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Trumped at last!

If there is an award for tenacity it surely must go to Joe Biden. From his first presidential bid in 1988, thirty years on and the man is finally US President (I am writing this before the official announcement but if TIME magazine could publish Hilary Clintons face on the cover last time around.

only to get it wrong, I can be forgiven for the same!) I guess people have forgotten that he withdrew from the 1988 race after newspaper stories stated he had plagiarized a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock and other allegations of past law school plagiarism and exaggerating his academic record. Yet here he is bouncing back – perhaps resilience and tenacity are required traits for a President.

I have been glued to the TV screen this week following every part of the US election, the twists, turns and shenanigans. Despite the carry-ons of Donald Trump shouting foul play at every opportunity (nothing like a sore loser) or because of it, it’s been riveting viewing which even though it feels little whacky I think it is a great advertisement for democracy. As Indian author Rohinton Mistry said “Democracy is a see-saw between complete chaos and tolerable confusion.”

I have a few observations and thoughts about this election, the predominant one being is how did it happen that Donald Trump and Joe Biden are the best two political leaders from one of the most powerful countries in the world with a population of 328 million? The campaign rallies have been laughable, the debates even more so. Its been called a circus, comedy show and at times it has been looked on as a joke by other countries as these two candidates hurled insults at each other in the most childish manner.

Maybe it is because I don’t understand Rallies. It appears they are events where candidates spend their time not selling themselves but discrediting the other party. I keep wondering what the result would have been like if either candidate never talked about what the other couldn’t do or their faults and instead took the high ground and spoke about what they could and would do…surely that would resonate?

A week before the election I was convinced that Trump was going to win. From what I was watching on CNN, even though the news channel is distinctly biased and pro- Biden, I could see that there was huge momentum from the Trump campaign and that Sleepy Joe, as Trump likes to refer to him, was being over cautious maybe from the virus or just fatigue but he seemed to be in hiding for most of the time. Granted in the last week of the campaign he resurged with some energy.

In the other camp it appeared that Trump’s audience lapped up his unconventional political style, casual and joking demeanour – as if he was chatting at an intimate dinner, sharing secrets with his dinner guests (“I might fine Faucci after the election”) and joking about how if he lost the election it would be to the weakest presidential candidate ever! They lapped it up…  as H L Menken once said – Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses.

Despite Trump being everything I dislike, I can see the appeal. He appeals to the rebel in me. I am sometimes repulsed and yet strangely drawn to the madness. I love that he speaks his mind, even though I don’t like what he says. I like the fact that he is non-conforming, sometimes radical , unpredictable mostly, politically incorrect and doesn’t bow down to woke culture. I guess as it is not my country, I can have this view and observe watch with interest and humour.

My US friends don’t quite see it like that or share the joke, feeling that with him there was always too much on the line and too much to lose. I remember being at the American embassy in Gaborone for the election breakfast of 2016 and the distaste and disbelief for the result was palpable. There is no doubt that this was not the result the state department wanted and even in America there seemed to be a lot of very unhappy people and a population divided. Watching what was then looked a train smash play out, I have not been disappointed and been mostly horrified by what the man has done and his gall. But as we can see from the election result, many Americans would disagree.

In an article in The Economist Leaders section it said of Trump “ In the past four years he has repeatedly desecrated the values, principles and practices that made America a haven for its own people and a beacon to the world. Those who breezily dismiss Mr Trump’s bullying and lies as so much tweeting, are ignoring the harm he has wrought.”

Four years on, he is not leaving the country in a better position. The country is even more unhappy and divided and I hardly recognise this America that I have lived in and neither do Americans. Whilst I don’t know if Joe Biden is the cure and I doubt it from what I have seen, my American friends tell me he may not be ideal but they’ll take anything at the moment so he will do for now. If Lady Gaga is to be believed (and in the absence if anyone else believable in this election why doubt her?),  he is a good man who will restore steadiness and civility to the White House.

Republican strategist Alice Stewart said, “If 2020 is the most consequential election of our lifetime, heaven help us for 2024,” Ms Stewart went on, “I’m calling Noah and will start building the Ark.” She could very well be on to something because to quote Nobel prize winner and cultural poet, Bob Dylan, ‘A hard rain’s gonna fall’!

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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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