Facts about COSBOTS Part 1

SHARE   |   Sunday, 31 August 2014   |   By Seabelo Modibe

Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS) was a result of the amendment of the Copyright Act of 1965 which was passed in 2005. Prior to that sometime in 2000, my-self, Bafana Pheto, Nkgopolang Tlhomelang, Massie Hule and Alfred Mosimanegape were in the forefront leading a chorus of artists who bitterly complained and pushed for the amendment of the Act. While there were others on the sidelines the abovementioned took the bull by its horns.

After the Copyright Act was passed in parliament, the Ministry of Trade then told us that formation and drafting of the COSBOTS constitution was in the hands of artists as COSBOTS in its nature is not entirely a government organ but a company owned by artists. After this shocking response BOMU, which was led by Bafana Pheto, had to hatch a plan going forward and at that time piracy in Botswana was at its all time high as local radio stations were primarily playing and promoting foreign music and no royalties were paid to artists both local and foreign.

One day while I was with Massie Hule at his house in Block 3 recording Shanti Lo’s debut  Album, he made a startling revelation that Yoho (Youth Health Organisation) has just got funding from  USA and he came up with a grand idea of us buying pirated American Music CD’s and movies from the streets and Chinese shops, we approached the same donor agencies in the US to show them their product was being bootlegged as a way of getting them to help in tackling piracy and in the long run assisted in setting up a collecting society. While at the same time we decided to make allies with certain journalists that would help us with our campaign, we then identified Tshepiso Letshwiti and Tirelo Ditshipi (Guardian),  Monkagedi Gaotlhobogwe (Mmegi), Lucretia Chima and Ketshepile More (Daily News) and Moses Maruping (The Voice) who we then channelled our copyright stories through.

While issues of piracy were taking centre stage in print media, Batswana started to debate and our issues found the way to national television (The Eye) and morning show as the issue was escalating two American men from the US Copyright Office and International Intellectual Property Institute landed in Botswana from nowhere all of a sudden, Alfred Mosimanegape called us telling us there were some Americans in town who had just been to his studio and want some facts about copyright and piracy in Botswana. While still shocked, conversations between BOMU and these organisations started and for us the main objective was to keep contact with them; to assist us in funding so that we could start the roll out of the Copyright Act as there was no budget in particular drafting the Constitution of COSBOTS and making sure all stakeholders countrywide were involved.

While these conversations were ongoing, an opportunity in the USA arose in the form of a Copyright and Intellectual Property Training at the United States Trademark and Patent Office. As BOMU we looked at the profile of people that would be attending this mammoth event, it was then decided at BOMU that since I was fearless and younger, I should go; Hule and Pheto prepared proposals for funding that I would then submit when I got to the US. I remember we sat at Nando’s in Riverwalk, strategising on what I would do when I got there how I should pitch the proposals and we tried to close all the angles that might disadvantage us.

Come Saturday 23 September 2006 which actually coincides with my birthday I boarded a long flight to the USA with one thing on my mind to secure funding for establishment of a COSBOTS this was a swam on sink trip, luckily while in the USA I managed to sneak out behind government officers that were also from Botswana and met funders who agreed that we really needed help; the reason why I did not go with government officers to this meetings was because I was instructed by BOMU to make sure all requests that I made while over there had to be between funders and BOMU. I must say the beauty about this funding was that we never got the money as BOMU but the funders paid all expenses from accommodation and transport for artists, GICC, speakers and others.

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A big conference would follow up and held at the GICC where artists from all over the country converged, there were also representatives from various government departments in Botswana and when the conference ended, we were left with a strategy and draft collecting society constitution which needed to be polished. It was after this conference that I recommended Nkgopolang Tlhomelang to US Copyright Office to attend the same conference in 2008.

People moved on in a couple of months due to frustration as things started to move at a snail pace, it happened that one day while in Johannesburg at the Zone in Rosebank, I bumped into former SAMRO CEO, Rob Hooijer, he asked me how was the Collecting Society coming up in Botswana, I told him we were stuck with finalising the constitution and we had insufficient funding; it was then that he told me he was the Director of African Affairs at CESAC and he could do something. I immediately picked my phone and called Pheto who was the president and he was excited about this. CESAC and SAMRO would then sponsor a workshop at Grand Palm and bring in Advocate Baloyi to assist in drafting the COSBOTS final constitution.

At the same CESAC sponsored workshop, I then invited Solomon Monyame, Patrick Setsiba; Mike Sibanyoni, Shabba Kgotlaetsho and Nkgopolang Tlhomelang as the new president submitted to the Registrar Of Companies a list of all arts organisations that would make sure COSBOTS came to fruition and had fair representation.

Next week I will give a chronology of what happened since COSBOTS was registered and why I am not a member. I will reveal all the shenanigans and behind the scenes backstabbing and dishonesty of the highest order.