another proverbial coin to the piggy bank I’d like to share a more global yet local view on the subject from this article written by co-Positive Organisational Psychologist, Coach and colleague Celia Potgieter.

Every year, since 2012, a study has been conducted on the happiness levels of almost every nation around the globe – the Global Happiness Report. Shockingly, to me and almost everyone I speak to, every year, Botswana languishes in the bottom portion of the league.  We are one of the unhappiest nations in the world. And it’s getting worse.

Since Gallup started collecting this data in 2005, Botswana has seen the 4th largest drop in score of any country.  To put this into numbers, Botswana’s happiness rating has fallen year on year, from 128th out of 158 countries in 2015, to 148th out of 156 countries in 2019, now sitting snugly between Haiti and Syria. We are the 8th unhappiest country in the world, bedfellows with war-torn and extreme poverty-stricken countries.

How is this possible and why this peaceful, democratic, middle-income nation scores so low in the rankings? 

So, I tried to dig deeper into the data, and come up with some answers.

The first area I looked at was Democracy.  This is a big factor in African countries, where the concept is still relatively embryonic, and people are looking to their elected governments to improve their living conditions.  I wondered whether Batswana are disappointed with how the government is performing, but the most recent study from AfroBarometer (2016-2018) revealed that in general, people consider the government to be doing reasonably well; they support automatic succession of the Vice President to President; and they think that the government is doing a good job of managing the economy. 


The next area of investigation was Poverty.  The Lived Poverty Index (LPI) used by AfroBarometer measures experiences of deprivation, including going without food, water, and electricity.  Using the LPI, it was found that there is a strong negative correlation between happiness and lived poverty.  For example, one of the world’s poorest nations, Burundi, scores very low in happiness (but still higher than us at 145th), whilst Mauritius has low Lived Poverty, and scores far higher on the happiness index (57th). 

But, Botswana does not score badly on the Lived Poverty Index.  Most people (82%) have easy access to running water (compared with the African average of 63%) and only 22% of people do not have an electric connection to their homes from the mains (compared with 35% Africa average).  Similarly, food security is slightly better in Botswana than the African average, with 7% of Batswana reporting having gone without food many times over the past 12 months, compared with 11% for the continent’s average.


Next was Corruption.  Could that be the key factor affecting the nation’s happiness?  The Global Happiness Report has found a relationship between happiness and corruption, where long-term changes in corruption levels, and citizen’s perception of their government’s performance in fighting corruption, correlate with happiness levels.  This is where the data for Botswana gets a little tricky.  53.5% of respondents to the 2016-2018 AfroBarometer study reported that corruption has increased somewhat or a lot. 

To give more detail, 81.7% of respondents think that either all, most, or some government officials are involved in corruption, and 68.9% think that ordinary people who report incidents of corruption, risk retaliation.  This is worryingly high, yet at the same time, 62.2% of respondents said they agree or strongly agree that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption and 51.5% think that government is doing well or fairly well at handling corruption in government.  So, it appears that there is a perceived problem of corruption, but also optimism about the way that it is being tackled.


Rather than democracy, poverty or corruption, we could, perhaps, be looking at a simple case of the effects of extreme inequality.  As at 2009, Botswana has a GINI score of 60.5.  The GINI measures the level of inequality in a nation, with 0 being a score of perfect equality, and 100 of perfect inequality.  Botswana is up there with the most unequal countries in the world.  In other words, a tiny fraction of the population earns and owns the majority of the country’s wealth, whilst the majority of the population are barely surviving.

In the education world, this inequality leads us to a scenario where rich children, who live in Extension 11, go to private school, have extra tuition, and countless other privileges and advantages, are scored on the same exam system (BGCSE) as poor children living in Old Naledi who often leave for school in the morning on an empty stomach, and return at the end of the day to either an unsafe environment, or a home where they are expected to take care of sick or elderly relatives and younger siblings. 

A school grade for the latter child, is definitely not an indication of the extent of his or her capabilities, and yet, their futures are determined in this way.

In terms of the values of our nation, this inequality also raises some interesting points: 85% of respondents say they agree or strongly agree that people must pay their taxes, and yet, 74.7% of respondents think that it is likely or very likely that a rich person could pay a bribe or use personal connections to get away with avoiding paying taxes they owe to government. 

Additionally, 63.8% of respondents said that they either strongly agree or agree that the law must require senior government officials to declare assets, a topic that has been quickly shut down whenever it has been raised in parliament, resulting in the poorer members of society, believing that the law is there to support the rich and their personal and cultural values being disregarded by those in authority.

I have often wondered at the lack of citizen participation in the nation’s affairs, but the data has also turned up some interesting figures on this topic.

As I perceived, 85% of respondents said they had never contacted a member of parliament about some important issue or to give them their views.  And now I think I understand why.  77.8% of respondents think that MPs never, or only sometimes, try their best to listen to what people have to say.  If you do not believe that anyone is going to listen, why bother speaking out?  Which is a shame, particularly in today’s politically volatile climate.

I suspect that the current behaviour of some MPs might differ if the 79.8% of people who said they approve or strongly approve of MPs who resign from their party being forced to vacate their seat, had spoken out and made this clear to their government.

Sadly, as interesting as this data is, I still feel that I am missing something vital.  What is the main cause of our beloved country ranking so low, year after year, for happiness?  What is missing from our lives that makes citizens feel unhappy?



Academic studies have demonstrated that for humans to flourish, we need a core set of factors to be present in our lives. These are: positive relationships (arguably the most important factor); a sense of seeking and finding meaning in our lives and work; engagement in the world around us; working toward personally meaningful goals and a sense of achievement and progress; a healthy and vital body; and moments of joy.

And out of this flourishing, we see numerous, far-reaching results. 

People who are happy tend to be healthier, perform at higher levels, set goals and attain them, look out for others, are more generous, more creative, have better communication skills, lower stress levels, earn more money, attain higher positions in work and live longer,

How can we weave these factors into the fabric of our society, so that even in times of hardship, our citizens feel supported, resilient, optimistic, capable, connected, and hopeful?  How can we bring the science of happiness into our homes, schools, and places of work, so we can do better, and be better?

My hope is that we can use this disappointing ranking as a wake-up call to start an open and honest national debate, and hopefully, just maybe, next year we’ll see a different result.

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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
FATED “JIHADI” JOHN

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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