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Venson-Moitoi: Either very brave, or very foolish



Dearest Venson-Moitoi

Mma-V wee, today I am just going to bite the bullet and risk the wrath of your fanatics by asking you to pull out of this presidential race thing you have thrown yourself into.

You see, I know your backers will find this queer, but before they have any opinion, they should know that this is between you and I and that no one is inviting them into our engagement. As I intimated to you maloba, I have no qualms with you contesting to become Botswana’s next president – yes, Botswana’s next President, not BDP’s. The BDP will obviously win this general election – ke bontshitswe – and that automatically will make you State President should you eventually beat SisiBoy at the party congress of July. And that will be a good thing – to have a woman State President for a change in this country. It will surely show that our democracy is the real deal, and knowing you, Batswana will know what it means to have a no-nonsense leader.

Kana wena o sengangatlela – once you have put your mind to something, that’s it! Nothing else matters. And usually you don’t give a damn, whatever anyone else says! That’s the kind of State President we will have. Somehow you have those mean traits of the old Mogae who could tell the voters to their face, on election year, gore ene gaa rapele ditlhopho and that o tlaa kabolla bomaipaafela ba Mogoditshane ditshoka! Such bravery you have Mma-V, and that is why it took ONLY you to break from the ruling party norm and challenge your party President on election year. I know of course that some may mimic what former President Masire loved to share with us and call you ‘either very brave or very foolish.’ And yes, nna I know you to be brave. Very brave actually. Tenacious. Unflinching.

At least these are the few traits I have known about you from before. Foolish??? I have no recollection of anything you said or did in the past that I would say was foolish. Nothing that comes to mind right now. Maybe later. But I have to say this presidential tussle you have plunged yourself into is very foolish. If indeed you are a moDomi wa motia as you described yourself on Saturday, you should as a party elder be encouraging harmony and unity within the party, especially at this crucial time of general election. On any other year I would fully back your candidacy for party President Mma-V. You can make State President actually, because you are one of the few tried and tested politicians this country has.

Very intelligent even. And I fully support intra-party competition as it connotes the very essence of what a true democracy should be. But Mma-V wee, timing is everything. Now is not the time to be making your party people to drive in different directions. Especially, when already, there is that other chap who has been busy doing everything to drive a wedge between the party faithful. In an election year where already, tension has been unleashed on the leadership of your party by the former leader – who disliked you – you then choose to help put more strain through your decision to challenge SisiBoy? Where is the wisdom in that Mma-V? After the July congress when you have won against SisiBoy, do you honestly believe your party will be ready in just three months, to ward off the fierce competition coming your way from the combined forces of opposition?

Nna tota I feel that by the time this thing comes to an end, you would be physically spent. Fatigued and perhaps even hovering dangerously over depression. Already, the past week has not been encouraging at all. In that week alone, you have made two contradicting statements – that you were promised the vice presidency, and that you were never promised the vice presidency. You see, this thing is taking a toll on you already. You look tired already. You look troubled. And I am sure even those genuinely close to you by blood and association, are troubled by all this. And assuming that on the contrary, you are as energised as ever, one wonders what exactly gives you the spur to carry on.

Obviously there must be something; someone; some entity lurking in the dark, pushing you to keep keeping on. You have denied gore wena you enjoy the emotional and resource backing of that New Jerusalem cabal of bitter losers and looters. What then is giving you the bravery to be assured of victory both against SisiBoy and later against Boko and his opposition associates? And nna tota even as I could put the issue of timing aside, I would not encourage you to let the nation and your sympathisers see you to be in the same corner with that cancerous New Jerusalem Cabal. Batho bao ba tlaa go senyeletsa. Batswana ga se dibari.

They can see through a number of those losers gore theirs is just the bitterness of being ignored and the discomfort of knowing that under SisiBoy, they will soon have to lay bare the things they fraudulently own. Akere bone from the time Mma Phumaphi of the BDP called for this declaration of assets law, they have done everything to ensure it does not come to pass. Even when later Saleshando of BCP joined parliament and pressed for the law, they dismissed him as a lunatic! Now that SisiBoy is amenable to the idea and has pledged that declaration of assets law will happen under his leadership, they see him as a hindrance to their plunderous tendencies. Their support for your candidacy is THAT fake Mma-V. Mo ga gore hee wee emang basadi, hee wee democratic right what-what, ke maaka hela.

They are supporting NOT you but your candidacy for their own selfish reasons. That’s why they are prepared to spend money they attained fraudulently to defend their interests. If anything, they would rather have the BDP fail to take power under SisiBoy. They have no party interest at heart, and they are using you. I know you have denied you are anybody’s proxy but I tell you, that is how all on the ground see it. If you want to win, se inyalane le Kgama mmata. Le wena hela you know gore everyone feels gore he is using you to return to power. But most of all, Mma-V, do not sell your soul to the devil. Take away all the strain and stress that you have brought unto yourself and perhaps even on those genuinely close to you.

Once again the family resources are at stake here. And for what? To eventually bring back a dictatorship that once degraded you and treated you as an outcast? And apart from your bitterness that you were not made Vice President, what really motivates you to want to challenge SisiBoy? As I said last week, it is not the desire to be State President. There is something else. And why do you not pick anything from the fact that even all party veterans are disturbed by what your candidacy really aims to achieve? They say a leopard never changes its spots – you will win and get this presidency for some people. Yet, as I said, it is not a secret one of them thought lowly of you.

He despised you and never had any confidence in you. He never held you in any high regard. At some point he even dropped you from cabinet, essentially saying you were not fit to serve in his government. He demoted and humiliated you when you were minister of education, a go dira a civil servant of some sort o bitswa ka maemonyana a e leng gore even today ga re itse gore e ne ele soo-mang. Even when you campaigned for that AU Commission position, he never really backed you – he just didn’t care. I tell you, Rre Kgama never really loved you. He just enjoyed toying around with you. He made you a toy with which he could do as he pleased.

Yet you would amaze everyone when you defended him and his actions, especially against you – and people at the time would wonder why you behaved that way as if you owed him your life. Remember, I said I have no doubts you can be President, but I have doubts your intentions to challenge Rre Masisi are genuine. I doubt it came from your heart. Not that ke nyatsa your integrity and independence of mind, but this whole thing you do does not make sense. I know you always say in politics there are no permanent foes, but seeing you allow yourself to be endorsed by that Guma guy who even beat you to the position of party chairman while enjoying RreKgama’s support against you? Despite Guma having freshly arrived back from the BMD? And RreKgama still trusted him more than he did you? And today you think you can trust them with your political life? Mma-V? Some are even trying to play the gender card but are clueless on the larger scheme of how things have turned out in your political life.

The gender thing for them is just a convenience – a facade. They don’t really care about you. They too know that what you are doing is incongruent with the history and culture of the BDP, but then because they have their own hidden agendas and egos to feed, they shout gender equality and constitutional right. Hypocrites! And if indeed it is about gender, wasn’t it at the Women Wing’s congress that a consensus was reached to support the sitting president to avoid distractions during election year, as has been tradition? Please wise up Mma-V. Just do the honourable and noble thing and withdraw from this taxing presidential race thing. If not for party unity on election year, at least do it for your own sanity; your own health; your own peace of mind. Only the bitter and the evil will despise you. And why should you care? The wise and the progressives will respect you. I love you Mma-V.

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This lockdown is going to plunge many into depression



Dear Mokgweetsi Masisi

Today, Wednesday April 1, 2020, marks exactly two years since you were sworn in as President of this republic, and I wonder how you will be celebrating this milestone while under quarantine. Kana right now we could be coming over there to celebrate with you had you not blundered by attending  that State House pool party in Namibia. Your residence would be lit this time, ree ja joy in celebration of your second anniversary since your ascendance to the highest office on the Tswana land. Knowing you, this corona thing would have been shoved aside to allow the world to know gore you are turning two years as President – even after announcing a lockdown on Tuesday. Akere wena you are often thus – you say this, you do the other. Kana gape it would be your chance to show that Namibian President gore le wena you can gather people for a celebration even amidst this state of public emergency. Akere le ene despite global warnings against international travel he decided to host a party and invited you – the result of which you are now in quarantine. I just wonder how Atsile and MmaAtsile are coping with an absent Daddy and Hubby. In fact, we haven’t heard much of our lovely First Lady since you went into quarantine – even at this odd hour when a mother-figure is needed to reassure the nation that all will be alright. O re costile motherlove Morena. Kana if it wasn’t for that reckless trip, we could be seeing her around with you. Jaanong mmanyana gatwe a seka a go atumela shem…
Anyway, it was great to see you looking fit and strong on Tuesday morning BraMEK, and we are glad you are showing no signs of infection. Kana yo mogare e bile ga o tlhaole. It doesn’t care if you are a British Prime Minister, German Chancellor or a Royal Prince. Neither does it care if you are a Head of State, or popular football star or internationally-acclaimed movie star – e ralla anyone Covid-19, rich or poor; black or white and everything in between. So seeing you looking that healthy after that risky Namibia trip has helped reassure us that within the gloom and doom of the socio-economic crisis created by the virus world-wide, there is that silver lining of remembering that it does not just infect unless invited to, and that even when it has infected one, death is not always a given. I realise however that you waited for your anniversary day to pass without impediment before you could institute the start of the lockdown tomorrow. We support your decisiveness nonetheless and promise to abide by the guidelines laid before us to boost our survival chance against this monster of a virus. I see you have even tried to do all in your power to ensure individuals and business entities do not feel the extreme wrath of this Covid-19 and the attendant lockdown. Among the things in your rescue package I see you talk of tax holidays for businesses; access to credit; immediate reconnection of water; decrease in fuel prices; an economic stimulus package; loan guarantees for businesses; restructuring of loans with banks; relaxed payment of insurance premiums for both individuals and companies; provision of a wage subsidy for citizen employees of businesses mostly affected by the virus in order to enable them to retain employees; expedited payments to business entities by government and parastatals … and other interventions intended go fokotsa manokonoko a Covid-19. Yet there are those still in tears Big MEK, who ask gore bone gatwe bone ke ba ga mang. These are the folks who live from hand to mouth, who worry that the lockdown will kill them even faster than the virus itself. Akere Tautona there are people who make an instant daily stipend from clearing the weeds, doing laundry, selling fatcakes, selling cooltime, veggies, sweets and mabudula on the streets as well as those who sell traditional beer? How do they make money for their groceries ne Tautona? What measures do you have in place for them? In your address on Tuesday morning you did not elaborate on that and I pray that by the time this letter reaches you, you would have clarified the matter. Kana these are the people who will not comply because one way or the other, they would have to go out there to hassle. I bet they were wondering who exactly you were talking to when you mentioned the issue of panic buying. You need to urgently come up with a plan for them BraMEK, otherwise they may have to choose between death by hunger and death by corona. Go riana there is one mosadimogolo in Ramotswa who was made to spill away her traditional brew last week, despite having started the fermentation process two days before Trade Minister Peggy Serame decreed that there would be no sale of alcohol. Gatwe mosadimogolo o sale a bedisa ka Tuesday before the ban on sale of alcohol was announced ka Thursday. Her brew got ready for sale on Saturday but your men of the law came hard on her, making her throw it all away. Imagine such instances BraMEK on our oldies who seem to have been left out in your disucusions ahead of the sale ban of bojwala. Others BraMEK say you never even bothered to address their worries against landlords who will still demand rent for their houses despite the tenants not going out to work and make money on the streets. There are also these chaps who depend on our absence from our homes to make a living – the ones who take advantage of our absence to break into our homes to take what they never had to sweat for. Ba re o ba bolaile because homesteads will be occupied throughout the day. They worry that with soldiers and police officers expected to be unleashed on the streets, they may have a difficult time to do any work at night. And in the case these chaps continue to work and flout the lockdown and extreme social distancing rules, what can we expect you to do with them Tautona? Could they straightaway be charged with attempted murder should they test positive for coronavirus? Akere by coming into our homes they would have exposed us to harm? And then there are the ladies of the night BraMEK, although I know you would argue that the law does not recognise them. But hey, they are there and their hassle is real. If you are going to keep their customers under lockdown, how will they survive? Kana e bile these days they are a bit sophisticated – they rent houses from which they operate, where their clients meet them for a roll in the hay. They have to make money for both the rent and their meals. If we don’t aid them they too pose a risk as they might sneak out to go and meet their clients ‘halfway’ and end up infecting each other. As I said earlier, I hope you do something about these forgotten citizens, even if it is it could mean dropping a bag of Tsabana in each household. Note also that suddenly – after you announced the lockdown – some employers out there are beginning to label their traditionally lowly-regarded workers as ‘essential service employees.’ Yet they have nothing to offer them commensurate with the new label. Others are dismissing employees already, claiming the lockdown will kill their business. And with the grounding of public transport vehicles, these companies have no plan how to get their essential service workers to the workplace. Ne kere le bone ba o ba tlhodumele Tautona. And on a more serious note, I worry about our mental health BraMEK. I tell you this lockdown is going to have its toll on the mental health of many. There is too much anxiety right now and there is a general fear of the unknown. With no light visible at the other end of the tunnel, many will be choking in there, worried about the uncertainty of everything including the well-being of relatives, the security around their jobs, the inability to attend funerals of their loved ones… resulting in rising stress levels and possible depression. Some couples will be annoying each other and expect cases of GBV to rise during this period. I hope you will look into such matters to ensure people are given some form of counselling and advice, especially through television and radio. Otherwise we thank you for acting on this lockdown thing sooner than later – although I still feel it should have come earlier. It was always going to be pointless to wait for deaths to go uncontrollably high before we could take the virus seriously. You had no choice but to put us down into extreme social distancing. Mistakes are going to happen along the way, and I hope we will help you go through correcting them amicably together without pointing fingers. And what an opportune time for bonding to happen! Parents will school their children and tertiary students will have enough time to reorganise themselves in preparation of the next time the coursework rooms open. Husbands and wives who all along did not see eye to eye will emerge from this lockdown a lot closer. And during the potentially lonely days, I hope there will be enough and clear communication to keep people at ease. For now it is Goodbye Mr President. Pass my warmest regards to my cousin Neo and her little girl. And sorry about the sleepless nights you and especially Health Minister Lems Kwape have to endure. I really feel for the poor chap; and pass this message to him that we all love him. We see what he is doing and what he is going through. Cheers for now MEK.

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This year marks my 10th year as an employee of The Botswana Guardian and The Midweek Sun newspapers, under the CBET Pty Ltd company.

I still remember one afternoon of 2010 when I was in Francistown. I was waiting for my graduation from the University of Botswana where I did Bachelor of Media Studies. I had just started a freelancing job with Mmegi in the Ghetto when one of the Guardian/Sun managers Tlotlo Mbazo called me offering a job opportunity. See, during our time, UB newspaper- then known as The UB Horizon was hyped and big.

We distributed it across newsrooms in the country. In addition to this, one of my former Journalism lecturers Julia Cass had advised us to always cut our articles and keep portfolios and later send them across media houses for opportunities. So when MmaMbazo called me about an opportunity that had come up, I knew she had seen my work that I had submitted a few months before closing at UB.

Coming into the Guardian/Sun newsroom the first days was exciting yet challenging at the same time. I found many male colleagues that were also very loud and pushy. Intimidating. At times, annoying. Some were old, reminding me of the set up in international newsrooms where journalists are older. The 24 year-old me then was timid and emotional…but zealous and curious. I was impressed however by the female journos that oozed energy and passion.

The truth about the media industry is that there was a time when it was male-dominated. Women were thrown into light beats and strong ones were tackled by males. Though it was the case with Guardian/Sun then, seeing the likes of Phemelo Ramaribeng nee Ramasu pursue News was encouraging. Her human interest stories to a larger extent  contributed to my love for Human Rights issues.

I worked under the leadership of great men who all shaped my career in special ways. The likes of peculiar Mpho Dibeela who has since gone into newspaper ownership; Mike Mothibi, the sophisticated writer with a passion for farming; courageous Abraham Motsokono who called a spade a spade and not a big spoon; fatherly Ernest Moloi who helped build resilience in me; Mbazo, woman of the board who leads tenderly but with a stern posture; Justice Kavahematui with a very calm demeanor; Joe Brown-Tlhaselo the perfectionist who pays attention to every detail in the paper – in fact it was Joe-Brown who welcomed me the first day by offering me a chair and lunch! And then there is  Boitshepo Balozwi, my editor-turned-friend who every now and then blesses me with pearls of wisdom when ‘the devil wants to lie,’ as well as Dikarabo Ramadubu, our moving encyclopaedia.

Still under this list falls Beatrice Mbulawa, the magnificent General Manager who came with a unique style of managing a media house as a finance-steel lady. Joel Konopo and Ntibinyane Ntibinyane have always been deep hence their now establishment of the bullish INK Centre for Investigative Journalism. In 2012, they took me to Amabunghane Centre for Investigative Journalism in South Africa where my mindset changed altogether. That was an investment that I will always use in my Journalism. Douglas Tsiako also deserves recognition for always believing in me. Special mention of Ditiro Motlhabane for always putting me on my toes about my stories as my News Editor.

My colleagues across every department in The Guardian/Sun throughout the decade, both new and old, have been fascinating. The team is a rare, winning breed. Group dynamics is as real as it gets but I can say unfazed, that I learn a lot from every single individual in our newsroom. The energy here is right. It’s amazing.

So much can be said about my decade in our newsroom. Perhaps, my number one lesson is that of servitude. Journalists are servants. They should serve. At church we say EBENEZER – Thus far the Lord has brought me. Thank you.

Facebook/Instagram: Yvonne Tshepang Mooka
LinkedIn: Yvonne Mooka
Twitter: @yvonnemooka

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