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School re-opening during COVID-19-the health, educational and logistical dilemma!

Government’s announcement that it intends to open schools on 2nd June and 16th June for completing classes and all other classes respectively, has caused a debate as to whether it is safe in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trade unions, especially Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union(BOSETU) and Botswana Teachers Union(BTU) argue that the shortage of classrooms, laboratories, toilets, washing basins, etc will make the observance of social distancing and hygiene impossible, risking an uncontrollable spread of COVID-19.

Government, on the other hand, argues that the aforesaid constraints notwithstanding, opening schools is important lest our children lag behind to an extent which will be difficult of remediation in future.

Additionally, government argues that schools have been assigned funds to address the infrastructural concerns raised by the trade unions. The latter argues that such is just not enough.

You would recall that trade unions have, for years now, been urging government to build more classrooms and laboratories, as well as employing more teachers to reduce the teacher-student ratio, which is remarkably high.

Trade unions have also, for years now, urged government to eradicate pit latrines in schools not only for hygiene purposes, but also to avoid students, especially at primary school level, falling into pit latrines.

There is, no doubt, a serious backlog which has accumulated over the years, and such backlog cannot have been addressed in the two months that schools were closed during the lockdown. In my view, the backlog will take at least twenty years to eradicate.

Be that as it may, schools must open at one point or another. The question is: when would it be appropriate for schools to re-open, and in what manner? It is this question that this article seeks to answer.

A survey of what other countries have done may be helpful. According to France24, France’s Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, reported that France has recorded 70 new cases of COVID-19 in schools that were allowed to reopen last week.

The classes had been capped at 10 students for preschools and 15 students for other age groups. Blanquer described the number as a very small proportion of the 1.4 million schoolchildren who had gone back.

In the United Kingdom, there are plans to re-open schools from 1st June though trade unions are opposed to the decision. Some local Councils have threatened to defy the national government and not re-open as planned, arguing that opening so early poses a risk of a second COVID-19 spike.

In South Africa, government also intends to re-open schools in June, but trade unions, especially the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), have threatened to advice teachers not to go back to work until it is safe to do so.

South Africa’s Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, has defended government’s decision to re-open, arguing that it would be unfair for those who do not want to re-open to disadvantage those who want to re-open.

She has advised parents who are not ready to have their children go back to school to make arrangements for home schooling and advise the schools accordingly.

From the above, it is clear that the trend is to have schools re-open in June. The Botswana government is, therefore, not alone in that regard. But this is not a case of the majority, is it? It is a question of life and death where rationale, not numbers, must prevail.

The question is: if we re-open in June, don’t we risk a second COVID-19 spike as it happened in France?

According to the guidelines given by the Ministry of Health & Wellness, all institutions, including schools, must practice social distancing, where people must be about two meters apart.

In my view, if we still have classes of more than forty students, some of whom share chairs, desks, textbooks and laboratory equipment, social distancing is not feasible in schools.

There is also the requirement for keeping registers, taking temperatures, and recording such. For urban schools, we start with combis in the morning, as early as 5:30 am, in the cold of winter. At that time, combis are in a rush and students struggle for combis with those going to work. Is it realistic that combi operators will keep registers; take temperatures and record such?

This routine must be done at schools, too. If you take a senior secondary school, for instance, with 2000 students, how is this possible if the school has only two thermometers, for instance? Even fifty thermometers will not be enough.

Even if the students arrive at school as early as 6:00 am, it is near impossible for them to complete all the said protocols in time to start their lessons at, say, 7:45 am?

Then there is the requirement to wash hands regularly. Will our schools have enough washing basins and soap or sanitizers for such? Even if we had enough, how many students will wash their hands, especially in the cold of winter?

Then there is the requirement to wear face masks. I suspect it will be difficult for students, especially at lower primary school to wear face masks at all, or to wear them properly.

Then there are boarding schools whose hostels are, as of necessity, congested, with bunker beds and shared showers. In some schools, about 98% of students are boarders. How is social distancing and hygiene ensured in such an environment?

Then there is mealtime where students queue for meals; seat in groups when they eat; and gather at the tap for washing their hands and utensils after meals.

Then there are primary school students, especially at lower levels, who, even if they may have been told that COVID-19 is a deadly virus, may not have the cognitive and affectionate ability to comply with the social distancing and hygiene protocols.

If strict regard is had to the aforegoing, schools would not re-open in June, even in January 2021. But that cannot be, for that will have devastating consequences in the long term. We must make do with what we have and re-open schools as soon as it is safe to do so for the sake of our children’s future.

When and how, then, should we re-open schools? I give three alternatives in order of priority. In my view, it would be safer if schools re-opened in July, not June. As you are aware, June is the coldest month of the year, during which many people contact the influenza virus and suffer bouts of flue.

If we open in June, we may face a double jeopardy of flue and COVID-19 in schools. It is common knowledge that when somebody has flue, they have a temperature rise, something which will pose a challenge considering the requirement to take temperatures for COVID-19.

As per the COVID-19 protocols, we may end up having to refer many students whose temperatures are more than 37.4 Degrees Celsius not because of COVID-19, but because of a common cold. This will, no doubt, overwhelm our system.

We also have students with such underlying illnesses as Asthma. Ordinarily, such conditions worsen in winter. Some may be triggered by allergies, and some students may be allergic to the sanitizers that will be used.

Alternatively, only completing classes (i.e. Standard 7, Form 3 and Form 5) could re-open in June, and the rest re-open in January 2021. This would free up classrooms; laboratories; hostels and dining halls, making compliance with the COVID-19 social distancing and hygiene protocols feasible.

Alternatively, only Form 5s could re-open in June and the rest, including Standard 7s and Form 3s, could re-open in January 2021. As you are aware, we have automatic progression from Standard 7 to Form 1. We also have near automatic progression from Form 3 to Form 4.

There would, therefore, be limited impact on Standard 7s and Form 3s since their examinations are, for all intents and purposes, more formative than summative.

To cater for the subject matter they would have lost, a bridging course and/or remedial lessons may be developed for January 2021. Also, the Form 1s and Form 4s could open early and have reduced school vacations to cover up for lost time.

In any event, students taking such practical subjects as Agriculture, Home Economics and Design & Technology have already lost a lot of time in preparing for their practical examinations.

You may be aware that government has hinted at the possibility of using the double shift system in terms of which a class would be split into two, with each sub-class coming to school at different times.

This system has been used before and it was stopped because of the numerous problems it presented. Besides overworking teachers, something which affected their delivery and led to poor results among students, some students were attacked and raped by criminals because they had to knock of late from school.

In the COVID-19 era, this would be problematic because students, especially in urban areas, would be put at the risk of boarding combis which have not been sanitized and without the requisite social distancing since such protocols are unlikely to be observed when it is dark, especially in winter.

So far, we have mainly talked about students. But there are also teachers and support staff who also have to social distance and comply with hygiene protocols. Not only that. These teachers and support staff, who are limited in number, must ensure that students comply with the protocols.

For instance, in the mornings, it is teachers or support staff who will have to ensure that students are registered; have their temperatures taken and recorded and wash their hands or sanitize. Do we have such capacity?

In conclusion, I wish to advise that the decision to re-open schools must be taken soberly. When teachers and trade unions suggest that the re-opening should be delayed, they should not be perceived as not wanting to go back to work.

Similarly, when government officials argue for re-opening of schools, they should not be regarded as careless, and wanting to put children’s lives at risk. Both the teachers and the government officials are parents and none of them wants to put the children’s lives in jeopardy.

The guiding principle for both should be to strike a balance between continuing the children’s education and avoiding a second COVID-19 spike, something which will result in closure of schools, again.

*Ndulamo Anthony Morima, LLM(NWU); LLB(UNISA); DSE(UB); CoP (BAC); CoP (IISA) is the proprietor of Morima Attorneys. He can be contacted at 71410352 or anmorima@gmail.com

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Moses is Co-Pharaoh

9th July 2020

… courtesy of his half-sister wife Nefertiti

Moses, General Atiku,  was the next principal instrument after Joseph who the Enlilites had earmarked to spearhead their tactical repossession of Egypt, and like his grandfather Joseph, he too was enormously gifted with qualities catalytic of success in life.

Like all members of the Egyptian aristocracy, Moses, General, was first educated at Heliopolis. Once his formal studies were complete, he received mandatory military training, which every male member of the royal family had to undergo. Moses excelled at whatever he put his mind to and whatever he devoted his energies to.

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The legendary Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, highlights three outstanding aspects about Moses, General. Firstly, he was so phenomenally brainy. “Moses’ understanding became superior to his age, nay, far beyond that standard,” he writes, “and when he was taught, he discovered greater quickness of apprehension than was usual at his age, and his actions at that time promised greater, when he should come to the age of a man.”

Secondly, Moses was breathtakingly good looking and of a tall, dignified bearing, and this to the extent where people literally came to a halt simply to wreath him in admiring glances. “God did also give him that tallness,” Josephus says.

“And as for his beauty, there was nobody so unpolite as, when they saw Moses, they were not greatly surprised at the beauty of his countenance; nay, it happened frequently, that those that met him as he was carried along the road, were obliged to turn again upon seeing the child; that they left what they were about, and stood still a great while to look on him; for the beauty of the child was so remarkable and natural to him on many accounts, that it detained the spectators, and made them stay longer to look upon him.”

Third, Moses, General, was a very capable and ingenious military general, much like his great forbearer Abraham had been. In one particular war, which is the only one documented in which he commanded his forces, he is said to have “given a wonderful demonstration of his sagacity”.

How? “The ground was difficult to be passed over, because of the multitude of serpents, and Moses invented a wonderful stratagem to preserve the army safe, and without hurt; for he made baskets, like unto arks, of sedge, and filled them with ibes (long-legged wading birds), and carried them along with them; which animal is the greatest enemy to serpents imaginable … As soon, therefore, as Moses was come to the land which was the breeder of these serpents, he let loose the ibes, and by their means repelled the serpentine kind.”

Moses employed the above anti-serpentine strategy in the war with Ethiopia.

GENERAL MOSES BRIEFLY RULES ETHIOPIA

When Prince Moses of Egypt, who was known as Amenhotep IV in that country, was about 18 years of age, General, there was an uprising in Ethiopia. Ethiopia was at the time a cherished ally of Egypt. Since Egypt was the mightiest country of the day, the Ethiopian monarch appealed to Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III, Moses’ father, to help crush the rebellion.

At the time, General, the Egyptian army Field Marshal was a certain Bilam. Bilam, the son of a renowned Egyptian magician, and who was said to be exceptionally wise, also doubled as one of the senior advisors to the Pharaoh. It was an army contingent headed by Bilam the Pharaoh dispatched to Ethiopia. The King of Ethiopia had already fled his country to seek refuge in Egypt itself.

Bilam, General,  made mince of the rebellion without much ado and just as the Ethiopian King was preparing to return home triumphantly, Bilam declared himself King of Ethiopia. The exiled King was gutted.

With the Bilam defection, General, the next seniormost army officer in the ranks of the Egyptian forces was General Moses. Moses was already being groomed to take over from Bilam as Egyptian army commander when Bilam seized power in Ethiopia. The Pharaoh had no choice but to set his eldest son on Bilam as already it was suspected that Bilam’s coup had the covert blessings of the Pharaoh, that it was all a cleverly contrived scheme for Egypt’s seizure of Ethiopia.

At first, General, Tiye, Moses’ mother, was reluctant to stake her beloved son in the war against Bilam. She did relent at long last but only half-heartedly so, following a serious talking-to by her father Joseph, who was still alive at the time.

Although Moses was a formidable warrior, in Bilam he had an even match. Bilam had “strengthened the walls of the capital, built huge fortresses, and dug ditches and pits between the city and the nearby river”. It took a whopping 9 years for Moses to dislodge him.

However, General, the returning King insisted that Moses stay by him as he felt secure in his presence and Moses gladly obliged him, particularly that his guard duty entailed economic benefits for Egypt. The King even gave him a daughter, called Tharbis, to marry.

A year or two later, the aged King passed on and no sooner had he died than the late King’s inner circle installed Moses as the new King of Ethiopia. This gesture, however, was not a popular one as far as the Egyptian body politic was concerned, General. However much they loved Moses, which they indeed did, they were totally opposed to the idea of a foreigner ruling them when they had their own, indigenous qualifying heirs.

Of the dissenting voices, the most vociferous was the King’s widow herself, Atenit: it didn’t matter that King Moses was her son-in-law. She wanted her own son to rightfully take the throne.  When he got wind of such stirrings, General, a level-headed Moses decided not to contend for the throne as he was not a usurper.

He sent word to his father that he was stepping down and his father gave him the nod. He was given a rousing send-off.  “Moses resigned voluntarily the power which they had given him and departed from their land,” says the Talmud, the Jewish religious canon which is second in importance only to the Bible. “And the people of Ethiopia made him many rich presents and dismissed him with great honours.”

MOSES’ MOTHER ECLIPSES CHIEF WIFE

About 8 years before the birth of Moses, General, Pharaoh Amenhotep III had moved his capital from Memphis in northern Egypt to Thebes (modern Luxor) in southern Egypt. So when Moses returned from Ethiopia, it was to Thebes he headed.

Moses was the son of Tiye, the King’s junior wife. As such, he was not a bloodline heir. But as his firstborn son and army general, Moses was a significant figure in Egypt and enjoyed all the trappings of a heir. “Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people,” the Bible underscores in EXODUS 11:3.

Straight after returning from Ethiopia, General, Moses took up residence in the Malkata Palace complex. Its other principal occupants were his mother Tiye; Sitamun, his father’s sister-wife and therefore his chief wife, at least on paper; Nefertiti, Sitamun’s older daughter; Tey (Jochebed in the Bible), Aaron’s mother who had nursed both Moses and Aaron as infants; Ephraim (Aye), Joseph’s second-born son who was also Tey’s husband; and Aaron (Smenkhkare) himself.

In due course, Moses would become the High Priest of Heliopolis, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Joseph and his uncle Manasseh (Anen), Joseph’s firstborn son. On becoming High Priest, Moses took the religious name of Osarseph, which was a tribute to Osiris, the Egyptian god of the afterlife, just as Joseph had adopted the name Ptahseph in homage to Enki, the Anunnaki’s overall god of Africa who was known as Ptah in Egypt.

Meanwhile, General, Moses’ mother Tiye continued to overshadow the chief wife Sitamun. Thanks to the stature and influence of her great father Joseph, she was practically the King’s equal. Writes the renowned Egyptian historian Ahmed Osman in his book Christianity, An Ancient Egyptian Religion: “By the time Moses arrived in Thebes, Queen Tiye, who is known to have been a woman with a powerful personality, had become an increasingly influential presence behind the throne as her husband’s health declined with his advancing years.

This increased influence is reflected in the fact that her name, unlike that of earlier queens, was placed regularly in a cartouche, a distinction previously limited to the ruling monarch, and was also included in royal titularies. Furthermore, she was represented as being of equivalent stature to the King.”

MOSES IS JOINT-RULER OF EGYPT

As time went by, General, the Pharaoh’s health began to deteriorate. One of his battery of illnesses stemmed from severe dental problems (his embalmed remains have been found with very badly worn teeth and gums riddled with cavities).

Fearing that Nefertiti could step into her father’s shoes in the event of his death, Tiye prevailed upon Moses to marry her so that he would be the one to succeed to the throne. Not very long thereafter, Prince Moses and Princess Nefertiti, whose ethereal beauty was the talk of the day, tied the knot. In the fullness of time, the couple would have six daughters. They were Meryaten, Maketaten, Ankhsenpa-aten, Nefermeferu-aten Tasheri, Neferneferure, and Setepenre.

Moses’ marriage to Nefertiti, General,  qualified him as bona fide heir to his father at a time when the Egyptian establishment were reluctant to countenance the notion of a female succeeding to the throne, which Nefertiti was by rights entitled to being the King’s eldest and bloodline daughter.

Tiye then proceeded to persuade her husband into a co-regency with Moses considering that the king was indisposed most of the time: he was on and off. On becoming co-regent with his father, in the 27th year of his reign, Moses, General, took the name Neferkheprure waenre Amenhotep, that is, Amenhotep IV, as his throne name.

An undated jar seal found in Malkata also says, “Of the estate of the true King’s son, Amenhotep,” in reference to Moses. The necessity for the word “true”, General, is instructive. It suggests that Moses was not fully recognised by the Egyptian establishment as Amenhotep III’s heir.

His accession was without hiccups but there was an undercurrent of resentment amongst the ranks of the Egyptian religious establishment. This cabal never recognised Joseph as a true-blue Egyptian. By the same token, they never recognised Moses, Joseph’s grandson, as a genuine Egyptian. It seemed, General, that they were aware or suspicious of the Enlilite agenda to take possession of Egypt by sleight of hand.

Moses knew that he was resented by the Amunite priesthood (the priests of Amen-Ra Marduk) but the last thing he was prepared to do was to go out of his way to curry favour with them. In point of fact, General, Moses, who had a wayward character, was fed up with polytheism – the worship of a multitude of gods (Enkites and/or Enlilites) at the same time.

Although he was co-ruler with his father, Moses was the one who called the shots. His father was Pharaoh in name only. Not long after his coronation, Moses made it clear to the Theban priesthood that he was neither a great fan of their beliefs nor in awe of their ecclesiastical overreach.

Perhaps as a quid pro quo to the priesthood’s simmering resentment of him, Moses, General, had decided that he was going to focus Egyptians on only one “god”, thus rendering all other gods to secondary status. This was Nibiru, the planet of the Anunnaki, the Old Testament gods. The name he chose to represent Nibiru was Aten.

MOSES AS PHAROAH CHAMPIONS CULT OF NIBIRU

Nibiru, as we have already underscored in previous articles, General, was known by several names. They included The Lord; the King of the Gods; the Sole God; the Creator; Olam; the Imperishable Star; the Star of Jacob; the Planet of Millions of Years; the Unseen; the Eye of God; the Beast of Waters; the Sea Monster; and of course the Aten. Maybe we should recap a bit, General, on how these names came to be for the sake of those readers who are new to this column.

Nibiru was The LORD (the Celestial Lord in full) and the King of the Gods because it was the Solar System’s supreme planet. In the Sumerian cosmogony, planets were referred to as “gods”, or “celestial gods”. In the so-called “Celestial Battle” of circa 4 billion years ago, it was a stray primordial Nibiru that smashed into Tiamat, the planet that lay between Mars and Jupiter, and split it into the Asteroid Belt and the planet we today call Earth.

The simultaneous result of this cataclysm was Nibiru’s propagation of the seed of life on Earth. That’s the reason Nibiru came to be known as the Creator. It created a New Earth from the Old Earth (Tiamat) and gave rise to plant and animal life on the New Earth.

The term Olam is what the Bible translates as “from everlasting to everlasting”. It actually refers to Nibiru, as intimated in PSALMS 93:2 (“Thy [Yahweh] throne is established forever, from Olam art Thou”); LAMENTATIONS 5:19 (“Thou, Yahweh, are enthroned in Olam, enduring through the ages”); ISAIAH 40:28 (“Yahweh is the God of Olam”); GENESIS 21:33 (Abraham “calling in the name of Yahweh, the God of Olam”); and PSALM 89:47 (“How long, Yahweh, wilt Thou hide Thyself—forever?”). JEREMIAH 6:16 and PSALMS 10:16 calls Yahweh (Anu in this context) the “King of Olam”.

When Jehovah-Enlil instituted the rite of circumcision upon the Jews, he called it the “Covenant of Olam” (GENESIS 17:13), that is too say, a covenant sanctioned by Nibiru King Anu. The root of the term Olam is “disappearance”. It most aptly suits planet Nibiru in that it is seen by Earthlings only once in 3600 years.

This periodic appearance and disappearance of Nibiru gave rise to the Hebrew metaphor “From Olam to Olam”, meaning “an inordinately long time” or simply “forever”, as in JEREMIAH 7:7 and 25:5, where Yahweh is quoted as saying, “I had given you (the Jews) this land (Canaan) from Olam to Olam”. The lengthy disappearance also gave rise to Nibiru’s other name, the “Unseen”.

Nibiru was known as the “Imperishable Star” as well as the “Planet of Millions of Years” because from the point of view of Earthlings, it was the place of everlasting life. And it became known as the “Star of Jacob” when Jacob and his family went there and returned to Earth after 300 years.

As to why Nibiru was known as the Eye of God, or the All-Seeing Eye, this had to do, General, with Nibiru being regarded by mankind as “God’s” instrument of retribution (remember, General, that Nibiru sometimes caused floods, fires, earthquakes, and global warming when it drew too close to Earth).

Explains Robert Morning Sky: “As the planet (Nibiru) loomed in the distance, the people of other worlds would look skyward and know that an emissary of the King/Queen (of the Sirian-Orion Empire), if not the King/Queen him/herself, was about to make an appearance. Immediately, they would begin to cry out her name Ay! Ay! Ay! In time, this cry would become universal in the empire … Aye! Aye! Aye! The mysterious ‘Eye of God’! The ‘Eye of God’!”

Morning Sky proceeds: “This is a story, that everyone on the other worlds told their children: somewhere in the sky, hidden among the stars or in the clouds, the ‘Aye‘ of the Supreme Being was overhead … watching, always watching … waiting to rain down death and destruction on any people, who had done something wrong.

Any evil or crime would be punished with a wrath, that could destroy the entire planet! While the story scared many a child, the meaning of the tale was very clear … the forces of the Queen/King were always overhead, always monitoring the activities of the people on the planet below (Earth). Though one could not always see the (celestial) ship (Nibiru) … it was there … somewhere!”

Explaining why Nibiru was known as the “Beast of Waters” or the “Sea Monster”, Morning Sky has this to say, General: “Many stories (of Nibiru) described the most horrible ‘Beast of the Heavenly Waters’. A monster with one horrible eye, that could see everything and could spit fire …

Other stories told how the ‘Beast of the Waters’ traveled the ‘rivers of heaven’, and was capable of destroying ships and swallowing up their human pilots. Obviously, since this ‘beast’ traveled the ‘rivers of heaven’ (space, the Ocean of the Kaa), this was a reference to the Great Ar (Nibiru). Since the ‘Beast’ was ‘of the Waters’ or the ‘rivers of heaven’, many stories about the horrible demon described it as a horrible ‘Sea Monster’ or a ‘Demon Sea Creature’.”

NEXT WEEK: MOSES IS OUSTED

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The Ati Hoopla: There’s Need for Soul-Searching Before We Shy Stones

9th July 2020
ATI

Over the last few weeks, the one name that has been trending on social media in our neck of the woods is that of Atlasaone Molemogi, artistically known as ATI.

ATI is a young Motswana entertainer of age 30 as of 2020. Wildly popular, with close to 200,000 followers on his Facebook platform, ATI has been described as “Botswana’s finest rapper”, a music genre I am neither familiar with nor wish to acquaint with having grown up on a staple of rock and roll, soul, country, pop, folk, jazz, blues, rhumba, mbaqanga and the like.

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ATI has probably been a rapper for quite a while, but it is only lately that I have begun to hear about him in a big way. If press reports and ATI’s own uploaded video clips are anything to go by, he has lately been mouthing off tirades in the direction of some Batswana businessmen of Asian origin and the presidency, the former for their disproportionately greater pocket power and the latter for affording them a paradise of sorts at the expense of indigenous Batswana.  Much of his vitriol was directed at Satar Dada and Sayed Jamali, though I am not sure whether Jamali has at long last naturalised.

In the course of lobbying forth these broadsides and in a desperate bid to meet President Masisi, ATI is said to have turned up at the State House gates and in the process either took pictures of a part of it and the surrounding areas or filmed the same.

Whether he actually did that I cannot vouch for since my informational sources are second-hand and not first-hand.  In any case, people who have seen the video clip maintain that there is no iron-clad evidence that it is indeed Ati who did the filming himself or otherwise commissioned the filming. The court of public opinion appears to have based its verdict, which is notable for its lack of unanimity, on circumstantial evidence rather than hard facts.

ATI MAY BE AT FAULT

ATI has been charged and his case is before the courts of law. Many a commentator on social media wonder why our State House should be strictly out of bounds and photographically classified when the more august places such as   the US’s White House, No. 10 Downing Street in the UK, and Buckingham Palace, the residence of the Queen  of England, constitute tourist attractions around which  people pose for pictures willy-nilly.

Maybe it is unfortunate, but in our case we have a law prohibiting the taking of liberties with the abode of His Excellency and as such it has to be enforced and adhered to scrupulously.  The law has been in force since October 20, 1967 and per its terms, it is unlawful to take pictures of the President’s official residence.

Sections 4 and 5 of Chapter 22:01, also known as Protected Places and Areas Act, is very categorical about this. Schedule 14 of the Act designates “the area within the perimeter security wall and fence surrounding State House at Gaborone” as a protected precinct. Schedule 15 expands upon this by including “all the land within a distance of 15 metres outside the perimeter wall and fence surrounding State House at Gaborone” in the protected place and area category.

The Act also specifies that in the event that one wishes to take pictures of the item under Schedule 15, they have to seek express permission from the senior private secretary to the President. No such recourse is possible for State House itself.

Be that as it may, it is all up to the courts to rule as to whether ATI committed an offense or no more than a populism-driven misdemeanour. The law enforcement agents should not be faulted: they were simply doing their job as laid down in the laws of the land.

As I write, ATI stands unarraigned following some rather shoddy blunders in his charge sheet on the part of the prosecution, which compelled the court to quash the case.

The case is likely to proceed as the prosecution has not entered a nolle prosequi. If convicted, ATI could draw a five-year sentence, a P2000 fine, or both.

ATI’S BEHAVIOUR IN PERSPECTIVE

That said, ATI’s conduct ought to be put in a broader context before we rush to pass spur-of-the-moment strictures on him.

First, the outbreak of Covid-19 has exacted quite a toll sustenancewise on people who ply their trade in the entertainment arts. Artists make money from cross-country gigs, cabaret appearances, and performances at festivals in and outside Botswana.

With sizeable gatherings now proscribed under Covid-19-engendered proclamations across the globe, they have been left high and dry with their pockets tellingly hit. Being a celebrated and seemingly successful hip hop virtuoso, Ati himself is probably not that badly situated financially and it is plausible that his is a crusade not necessarily for himself but for the sum total of local entertainers.

Second, ATI’s seemingly eccentric conduct represents an indictment on the government of the day in relation to whether it is doing much to channel the pent-up frustrations of our youth into tangible productive outlets.  The overwhelming majority of our youth population are unemployed and this, to quote Ati himself, “can be a ticking time bomb” which can only be defused if they are gainfully engaged. In point of fact, with such staggering numbers of unemployed youth, we have to count ourselves lucky as a nation that juvenile criminality has not spiralled out of control.

Third, ATI’s over-the-top remonstrations corroborates the point I – and to a degree Attorney Kgosietsile Ngakaagae – have been trying to make lately, that citizen economic empowerment should not be seen to have advantaged only people of a certain skin colour whilst leaving indigenous Batswana in the lurch. Even if the facts on the ground do not reflect a markedly skewed empowerment picture, the perception matters even more than the hard truth.

Ati is articulate, well-spoken, reasonably schooled to judge by the logic of his soundbites,  and rhetorically adroit, but I am not by any means trying to excuse or rationalise his angry and feisty rants and encroachment on restricted vicinities: all I am trying to do is get my fellow countrymen to see the matter in perspective and not in silhouette.

GO FOR ECP PROGRAMME

Granted, ATI’s behaviour constitutes more than a wake-up call for government. It is an indirect appeal to government to put the hammer down in so far as bringing about a plethora of the desperately needed jobs and creatively engaging the youth in the communities in which they live are concerned.

According to statistics by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the private sector is the primary driver of economic growth globally, creating 9 out of every 10 jobs. It is this dynamic engine of economic growth that should be actively nurtured, with a considerable proportion of national resources devoted to it.

The starting point, the incubator of the process, is the classroom.  Time and again in my speeches and in my books, I have panned our educational and training system for its abject failure to provide the young learners with the skills set essential to landing a job as a matter of course in the private sector upon completing their schooling or courses.

The challenges they face are mammoth and include limited entrepreneurial experience or skills, difficult of accessing capital to start-up or grow their business, and very limited and scanty knowledgeability of networks, markets, and investment opportunities.

In a bid to help prepare young people for their future careers, UNIDO has been supporting an action-oriented Entrepreneurship Curriculum Programme (ECP) in secondary, technical schools and universities. The ECP programme is meant to prepare students to identify and implement business opportunities in their communities, learn to “save, innovate, invest and grow”, and train them in the use of technology, notably ICT.

A number of African countries have latched on to the ECP programme and they include Angola, Rwanda, and Namibia, to mention only a few. Needless to say, it is time Botswana came on board too.  Covid-19 is a game-changer: it necessitates a radical paradigm shift en route to tangible economic diversification and as it seeks to actuate its much-touted 4th Industrial Revolution.

ENGAGE YOUTH FROM THE GET-GO

The literature highlighting the linkage between youth engagement and youth development abounds. Youth engagement has been defined as “meaningful participation and sustained involvement of a young person in an activity, with a focus outside of him or herself”.

This must obtain in the immediate community, such as a city or town, a township, a village, a settlement, a neighbourhood, a campus, or a school environment at any level. Empowering youth and allowing them the opportunity to participate in the community serves to immensely benefit their development as responsible citizens.

When youth are substantially engaged in community activities, they are certain to develop the skills needed to be effective and upstanding leaders.  The development of such vital skills as problem solving and decision-making at a young age will serve the youth well in a variety of life endeavours.

In addition to building leadership skills, engaging youth in the community also creates a sense of belonging and purpose for youth. When youth realise their voices and opinions are being embraced, they will feel that they are truly part and parcel of the community.

Finally, empowering youth to be engaged in the community has shown to decrease traditional problem behaviours. Consistently, research has shown that youth who are engaged in their communities are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, less likely to drop out of high school, and less likely to be involved in criminal or some such pernicious behaviour.

The Ati antics probably were mild. Worst-case scenarios by the more enraged and less restrained of the ranks of the youth cannot be entirely ruled out.  It is essential that we forestall such a turn of events by meaningfully engaging the youth and efficaciously preparing them to be unambiguous beneficiaries of the dividends that accrue from the broader economic activities in the country.

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Columns

Parley, Covid-19 and the Economy

9th July 2020

There is no doubt that Corona Virus pandemic has shattered Botswana’s fragile economy. Warnings about the brittleness of the economy and its susceptibility to external shocks have been contemptuously dismissed as political posturing.

The economy, throughout its trajectory post-independence, has been vulnerable to external shocks primarily because its mainstay has been mineral generated revenue, particularly diamonds. Botswana’s growth has been awe-inspiringly strong and stable over an extended period.

The country was for a long time tapped on the back for its ostensible prudent management of economic resources, liberal policies and low levels of corruption. Many laudatory labels such as ‘Exceptional’, ‘African Miracle’, ‘Africa’s Success Story’, and ‘prosperity’ have been used by various observers of the political economy of Botswana.

However, it is becoming increasingly clear to many, as it has been to a few in the past, that there was lack of clear vision to shape the economic order in a way that would generate wealth, sustain steadiness, diversify to other key sectors such as services and manufacturing and enrich citizens.

The country has deplorable levels of poverty, unemployment and underemployment, wealth and income inequalities as well as economically disempowered black African or native Batswana. Access to essential services such water, sanitation and electricity is still a huge challenge for many parts of the country.

According to the recent World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, Botswana ranks number 113 out of 141 countries on Public Sector Performance. It ranks 130 on e-participation and it is at position108 infrastructure.

The country is measured at number 103 on transport infrastructure and fares badly on quality of land administration at position 103, airport connectivity at 130, utility infrastructure 110, electricity access as a percentage of population at 118 and 107 on reliability of water supply. This makes it an unfavourable destination for Foreign Direct Investment and a not conducive place to do business.

There is an apparent skewed development. The economy remains in firm control and ownership of non-African or native Batswana, that is foreigners and naturalized citizens. The phenomenon’s extent, historical foundation and enablers has not been subjected to extensive studies.

There are questions on how COVID 19 has affected the economy and what can Parliament do. Batswana are asking themselves about developmental issues which Parliament will grapple with when it resumes and whether Parliament can really do anything at all.

They wonder if it can it deter the executive from bad and less value-adding priorities. They are worried about the future which looks gloomier by the day.

Botswana achieved an estimated growth of 4.5% in 2018, growth which is assumed to have decelerated to 3.5% in 2019 in part due to the effects of weakened global demand for diamonds alongside other factors. According to the World Bank, the global slowdown in demand and increased trade restrictions in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic is expected to have a profound and lethal impact on Botswana’s economy, particularly on the diamond industry and tourism.

This has been acknowledged by the country’s economic high command and other observers. The diamond sector has been a vital driver of growth; it has been the sole largest contributor to government revenues and accounting 80% of export earnings.  The GDP was estimated to have contracted by 50% in April.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a decline of 3.0 percent in global GDP in 2020, and a contraction of 6.1 percent in the GDP of advanced economies.

Botswana, the IMF World Economic Outlook projects, may have its GDP plummet by 5.4 percent in 2020. The expected reduction in activity is estimated to result in a 1.2% growth contraction in 2020. The effects on the ordinary people are dire.

A new workable growth model focusing on export diversification strategy has been elusive even during the time when an economist was leading the country. Corona virus has shown Batswana what those who called for energy self-sufficiency in the past really meant.

About 48% of power is imported from other countries who must first meet their domestic demands. Electricity has become prohibitively exorbitant and unreliable. Fuel shortages have engulfed the country. Water is expensive and the billing system has become another impoverishing scam by the government owned water enterprise.

Whereas it is gnashing of teeth for the downtrodden, it is unprecedented bonanza for the affluent and well connected political and business elites; their corruption, fiscal and revenue crimes and unethical dealings oozes a nauseating pungent musty smell.

Many Batswana have lost their jobs and their sources of livelihoods. Some have lost their wages even though they are said to be employed. The informal sector has been hard hit. Workers are exploited under the guise of COVID 19. Public servants have been robbed, as it is usually the case. Labour disputes are have become a permanent feature of the industrial relations.

When Parliament adjourned to focus on fighting COVID 19, it had a very important subject on its almanac. National Development Plan (NDP) Mid-term Review discussion. Parliament has adopted eleven NDPs since independence. Half-way through, these are reviewed in accordance with available resources and new pressing demands. So, NDP can be changed at the point of midterm review.

The review serves as a monitoring and evaluation process of the implementation of the plan. What is working and what is failing. It answers the political question that is the very essence of politics; who gets what, where, how and when in the remaining years of the plan.

So, a lot has happened during the corona pandemic. The European Union has placed Botswana in a financial quagmire by backlisting it and the credit ratings are also not very favourable. The reserves are at risk and so are other offshore investments. Revenue has undoubtedly declined.

So, the executive will want the next meeting of the House to prioritize Government Business. The Government will most likely be uncompromising and steadfast on its proposals. The President and his Cabinet will expect MPs to ‘understand’ that the economy has been devastated by the corona virus pandemic.

MPs would be expected to forget about and forfeit certain key projects in their constituencies. The ruling party caucus will be instructed to toe the line. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development might be working on a revised NDP Midterm Review for discussion and approval by Parliament. A “recovery plan” has been circulated and MPs are going to be expected to approve it without their initiated amendments.

Parliament has never rejected any NDP and has rarely altered it. Alterations have come because the Executive would have decided. The institution is inferior in terms of resources and experts to advise it to mount any serious case. It doesn’t have staff or advisors that Finance Ministry has or Government has access to.

It can engage experts to workshop it but not to advise it on the budget or NDP related matters. Parliament doesn’t have a budget office. It is almost helpless in matching the executive.

However, MPs can still make noise on things that the executive has planned but are of no value addition to the economy. Experts or no experts, MPs should be able to discern a deceptive paper tabled by the executive. They should be able to tell when some things can’t work.

They have done so in the past, albeit with no serious results apart from sensitizing the populace. They should speak truth to power. Misplaced priorities must be rejected by Parliament. Precedence must be given to jobs or wealth generating projects and plans.

Programs aimed at buying votes but not necessarily adding value should be outrightly rejected by MPs.  Useless and wasteful expenditure must be stopped. Parliament must frankly and critically evaluate the recovery strategy to see if indeed it’s just rhetoric or serious stimulation of the economy.

MPs represent the people and it is important that they speak the common man’s language and try to translate these people’s aspirations into public policy in the form of a recovery plan or revised NDP. Batswana citizens owned firms should be saved and jobs protected or created.

How the country moves forward after COVID 19 scourge should be shaped by the next meeting of the legislature. Until Parliament attains its true full independence, there is little it can do. It will remain a talk show or a rubberstamp of the ruling party and executive decisions.

The NDP Midterm Review and the supposed Recovery Plan are likely to be passed without any meaningful additions of subtractions by MPs.

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