The newly formed Real Alternative Party (RAP) may not win the 2019 elections but it is using its platform to highlight an important but oft forgotten issue.
In acceding to the Chemical Weapons Convention, Botswana was evidently thinking of external and not internal threat. Resultantly, the country’s failure to tame the meaning of “chemical weapons” has exposed its citizens to internal threat. The Convention outlaws the development, production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. If you conceive of this weaponry in a broader context, some supermarkets sell food that actually functions no differently from chemical weapons. Salmonella poisoning, so easy to get from rotten food sold at the stores of one notorious supermarket chain, can actually kill you.
In judicially-advanced countries like North Korea, the entire board of directors of a supermarket chain that intentionally sells poor people rotten food would probably be charged with attempted murder and force-fed that same food. Botswana has neither poetic justice of that kind nor a consumer protection regime rigorous enough to deter businesspeople from using food as a chemical weapon. In passing, it is interesting to observe that Botswana is more concerned about North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and not those within its own borders.
Enter RAP whose birth was announced last week. Make what you will of the party’s electoral chances but you have to give it credit for addressing an important life-and-death issue that already existing parties don’t talk about in precise terms. The economic justice that the party envisions is one in which “perishable foods are labelled and dated.” RAP’s leader, Gaontebale Mokgosi, says that this sentiment was motivated by the fact that unlike countries like Japan, Botswana doesn’t have a comprehensive food labelling law that protects consumers.
Mokgosi not only laments Botswana’s over-reliance on other countries to meet its food security needs but also that some food imports are actually genetically modified organisms which are not labelled as such. The latter can be hugely problematic because not everyone would be able to tell that a green pepper almost the size of a water melon couldn’t have been organically grown. GMOs are enough of a health hazard to qualify as chemical weapons in the conception of this article because numerous studies have linked GMOs to diseases like cancer and liver damage. Mokgosi says that the healthy living message retailed to the public by health officials circumvents reality that the quality of food that one consumes takes primacy over physical exercise.
“It is not enough to exercise regularly because real health lies in what you eat,” says Mokgosi, adding that the government should be vigilant about what sort of food comes into the country.
To all intents and purpose, consumer protection in Botswana is non-existent partly because those charged with that responsibility are not enthusiastic enough about their jobs. RAP hopes to close that gap by launching a broader campaign that will include naming and shaming culprits who attack consumers, especially the poor, with chemical weapons disguised as food.