Black tax turns Botswana’s first generation graduates into family ATM

27Sep 2018
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Black tax turns Botswana’s first generation graduates into family ATM

BOTSWANA officially the Republic of Botswana is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966.

By Sylviah Disele

Since then, it has maintained a strong tradition of stable representative democracy, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections and the best perceived corruption ranking in Africa since at least 1998.

Botswana is topographically flat, with up to 70 percent of its territory being the Kalahari Desert. It is bordered by South Africa to the south and southeast, Namibia to the west and north, and Zimbabwe to the northeast. Its border with Zambia to the north near Kazungula is poorly defined but is, at most, a few hundred metres long.

A mid-sized country of just over 2 million people, Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Around 10 percent of the population lives in the capital and largest city, Gaborone. Formerly one of the poorest countries in the world—with a GDP per capita of about US$70 per year in the late 1960s—Botswana has since transformed itself into one of the world's fastest-growing economies. The economy is dominated by mining, cattle, and tourism. Botswana boasts a GDP (purchasing power parity) per capita of about $18,825 per year as of 2015, which is one of the highest in Africa. Its high gross national income (by some estimates the fourth-largest in Africa) gives the country a relatively high standard of living and the highest Human Development Index of continental Sub-Saharan Africa.

Botswana is a member of the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Nations. The country has been among the hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Despite the success in programmes to make treatments available to those infected, and to educate the populace in general about how to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, the number of people with AIDS rose from 290,000 in 2005 to 320,000 in 2013. As of 2014, Botswana has the third-highest prevalence rate for HIV/AIDS, with roughly 20 percent of the adult population being infected.

Etymology

The country's name means "land of the Tswana", referring to the dominant ethnic group in Botswana. The term Batswana was originally applied to the Tswana, which is still the case. However, it has also come to be used generally as a demonym for all citizens of Botswana. Many English dictionaries also recommend the term Botswanan to refer to people of Botswana.

Archaeological digs have shown that hominids have lived in Botswana for around two million years. Stone tools and fauna remains have shown that all areas of the country were inhabited at least 400,000 years ago. Evidence left by modern humans such as cave paintings are about 73,000 years old. The original inhabitants of southern Africa were the Bushmen (San) and Khoi peoples. Both speak Khoisan languages and hunted, gathered, and traded over long distances. When cattle were first introduced about 2000 years ago into southern Africa, pastoralism became a major feature of the economy, since the region had large grasslands free of tsetse fly.

It is unclear when Bantu-speaking peoples first moved into the country from the north, although AD 600 seems to be a consensus estimate. In that era, the ancestors of the modern-day Kalanga moved into what is now the north-eastern areas of the country. These proto-Kalanga were closely connected to states in Zimbabwe as well as to the Mapungubwe state. These states, located outside of current Botswana's borders, appear to have kept massive cattle herds in what is now the Central District—apparently at numbers approaching modern cattle density. This massive cattle-raising complex prospered until 1300 AD or so, and seems to have regressed following the collapse of Mapungubwe. During this era, the first Tswana-speaking groups, the Bakgalagadi, moved into the southern areas of the Kalahari. All these various peoples were connected to trade routes that ran via the Limpopo River to the Indian Ocean, and trade goods from Asia such as beads made their way to Botswana most likely in exchange for ivory, gold, and rhinoceros horn.

The arrival of the ancestors of the Tswana-speakers who came to control the region has yet to be dated precisely. Members of the Bakwena, a chieftaincy under a legendary leader named Kgabo II, made their way into the southern Kalahari by AD 1500, at the latest, and his people drove the Bakgalagadi inhabitants west into the desert. Over the years, several offshoots of the Bakwena moved into adjoining territories. The Bangwaketse occupied areas to the west, while the Bangwato moved northeast into formerly Kalanga areas. Not long afterwards, a Bangwato offshoot known as the Batawana migrated into the Okavango Delta, probably in the 1790s.

The first written records relating to modern-day Botswana appear in 1824. What these records show is that the Bangwaketse had become the predominant power in the region. Under the rule of Makaba II, the Bangwaketse kept vast herds of cattle in well-protected desert areas, and used their military prowess to raid their neighbors. Other chiefdoms in the area, by this time, had capitals of 10,000 or so and were fairly prosperous. This equilibrium came to end during the Mfecane period, 1823–1843, when a succession of invading peoples from South Africa entered the country. Although the Bangwaketse were able to defeat the invading Bakololo in 1826, over time all the major chiefdoms in Botswana were attacked, weakened, and impoverished. The Bakololo and Amandebele raided repeatedly, and took large numbers of cattle, women, and children from the Batswana—most of whom were driven into the desert or sanctuary areas such as hilltops and caves. Only after 1843, when the Amandebele moved into western Zimbabwe, did this threat subside.

During the 1840s and 1850s trade with Cape Colony-based merchants opened up and enabled the Batswana chiefdoms to rebuild. The Bakwena, Bangwaketse, Bangwato and Batawana cooperated to control the lucrative ivory trade, and then used the proceeds to import horses and guns, which in turn enabled them to establish control over what is now Botswana. This process was largely complete by 1880, and thus the Bushmen, the Kalanga, the Bakgalagadi, and other current minorities were subjugated by the Batswana.

Following the Great Trek, Afrikaners from the Cape Colony established themselves on the borders of Botswana in the Transvaal. In 1852 a coalition of Tswana chiefdoms led by Sechele I resisted Afrikaner incursions, and after about eight years of intermittent tensions and hostilities, eventually came to a peace agreement in Potchefstroom in 1860. From that point on, the modern-day border between South Africa and Botswana was agreed on, and the Afrikaners and Batswana traded and worked together peacefully.

Due to newly peaceful conditions, trade thrived between 1860 and 1880. Taking advantage of this were Christian missionaries. The Lutherans and the London Missionary Society both became established in the country by 1856. By 1880 every major village had a resident missionary, and their influence slowly became felt. Khama III (reigned 1875–1923) was the first of the Tswana chiefs to make Christianity a state religion, and changed a great deal of Tswana customary law as a result. Christianity became the de facto official religion in all the chiefdoms by World War I.

Colonialism and the establishment of the Bechuanaland Protectorate

During the Scramble for Africa the territory of Botswana was coveted by both Germany and Great Britain. During the Berlin Conference, Britain decided to annex Botswana in order to safeguard the Road to the North and thus connect the Cape Colony to its territories further north. It unilaterally annexed Tswana territories in January 1885 and then sent the Warren Expedition north to consolidate control over the area and convince the chiefs to accept British overrule. Despite their misgivings, they eventually acquiesced to this fait accompli.

In 1890 areas north of 22 degrees were added to the new Bechuanaland Protectorate. During the 1890s the new territory was divided into eight different reserves, with fairly small amounts of land being left as freehold for white settlers. During the early 1890s the British government decided to hand over the Bechuanaland Protectorate to the British South Africa Company. This plan, which was well on its way to fruition despite the entreaties of Tswana leaders who toured England in protest, was eventually foiled by the failure of the Jameson Raid in January 1896.

When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910 from the main British colonies in the region, the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Basutoland (now Lesotho), and Swaziland (the High Commission Territories) were not included, but provision was made for their later incorporation. However, the UK began to consult with their inhabitants as to their wishes. Although successive South African governments sought to have the territories transferred to their jurisdiction, the UK kept delaying; consequently, it never occurred. The election of the Nationalist government in 1948, which instituted apartheid, and South Africa's withdrawal from the Commonwealth in 1961, ended any prospect of the UK or these territories agreeing to incorporation into South Africa.

An expansion of British central authority and the evolution of tribal government resulted in the 1920 establishment of two advisory councils to represent both Africans and Europeans. The African Council consisted of the eight heads of the Tswana tribes and some elected members. Proclamations in 1934 regulated tribal rule and powers. A European-African advisory council was formed in 1951, and the 1961 constitution established a consultative legislative council.

Independence

In June 1964, the United Kingdom accepted proposals for a democratic self-government in Botswana. The seat of government was moved in 1965 from Mafikeng in South Africa, to the newly established Gaborone, which is located near Botswana's border with South Africa. Based on the 1965 constitution, the country held its first general elections under universal suffrage and gained independence on 30 September 1966. Seretse Khama, a leader in the independence movement and the legitimate claimant to the Ngwato chiefship, was elected as the first President, and subsequently re-elected twice.

The presidency passed to the sitting Vice-President, Quett Masire, who was elected in his own right in 1984 and re-elected in 1989 and 1994. Masire retired from office in 1998. He was succeeded by Festus Mogae, who was elected in his own right in 1999 and re-elected in 2004. The presidency passed in 2008 to Ian Khama (son of the first President), who had been serving as Mogae's Vice-President since resigning his position in 1998 as Commander of the Botswana Defence Force to take up this civilian role.

A long-running dispute over the northern border with Namibia's Caprivi Strip was the subject of a ruling by the International Court of Justice in December 1999. It ruled that Kasikili Island belongs to Botswana.

Geography

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At 581,730 km2 (224,607 sq mi) Botswana is the world's 48th-largest country. It is similar in size to Madagascar or France. It lies between latitudes 17° and 27°S, and longitudes 20° and 30°E.

The country is predominantly flat, tending toward gently rolling tableland. Botswana is dominated by the Kalahari Desert, which covers up to 70 per cent of its land surface. The Okavango Delta, one of the world's largest inland deltas, is in the northwest. The Makgadikgadi Pan, a large salt pan, lies in the north.

The Limpopo River Basin, the major landform of all of southern Africa, lies partly in Botswana, with the basins of its tributaries, the Notwane, Bonwapitse, Mahalapswe, Lotsane, Motloutse and the Shashe, located in the eastern part of the country. The Notwane provides water to the capital through the Gaborone Dam. The Chobe River lies to the north, providing a boundary between Botswana and Namibia's Zambezi Region. The Chobe River meets with the Zambezi River at a place called Kazungula (meaning a small sausage tree, a point where Sebitwane and his Makololo tribe crossed the Zambezi into Zambia).

Ecology

Botswana has diverse areas of wildlife habitat. In addition to the delta and desert areas, there are grasslands and savannas, where blue wildebeest, antelopes, and other mammals and birds are found. Northern Botswana has one of the few remaining large populations of the endangered African wild dog. Chobe National Park, found in the Chobe District, has the world's largest concentration of African elephants. The park covers about 11,000 km2 (4,247 sq mi) and supports about 350 species of birds.

The Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve (in the Okavango Delta) are major tourist destinations. Other reserves include the Central Kalahari Game Reserve located in the Kalahari desert in Ghanzi District; Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and Nxai Pan National Park are in Central District in the Makgadikgadi Pan. Mashatu Game Reserve is privately owned: located where the Shashe River and Limpopo River meet in eastern Botswana. The other privately owned reserve is Mokolodi Nature Reserve near Gaborone. There are also specialised sanctuaries like Khama Rhino Sanctuary (for rhinoceros) and Makgadikgadi Sanctuary (for flamingos). They are both located in Central District.

Botswana faces two major environmental problems: drought and desertification. The desertification problems predominantly stem from the severe times of drought in the country. Three quarters of the country's human and animal populations depend on groundwater due to drought. Groundwater use through deep borehole drilling has somewhat eased the effects of drought. Surface water is scarce in Botswana and less than 5 per cent of the agriculture in the country is sustainable by rainfall. In the remaining 95 per cent of the country, raising livestock is the primary source of rural income. Approximately 71 per cent of the country's land is used for communal grazing, which has been a major cause of the desertification and the accelerating soil erosion of the country.

Since raising livestock has proven to be profitable for the people of Botswana, they continue to exploit the land. The animal populations have continued to dramatically increase. From 1966 to 1991, the livestock population has increased from 1.7 million to 5.5 million. Similarly, the human population has increased from 574,000 in 1971 to 1.5 million in 1995, a 161 per cent increase in 24 years. "Over 50 per cent of all households in Botswana own cattle, which is currently the largest single source of rural income." "Rangeland degradation or desertification is regarded as the reduction in land productivity as a result of overstocking and overgrazing, or as a result of veld product gathering for commercial use. Degradation is exacerbated by the effects of drought and climate change."  

Environmentalists report that the Okavango Delta is drying up due to the increased grazing of livestock.  The Okavango Delta is one of the major semi-forested wetlands in Botswana and one of the largest inland deltas in the world; it is a crucial ecosystem to the survival of many animals.  

The Department of Forestry and Range Resources has already begun to implement a project to reintroduce indigenous vegetation into communities in Kgalagadi South, Kweneng North and Boteti.[37] Reintroduction of indigenous vegetation will help with the degradation of the land. The United States Government has also entered into an agreement with Botswana, giving them $7 million US dollars to reduce Botswana's debt by $8.3 million US dollars. The stipulation of the US reducing Botswana's debt is that Botswana will focus on more extensive conservation of the land.  

The United Nations Development Programme claims that poverty is a major problem behind the overexploitation of resources, including land, in Botswana. To help change this the UNDP joined in with a project started in the southern community of Struizendam in Botswana. The purpose of the project is to draw from "indigenous knowledge and traditional land management systems". The leaders of this movement are supposed to be the people in the community, to draw them in, in turn increasing their possibilities to earn an income and thus decreasing poverty. The UNDP also stated that the government has to effectively implement policies to allow people to manage their own local resources and are giving the government information to help with policy development.  

Politics and government

 

The constitution of Botswana is the rule of law, which protects the citizens of Botswana and represents their rights. The politics of Botswana take place in a framework of a representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Botswana is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of Botswana. The most recent election, its eleventh, was held on 24 October 2014. Since independence was declared, the party system has been dominated by the Botswana Democratic Party.

Judiciary

The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.  Botswana ranks 30th out of 167 states in the 2012 Democracy Index. According to Transparency International, Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa and ranks close to Portugal and South Korea.

It consists of a typical court system of local Magistrates Courts, a High Court and a Court of Appeal. The High Court is a superior court of record with unlimited original jurisdiction to hear and determine any criminal, civil or constitutional cases under any law. Appeals can be heard by the Court of Appeal. The Head of the High Court is the Chief Justice.

The Court of Appeal is the highest and final court in the country and deals with appeals from the High Court and the Industrial Court. The Head of the Court of Appeal is the Judge President.

Judges are appointed by the President of Botswana on the recommendation of the Judicial Services Commission.

Economy

 

Graphical depiction of Botswana's product exports in 28 color-coded categories.

GDP per capita (current), compared to neighbouring countries (world average = 100)

Since independence, Botswana has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world. Botswana has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to an upper middle-income country. Although Botswana was resource-abundant, a good institutional framework allowed the country to reinvest resource-income in order to generate stable future income. By one estimate, it has the fourth highest gross national income at purchasing power parity in Africa, giving it a standard of living around that of Mexico.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry of Botswana is responsible for promoting business development throughout the country. According to the International Monetary Fund, economic growth averaged over 9 per cent per year from 1966 to 1999. Botswana has a high level of economic freedom compared to other African countries.  The government has maintained a sound fiscal policy, despite consecutive budget deficits in 2002 and 2003, and a negligible level of foreign debt. It earned the highest sovereign credit rating in Africa and has stockpiled foreign exchange reserves (over $7 billion in 2005/2006) amounting to almost two and a half years of current imports.

An array of financial institutions populates the country's financial system, with pension funds and commercial banks being the two most important segments by asset size. Banks remain profitable, well-capitalised, and liquid, as a result of growing national resources and high interest rates.  The Bank of Botswana serves as a central bank. The country's currency is the Botswana pula.

Botswana's competitive banking system is one of Africa's most advanced. Generally adhering to global standards in the transparency of financial policies and banking supervision, the financial sector provides ample access to credit for entrepreneurs. The Capital Bank opened in 2008. As of August 2015, there are a dozen licensed banks in the country. The government is involved in banking through state-owned financial institutions and a special financial incentives program that is aimed at increasing Botswana's status as a financial centre. Credit is allocated on market terms, although the government provides subsidised loans. Reform of non-bank financial institutions has continued in recent years, notably through the establishment of a single financial regulatory agency that provides more effective supervision. The government has abolished exchange controls, and with the resulting creation of new portfolio investment options, the Botswana Stock Exchange is growing.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government respects this in practice. The legal system is sufficient to conduct secure commercial dealings, although a serious and growing backlog of cases prevents timely trials. The protection of intellectual property rights has improved significantly. Botswana is ranked second only to South Africa among sub-Saharan Africa countries in the 2014 International Property Rights Index.

While generally open to foreign participation in its economy, Botswana reserves some sectors for citizens. Increased foreign investment plays a significant role in the privatisation of state-owned enterprises. Investment regulations are transparent, and bureaucratic procedures are streamlined and open, although somewhat slow. Investment returns such as profits and dividends, debt service, capital gains, returns on intellectual property, royalties, franchise's fees, and service fees can be repatriated without limits.

Botswana imports refined petroleum products and electricity from South Africa. There is some domestic production of electricity from coal.

Gemstones and precious metals

In Botswana, the Department of Mines and Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security led by Hon Sadique Kebonang in Gaborone, maintains data regarding mining throughout the country. Debswana, the largest diamond mining company operating in Botswana, is 50 per cent owned by the government. The mineral industry provides about 40 per cent of all government revenues. In 2007, significant quantities of uranium were discovered, and mining was projected to begin by 2010. Several international mining corporations have established regional headquarters in Botswana, and prospected for diamonds, gold, uranium, copper, and even oil, many coming back with positive results. Government announced in early 2009 that they would try to shift their economic dependence on diamonds, over serious concern that diamonds are predicted to dry out in Botswana over the next twenty years.

Botswana's Orapa mine is the largest diamond mine in the world in terms of value and quantity of carats produced annually. Estimated to have produced over 11 million carats in 2013, with an average price of $145/carat, the Orapa mine was estimated to produce over $1.6 billion worth of diamonds in 2013.

Demographics

 

The Tswana are the majority ethnic group in Botswana, making up 79 per cent of the population. The largest minority ethnic groups are the BaKalanga, and San or AbaThwa, also known as Basarwa. Other tribes are Bayei, Bambukushu, Basubia, Baherero and Bakgalagadi. In addition, there are small numbers of whites and Indians, both groups being roughly equally small in number. Botswana's Indian population is made up of many Indian-Africans of several generations, with some having migrated from Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, South Africa, and so on, as well as first generation Indian immigrants. The white population speaks English and Afrikaans and makes up roughly 3 per cent of the population.

Since 2000, because of deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe, the number of Zimbabweans in Botswana has risen into the tens of thousands.

Fewer than 10,000 San people are still living their traditional hunter-gatherer way of life. Since the mid-1990s the central government of Botswana has been trying to move San out of their historic lands. James Anaya, as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people for the United Nations in 2010, described loss of land as a major contributor to many of the problems facing Botswana's indigenous people, citing the San's eviction from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) as an especial example. Among Anaya's recommendations in a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council was that development programs should promote, in consultation with indigenous communities such as the San and Bakgalagadi people, activities in harmony with the culture of those communities such as traditional hunting and gathering activities.

In the same vein,  most African children grow up with the belief that they have to give back to those who brought them up.

This phenomenon is known as black tax and it is closely related to the Setswana saying that re tshola bana gore ba re boloke, which translates to children are born to take care of their parents.

The Urban Dictionary defines black tax as the money that black professionals are expected to give to support their less fortunate family members.

In Botswana, black tax takes the form of taking care of parents by either building them houses or taking care of one's siblings by buying groceries on a monthly basis.

The burden of having to pay a regular amount of money to parents or guardians brings anxiety to some.

Ms Neo Maiteko (not real name), who is one such black tax payee, said she has lived most of her adult life paying black tax.

The 42-year-old said she had to assume the responsibility of looking after her family from a young age, and that she used her tertiary allowance to provide for her family. Years later, she built a house for them upon being employed.

Ms Maiteko noted that the burden of black tax was not for first borns alone, adding that she was the fifth born but was like an assistant mother.

"I still pay my black tax even now, but I think my debt is coming to an end. The remaining years of my life will now be mine," she said.

She also explained that at some level fulfilling the responsibilities came with blessings, although she said there were also negative effects such as putting one's life plans on hold.

"It is also worth noting that this responsibility can affect one's health. One can end up with stress, BP, depression and many more illnesses because it is not an easy task. It needs commitment," she explained.

Another individual who is paying what's due to his parents is Mr Larona David (not real name). He said after graduating from the University of Botswana he started building a house for his parents, adding that he had more projects down the pipeline.

He said he incorporated black tax into his life plans, and that he does not feel delayed.

"I do not feel delayed, instead I feel like I am getting somewhere every time I do something for my mother," he said, adding that he helped with bills and groceries every month.

Mr David is the second born and his elder sibling does not have a job while the younger ones are still at school.

He said people should view black tax as a responsibility and not a burden, adding that it could be considered a burden if one felt delayed to do certain things.

Mr David said he has accepted that he has to change the socio-economic status of his family hence helping as much as he could.

However, he also said he saved as much as he could for the future. "Coming from a middle-income family motivated me to work hard so that I will never be short of options," he said.

Mr David said he was employed immediately after graduating in 2016, adding that he does not neglect himself as he goes on vacation every year.

Headman of records at Molepolole, Mr Kebonethebe Kgari said he does not support the idea of overwhelming children with responsibilities.

He said parents should not expect their children to make up for their failures, adding that when people decide to marry they should also plan on how they would put a roof over their heads.

Mr Kgari said children had a lot to deal with like planning their own marriages, buying plots and building their homes, adding that no child should be expected to pay for their upbringing.

However, he discouraged children from leaving their children with their parents, saying they were neglecting their responsibilities.

However, one parent, Ms Kgomotsego Gapi said children should take care of their parents as their strength was depleted when they looked after them.

She said they were not being greedy as a mere P50 from their children made them happy.

"If your child builds for you, be grateful. We cannot expect them to connect water and electricity too as they also have lives to live," she said.

Ms Gapi added that they also helped their children because some of their marriages failed and they came back home. "So in a way, it is an investment and not a burden.

However, she said parents and children differed and that some paid heavily in black tax. She noted that first borns were mostly required to build houses for their parents, but that parents tended to give their homes to their last borns instead of making the home open to everyone.

For his part, Mr Kgomotso Jongman, who is a social worker, said black tax was a way of giving back to a community that raised you.

He said in the past children were able to attend school and be employed afterwards thus being able to give back.

Mr Jongman said the evolution of society has affected black tax.

He said most millennials have given up on black tax compared to the baby boomers as most were hard hit by unemployment. He added that some have neglected their parents because they had opportunities but prioritised travelling and keeping up with trends.

"This has seen a rise of the social welfare bill because parents are now destitute," he said. He said some parents were now impoverished because they had resumed responsibility for their grown-up children who graduated but were unemployed.