The recently released World Happiness Report (WHR) which placed Botswana at 146th position out of 149 nations surveyed, has substantiated what has been hypothesis of sceptics and observers and even coerced the civil society to air their views on the status quo and by extension, declared that this country might be ensnared in a crisis.
Botswana has never fared any better since the inception of the happiness index in 2012 under the administration of Lt General Ian Khama. It was expected to improve when President Mokgweetsi took reins in 2018, but it is apparent that tables are now turning for the worse with the shining example of democracy in Africa- Botswana- now three places from being the least happy nation in the world.
The report focuses on six key areas; Real GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, perceptions of corruption. Each country is also compared against a hypothetical nation called Dystopia. Dystopia represents the lowest national averages for each key variable and is, along with residual error, used as a regression benchmark. Finland is the happiest country in the world.
The diminishing smiles from the country once tagged as a beacon of hope, especially to its populace, is worrying as it is one of the richest countries on the African continent endowed with minerals, abundant land, natural resources and cattle. Yet the people are some of the poorest and unhappiest, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Vice President, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang has posited.
According to former Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) President Master Oboletswe Matlhaope there is need to worry. “If indeed the research is genuine then we have every reason to worry, unhappiness results in other things that are explosive,” he said.
“We should look at inequality levels which is very huge in our country, again as a society we should ask ourselves if are we have a saving culture, are we secure, are we a debtful society do we have quality pension when we leave our jobs if not then it means there is fear from our people. Are we healthy, people have been suffering from TB, HIV and now Covid-19 and surely they are anxious and that may cause anger.”
It seems people are living in fear, suspicions and anxiety. Of most concern is their anger, it is very worrisome as it can lead to the un-imaginable at any point. “If we have a bunch of unhappy people you may ask yourself what is keeping them going, what keeps the peace and what keeps cohesion. We need to encourage prayer because it is the one that can keep us together. If we compromise it then we are headed for a disaster.”
Batswana’s unhappiness is clearly visible from the traffic, shopping malls and even radio calls, says one observer and even argues that as a nation we have never been happy-perhaps an argument for another day. The University of Botswana lecturer at the faculty of Social Work, Dr. Kgomotso Jongman concurs that Batswana are not happy and that begins from individual to familial set-up before it can be failure by government.
“It is twofold issue, micro and macro. At family level for example we hide key issues under the carpet and pretend to be happy only for us to burst at our work places or wherever we interact with others. This can be so because the very unhappy people are the ones tasked with crafting policies and those targeted for those policies or programmes will also feel they are vindictive and this causes a ripple effect,” said Dr Jongman.
The government however cannot be left out in relation to its population unhappy.
“The people are very reliant on government because since the discovery of the diamonds he has been a Father Christmas giving out and not promoting self-reliance. Now the kids (citizens) who are used to manna from heaven are bickering and there is chaos because they have never been taught how to fend for themselves,” he said.
Dr. Jongman backs the nation’s unhappiness saying the people’s anger is justified because “they have legitimate expectations from the government.” All the sectors be education, health and agriculture are falling and now the people are pointing fingers at each other because we have never experienced this, he added.
With war ravaged and poverty stricken countries like Chad and Gambia ranking above Botswana, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Vice President Dr. Gobotswang is shocked but not surprised. “The gap between the rich and the poor is unacceptable. Unemployment and underemployment and poverty levels are high. Corruption, abuse of office and nepotism are institutionalized. People get jobs if they have connections, mediocrity is rewarded. There are several government assistance schemes that are inaccessible, hence the dissatisfaction among the population.
The economy is bleeding as 37 per cent of development budget goes to waste,” a seemingly unhappy Dr Gobotswang shared in an interview. The solution for all the grumbles according to Gobotswang is to strengthen oversight institutions like the Ombudsman, Parliament, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA), and Directorate on Public Prosecution (DPP) so that they are truly independent.
“That requires an overhaul of the constitution. We need to introduce freedom of information law and change legislation on whistle blowing to make it apply without fear or favour,” Dr Gobotswang. Not only is BCP VP lamenting, but Alliance for Progressive (AP) through its Secretary General Dr. Phenyo Butale agrees that the citizenry is unhappy and we might be headed for a crisis.
“Batswana are spectators in their own country in the economic activity, young minds with creative, brilliant and innovative ideas get so frustrated when all paths are closed and hit walls to government offices and parastatals and there are no opportunities for the young people and for Batswana. People move around with hopelessness and this mark economic which has huge disparity with the poor getting poorer and the citizen gets-muscled out of the economy,” said Dr Butale.
“With all these, there is no how the citizen can be happy as the locals should be empowered. Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEE) law should be committed and sectors that are job creating should be given to the locals with responsibility to create jobs and export services and goods like the creative and manufacturing. There should be transformation of our system from Patronage and favouritism and nepotism to meritocracy, a system that can serve and a system with less economic disparity.”
Again there is a concern from the labour movement of Botswana Federation of Trade Union (BFTU). “Salaries are depressing, most of the working class earn less than P5000 and generally Batswana are the working poor they survive by hand to mouth. Our democracy also should be looked as to whether our 2019 expectations have been met, certainly no and we agree as a union that Batswana are not happy,” said BFTU Secretary General, Thusang Butale.
“We should have a National Social Dialogue Structure, civil society council of churches and government where we can talk as a country. Governance issues should also be taken seriously for example if we have IEC stakeholder’s report and there are gaps that needs to be closed then we should and not throw away and act. Things like GBV should be swiftly dealt with to make the nation happy.”
Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.
Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.
Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.
One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution
Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.” Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.
She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age. Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.
Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.
Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.
For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.
Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.
The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare. Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.
According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned. It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.
“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said. Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.
The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.
The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.
The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.” The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana. It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.
“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.
Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.
“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversiﬁcation of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly. It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).
“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.
Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.
The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.
“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said. The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.
The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.
“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).
Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.
After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.
They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.
“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.
They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”
They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.