Of the president and his blankets
by Sonny O. Serite
President Ian Khama is crisscrossing the country doling out blankets to the elderly. There shouldnít be anything wrong with donating blankets to the elderly. Blessed is the hand that giveth than the one that taketh; so says the Bible. Well, if you told me that President Khama deserves some blessing for his Ďgiving handí I would nod in agreement, though reluctantly. Look, I repeat that it is very good to assist the elderly. Infact I think God should delay the departure of those who take care of the elderly. They should live much longer.
While I applaud and support President Khamaís initiative of donating blankets to our grandmothers and grandfathers, I have a few reservations on the nobility of his endeavour. I always ask myself: is the president giving out these blankets sincerely from the bottom of his heart or is he just trying to win the hearts of the beneficiaries for political expediency? Is he genuinely fighting this cold weather or he is just fighting his political rivals? I read in one local newspaper that some members of the Botswana Council of Non Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) have raised their concerns over the presidentís blankets donations. They are of the view it is just a crazy initiative. Infact the concerns were reportedly expressed by a Reverent who is affiliated to the Botswana Council of Churches. You see for a long time I have been withholding my concerns over the presidentís initiative of going about distributing blankets to the elderly. Now after reading that even the men of cloth do not find anything holy in the initiative, I feel free to comment.
The one question I always ask myself everytime I see the president handing over the blankets to these elderly people is: Who told the president that these old people do not have blankets? Does being old automatically translate into Ďblanketlessness?í Has the president ever tried to establish what some of these elderly people seriously need in life or what they would rather have donated to them? Itís quite funny. No itís not funny. Itís heartbreaking how these donations target only the elderly. They are not given out to the needy. Trust me there are lots and lots of people who really should be getting those blankets but are just overlooked because they donít use walking sticks. If you donít show a wrinkled face then you will never get a blanket from the president. How many orphaned children need those blankets? How many hospitals in the country need those blankets for the sick? How many blankets does the Red Cross need to fully carry out their mandate. Trust me, out of the many elderly people that Khama gives out blankets to, only 10% of the beneficiaries deserve those blankets. We buy our grandparents blankets and the good thing about blankets is, you donít have to replenish or replace them every year. As such Khama should know that the blankets that I bought for my grandfather three years ago are still in good condition. What Iím therefore suggesting here is, instead of treating all elderly people as deserving of blanket donations, the president should set out to give only the needy. And they donít necessarily have to be the elderly.
It is disheartening to learn there is shortage of blankets in our hospitals at the State House while it is quite evident blankets have fallen like manna from heaven. If you didnít know, allow me to let you know why only the elderly are targeted for these donations. Itís for political expediency. And please donít even think Iím complaining that the president is buying votes from the elders. No, Iím only worried that he doesnít want to admit it. You see politicians always take us for fools and that is because for a long time the voter has allowed himself to be fooled.
Elderly people are the ones who have the patience to stay all day in queues during elections and Khama knows that by endearing himself to them, itís all systems go for him. I like Khama because I like people who think outside the box. Itís a fact of life that the more we grow old the more we go back to thinking like children. It is easy to play with the mind of an elderly person in the same way it is with that of a child. Go to a Chinese shop and buy your child anything for a present and look how happy and appreciating they are to whatever you give to them. Do you know that you can go to a candy shop with your child and he will cry for a lollipop but will stop crying and get back to his jovial self once if you get him ice cream instead of the lollipop he initially wanted? Thatís what Khama is doing to our elderly grannies. They donít need blankets. Surely their needs extend far beyond those blankets but once Khama arrives with those blankets, they all of a sudden forget that they ever needed something else. I donít blame them. It is how God made these things that when we grow old we start to think like kids.
There is one thing I donít understand with these donations made by President Khama. While some of us know that these donations are not directly from the president, the message he is sending out to the beneficiaries is he digs deep into his pockets to buy them those blankets. The president never publicly appreciates the support he or even acknowledge the companies which donate these blankets.
He can never say ďIím here to give you these blankets which were donated by company so and soĒ. As such these elderly people are left to believe the donations come directly from the president. But I applaud Khama for exploiting these companies which scramble to donate to him. I mean, why should companies donate blankets to the Office of the President when we have so many NGOís who are rightly place to distribute those donations. Our NGOís have all the information on who desperately needs a blanket or house. So President gave blankets for winter and I wonder what he has for summer. Umbrellas?