The heights we hope Masisi will ascend

26 Nov 2017

If this article is published this week, Sunday, the 26th of November 2017; we can calculate the days until the penultimate political personage and president-designate will ascend to the post of head of state of the Republic of Botswana and the nation’s supreme public servant. Surprised by certain terminology? Offended even by reference to the same political actor as both ‘president’ and ‘public servant’? Because the fact of the of the matter is that he is a public servant, of and to the all the people of this nation, and as such must understand and behave in a manner, which at all times lends itself to the verity of his position. President to all, public servant at the beck and call of us all - not just members of his political party, those in his cabal or the moneyed among us. As such it befits him to behave towards the common-folk with “at least the barest modicum of respect as his employer”, and that further, “we as Batswana do not automatically owe him our unquestioning allegiance by virtue of his office. If he wants our support and respect, the onus is on him to earn it, just as any other employee must.” (Spencer,2007). So, when in 126 days, His Honour, the Vice-President, Mr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, takes on the moniker of His Excellency, The President of the Republic of Botswana., becoming this country’s fifth and youngest premier, reaching the pinnacle of power with respect to the management of political, economic and social well-being of Batswana. It is a must that he comprehends, that in his hands, he will hold not just the aspirations of all Batswana, but instead (without the hubris that has come to characterize the body politic), exhibit a degree of humility for the responsibility and trust which has been vouchsafed him.

As a part of the current, Khama administration, Rre Masisi carries with him, a great deal of baggage: much not of his own making, but that which he certainly had a hand in; willingly, reluctantly, as a passive political bystander when it suited him, or even under duress. His impending   ascension, carries for the most part -  of conversations overheard -  more hope than despair. Over and over again, I have heard it said, ‘that things will get better in April’ In general he is considered more forthcoming that the current President, His Excellency, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama. And Batswana long for a less absolutist leader; rather one open to discourse and vigorous debate, especially within his own ranks. And while we’re at it, our elected parliamentarians too, must be reminded, that it is to us that they are in servitude. And when a motion comes before the legislature, their vote, is on behalf of those whom they embody. Because in a developmental state, if progress is to be achieved in the long run, it can only occur in an environment of inclusivity.

Beyond the aforementioned points lay so much more sentiment than anyone can properly convey in a thousand-word article. Batswana desperately want to believe in the Botswana that Sir Seretse and Sir Ketumile and our other forbearers envisaged; where a person is not what they were born to be, royal or rich, but what they have it inside themselves to be. It is hoped, his key advisors and those closest to him politically, will be appointed on merit and not from any long-standing personal associations. And come with the wit and will commit themselves to our collective betterment, not the ‘runners’ and ‘fixers’ that have come to typify our politics. The nation begs for a return to the dictates of democracy, and less rule by directive. We want a return to policy formulation, implementation and positive outcomes, and not the finger-pointing blame game currently employed by the ruling party – nothing is ever their fault. How pathetic is that? We’re tired of populism – surely now, our village elders have enough blankets? And our rural children enough sweets, even they know, they’ll still be hungry tomorrow. Our poor and most vulnerable, now see Ipelegeng for what it is… not gainful employment with prospects for learning and future progression but for the dependency it has created and encouraged. Let “H.E” to be, leave philanthropy out of politics, and not make his giving - stemming from those who can afford to buy favour (and not his own pocket) - the subject of the nightly news. Batswana yearn for a leader who will answer their questions and not disdain communication unless it suits him, one who will create the jobs they’ve been promised, one who will hold his cabinet to the zero-tolerance for corruption that we were assured.

We hope Masisi will uphold our secular constitution and have the bravery to reform it, so that democracy is served by the true separation of powers, that places limits on the dominion of the executive, that gives the legislature true authority with respect to calling the executive to account and that brings back transparency. We want to know and have a voice in our own development, who gets the jobs and why, what they bring to the ‘party’, who earns what, what assets the state owns and whom they are selling them to and why. We want access to the information we are entitled to – why Grippen fighter jets when we were promised an overhaul of an education system that is failing our students? If government has no money and Batswana are asked to make sacrifices, cannot our leaders go without personal airstrips, new BMWs and unlimited travel doing God knows what? We desire the ‘good fences that make for good neighbours’ pragmatic foreign policies that support our domestic agenda, and not the dismissal or disdain of our African brethren and the International community at large by referring to such associations as ‘talk-shops’. Not only is such foreign policy, if it can be called that …folly, it is antithetical to our culture. Why advise Britain to stay in the European Union, while at the same time disparaging our own regional coalition, which is head-quartered in our nation’s capital? Why is there no true oversight of certain agencies of the Ministry of Justice, Defence and Security, such as DIS and DCEC or rather, why is only one-man privy to their operations, with little or no observable benefit, while the police services drown in the current of un-relenting and ever-increasing crime? Where are their funds so that they can adequately do their jobs? Let those who reach the age of retirement retire, and not be given plum ambassadorial positions, placed on committees that do nothing so that government can continue to cover their lifestyle and health expenses. Populate our Ministry of Foreign Affairs with specialists, because only the very naïve can state that our ‘foreign policy’ works for us; the world has changed over the last fifty-one years. Has BDP not noticed?

Rre Masisi, holds the hope of Batswana in its government power, in his hands and these are the heights to which Batswana hope he will ascend. He has put himself forward as the right candidate for the job. Whether one likes him or not, is not at issue here. It’s in all our best interests to see him succeed. And further should Masisi ascend to the heights that Batswana are hoping, he’ll not only rejuvenate our society, he’ll have brought credibility back to the BDP. And that, would be a miracle, all in itself.