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The Indian community must reflect – Racism cannot be privatised and has no place in Botswana

KGOSIETSILE NGAKAAGAE
I sat down with a Motswana of Indian origin just yesterday, discussing this issue and there was consensus that the situation does not bode well for our country’s peace and stability, and is not sustainable

It is bringing toxicity to national socio-economic discourse and must be attended to, as a matter of urgency. Some friends of mine, for whom the coinage, “clever blacks”, would be appropriate, blame the whole problem on Batswana.

I have flatly declined the charge and continue so to do. The average, hardworking Motswana, drowned under the inflow of foreign capital. The global economy is a money game, and there is a need to protect indigenous citizens against economic displacement and marginalisation by big capital. Batswana are simply asking for fair play.

The achievement of a dominant position by a market player is perfectly legal. What a company does with its position, once it has achieved market dominance, is what often proves problematic. Abuse can negatively affect both competitors and consumers. It is constituted, by the precipitation of unfair trading conditions.

Unlike in South Africa, where they have very active and a highly litigious civil society, chambers of business and unions, Batswana don’t have such luxuries.

Batswana generally look to the government and are not a litigious society. In any case, litigating against money and power has its own set of problems, the fear of being drowned under costs being among such.

Even for private lawyers, who may choose to assist in such an effort, such is a major undertaking. Besides, the complexities of the market and the cost of investigations and securing expert witnesses, is prohibitive. It is for that reason that Batswana feel orphaned on the poultry question.

Some do ask still, why they should litigate an area where the government has administrative responsibility and therefore insist on an administrative or political solution. They demand solutions in the hands of their elected leaders.

Examples of abuse of a dominant position may include, for example, “limiting production, markets or technical development to the prejudice of consumers”.

They may further include, “applying dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading partners, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage or making the conclusion of contracts subject to acceptance by the other parties of supplementary obligations which, by their nature or according to commercial usage, have no connections with the subject of such contracts.”

The abuse of dominant position may consist of both “application of the prize-squeeze, refusal to deal and discrimination”. Discrimination may be as to race, ethnicity or other illegitimate ground.

The last of the examples is instructive. One of the complaints has been the racial exclusivity of contracts, and the resultant ring-fencing of the market by dominant players in the retail sector.

There is a need for

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the market, especially dominant players to set clear conditions upon which they can procure from the small-scale sector. How does anyone explain the fact that one of the most dominant chicken franchises does not give franchises to blacks and that government has so far done nothing about it?

Are we prepared as a nation, to accept blatant racism as apart of private rights? Accepting, as one must, that the food sector is sensitive by reason of health requirements and standards, franchises must state and publish, in clear terms, minimum conditions small-scale players in the poultry sector must comply with, in order to qualify as suppliers to their relative capacities.

The excuse regarding the capacity of the small-scale sector, is a bogus argument as the better fraction of the market can be resourced by the dominant players. But how many such franchises do that? How many are looking for quality, as opposed to race, from Batswana?

 I have received complaints that the supply chain is locked up in exclusive contracts. Wherever they go, Batswana are told that there are preferred contract growers who incidentally, are invariably racially identifiable.

I insist, therefore, that there is a need on the part of, mainly, the Indian community to self-reflect and to determine if doing business in the manner or form that is generally ascribed to them is permissible and sustainable.

There is too much economic racism among our Indian brothers and sisters and there is no need to tiptoe, around the issue. This must stop. Those who believe that they have a right to practice economic racism must ship out. They cannot and will, never be welcome. In fact, they must not only be made to feel unwelcome but must be shown the door.

His Excellency came out strongly to caution the nation against making other residents feel unwelcome all by reason of their skin colour. In principle, he makes a valid point. It however fails to engage with the reality of an already radicalised economy, and the need to introspect on the side of the Indian community.

For a fact, Batswana opened their country to Indian immigrants, and allowed them to be a part of the journey of national development. When His Excellency spoke of “bo rampeechane”, he was conveying the pitiless logic of fact.

Those now perpetuating the radicalised economy and engaging in unfair business practices, including the abuse of their lawfully acquired dominant positions to racialise the economy must reflect on whether their actions convey gratitude they owe to indigenous Batswana.



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