“We are from the brink”

06 Jan 2019

By Richard Moleofe

As a young boy growing in the 1970s, the best entertainment one could look for was from radio. Radio Botswana was the only station in the country. Radio Bantu which later became Radio Setswana was the next alternative at the time.

In 1978 I started writing news as a Standard Five kid because of my growing passion for writing. My sister eight, years older who was doing Form Four in Kgosi Kgari Sechele Secondary School became my editor. Her work on my script was often punctuated by bursts of laughter. She was actually laughing at my raw spelling of words, something I have struggled to overcome until the arrival of the self-correcting computer.

There was one individual who at the time was a news reader and was also involved in writing news and this man inspired me at a tender age of twelve. Andrew Sesinyi read the news with a distinctive voice and accent. At the time he was a rising star at the station. He was a rare find for the station as he arrived on the job as a graduate. A rare occurrence in those days. He was one of the only two graduates at Radio Botswana.

Recently this fine fellow put up something in the internet that went on like wild fire. Social media was awash with his opinion piece titled, “We are from the brink.”  It is a short essay but it is packed with power like a dynamite. Exactly fourty years later, the same man has come to inspire me to write and debate the issues he has brought over into public discourse.

Our country has never seen such instability in government since independence. If we didn’t have any insurrection this year, we will never have it until when Jesus comes again. This has all come as a result of automatic succession, a make belief story that Batswana have been made to swallow wholesale.

But the issues that Sesinyi raises have to do with our dicing with totalitarianism. This has become clearer as the past president is trying to wrestle power from the new. And he is doing it by hook and crook. At the moment the country’s current rating is way below the desirable level. I don’t need any statistical expert to explain that to me. We all can see that there is tension in the country’s political system. And where is the  stability we were promised by the architects of the automatic succession system? I wish Sir Ketumile Masire was alive.

When Former President Festus Mogae pronounced that his successor was a dictator, we all did the proverbial burying of heads in the sand. The man was simply sounding a warning trumpet. A warning to all who were busy taking time to create a little deity. In the past decade, we have had an over population of praise singers in our country

I have to mention that I would like my children to grow up in a peaceful country. Whether it is under the rule of Masisi or Duma Boko or whoever. The bottom line here is peace. Therefore I will rise up and condemn every action that can be deemed as a destabilizing factor on our democracy in this beloved country. Botswana should stop and introspect.

Dictators are not born but they are made. Reflect into history and see the universal truth in this statement. Adolf Hitler was created by the German voter. This is something the country will continue to regret in the next millennia. The Germans created this monster through the right and legitimate channels of democracy.

Europe is the most democratic piece of real estate in the world. It is so because they have had a fair share of their homemade dictators. The Spanish created Franko while the Italians made Mussolini who he was. In the recent past, Romania had a bigheaded communist leader by the name of Nicolae Ceausescu who brutalised almost half of the population. Africa’s list of dictators in recent history is endless. We are actually a warehouse for such commodities.  

The US is going through a rough patch in terms of leadership. President Trump has come in with his unorthodox manner of running the country. Their democracy is also facing a serious erosion from the leadership of this fellow. A few days ago, James Comey who is the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations sounded a similar alarm like what Sesenyi has done. He has called on every true patriotic American to raise their voices against Trump’s dictatorship. He has deliberately challenged the politicians on Capitol Hill to act regardless of their political home.

Similar to the American population, the people of Botswana will ignore the call by Sesenyi not to go back to the dark days of praise singing while blindfolded and oblivious to the monster we are creating. Power is sweet and that is one major thing that breeds dictators. It is only in West Africa where dictators come overnight. Nigeria in particular has in the past been common with coups. The rest of Africa has gone to the polls to put dictators in power.

Dictators always have a smart way of coming back into power. The creation of the Jerusalem faction of the ruling party is a smooth manner of usurping power. Vladimir Putin was once president of Russia. He created a way to go around their system of democracy and became president again. As if that was not enough, he went on to start a war with neighbouring Ukraine. Further to that, he has annexed Crimea which was initially a part of Ukraine.

If we ever allow ourselves to come so close to the brink of a cliff, we may not survive it next time. Dictatorships have been born out of the most liberal democracies. And dictators have this in common; they always want to have a hold on the power controls. Botswana has become a fading shining example of democracy, and we need to recover from that negative aspect of ourselves. We are warned!

*Richard Moleofe is a security analyst