In an effort to support and protect the local artists, the government has moved to pass the Intellectual Property Act.
“The Intellectual Property Act was passed to protect our indigenous knowledge …the way we conduct our culture from one generation to another,” said Timothy Moalosi, the Registrar of Companies and Intellectual Property Chief Commercial Officer. “We have a special history in which we cure diseases, our cultural expressions, traditional dance, bodilo, agricultural methods, including molora wa leiso to safeguard our crops from pests.”
Moalosi was briefing Ntlo Ya Dikgosi a few weeks ago about the mandate of the department.
He said that, against this backdrop, local art and talent should not be permitted to be ‘stolen’ as foreign visitors reap local knowledge and culture under the guise of adventure and globalization missions.
Moalosi cited the Monepenepe shrub, which the foreigners obtained from the country and now are manufacturing medicines out of the plant in their overseas laboratories and calling the invention their own today.
“We identified the plant to cure certain diseases but we gained nothing from our initial invention,” he said.
Moalosi maintained that currently kgwengwe is used by modern medical facilities overseas to assist people who want slim down or lose weight.
Indigenous Basarwa would go for some days without food and feeling no hunger, thanks to Kgwengwe, according to tradition and history of the peoples of Botswana.
“We, therefore, as the department, call for permission for these inventions and some dividends and payments to be afforded to the original inventors,” Moalosi said.
As some of the inventions are community based, the whole population concerned should benefit from their traditional knowledge and talent.
Moalosi cited Bogwera and Bojale, the initiation ceremonies which attract both local and international attention.
“They come here to photograph and record these cultural initiatives and activities to sell to their Television stations,” he informed Dikgosi.
He said that, as traditional leaders, these are some of the transgressions that the Dikgosi should know about and give direction to their people.
He argued that as their indigenous knowledge and intellectual materials are employed outside the country, particularly European countries, local artists, performers and traditional doctors, amongst others, should be assured the Registrar of Companies and Intellectual Property has noticed this unscrupulous behavior and intends to do something about it.
“We have introduced the Intellectual and Property Act which disallows the infringement of individuals’ materials from being copied or transformed into any other act,” noted the deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry Peggy Serame.
The curing of diseases, which was performed traditionally, including cultural expressions and traditional dances, have been captured or stolen with responsible individuals benefiting from the acts at the expense of the originators.