A road to nowhere!

08 Oct 2019

In two weeks, Botswana will head to the polls.

Botswana’s electoral campaign has been nothing but a field of transactional redoubt.

In quite an unprecedented way, the country has become a centre of attraction for the sub-region’s shady geopolitical underworld.

International mafia billionaires are lining up for a piece of Botswana – literally.

Our political leaders have sold their souls to wealthy South Africans.

Every mid-week the same leaders embark on a pilgrimage to the south, there to pay homage to their financial masters, re-pledge their loyalty, beg campaign money, solicit campaign paraphernalia like T shirts and posters, and we now learn also receive advice and tutelage on running a government

Right before our eyes, Botswana’s sovereignty is dissipating – a lot of it sold over a chilly curry barbecue in the leafy suburbs of north Johannesburg, chiefly Sandton.

That is where all transactions happen.

The prize is Botswana the country, apparently minus its people.

What Botswana needs is a realistic optimism about the future.

Too much negativity is creeping into our public discourse.

People have a lot of accumulated grievances that have gone unresolved.

A lot of it has been blamed on social media.

The truth though is that social media, while electrifying has been responsible only up to a point.

Long before social media was the in thing, there was growing evidence of cynicism among our people.
Social media, with its perceived detachment and unaccountability has only made things worse.

The country needs a new purpose to move on. Yet what it gets is political grandstanding.
Botswana has had a glorious past.

But, we have to admit, as a nation we cannot forever live on the history of our past glories.

Or else we risk becoming hostages of our past, goaded on by unending nostalgia and clamour for a return of the good old days – the days that will clearly never come back.

Our collective nostalgia is fast becoming a lullaby – a song you sing to send a little child to sleep.

Campaign finance needs to be regulated.

Botswana Democratic Party has been a beneficiary of this footloose arrangement when it received money from De beers, for example.

The Botswana Peoples Party broke apart on account of assistance received from Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana.

Botswana Congress Party has in the past received assistance at least in kind from the Labour Party in Britain.

Today the Umbrella for Democratic Change is getting money from Zunaid Moti, Bridget Radebe and many others.

All these have never been declared to any authority, much less to the voter in Botswana.
It has to change.

Many of the fairytales that our leaders prat out as part of their campaign pledges actually are not theirs.
Such pledges are from their handlers who are financiers. They know such promises are unrealistic. But then what do they care! All they want is an immediate return on investment.

They are looking at such things like diamond mines, concessions in both mining and tourism, the Pula fund at Bank of Botswana and of course the billions at BPOPF (Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund.)

In fact they have been promised unbridled access to these assets.

Botswana is nearing a day when it will be led by a zombie president who can’t make a decision before consulting the masters in South Africa.

That is a cautionary we need to take into the electoral booth in two weeks’ time.

On a separate but related matter, we just have to accept a painful truth that Botswana is no longer a rich country. And all statistics and economic data abundantly bear this out.

Of course, Botswana government is still able to meet its obligations – but only just.

Diamonds still remain by far the country’s biggest economic mainstay. And they will, for a long time to come be the crown jewel in our poorly diversified economic base.

But their efficacy has been badly undermined, not just by the global market but also by how expensive it has become to get them off the ground at the pits.

Latest data show that non-mining contribution to the GDP has been fantastically growing.

For some this might offer hope however dim - of something worth celebrating.
The truth though is that such growth hides or highlights (depending on where one is standing) more serious redflags.

A decline in mining, especially diamonds has palpable consequences.
Diamonds come as a preternatural commodity to Botswana’s overall economy.

Thus, to Botswana, Debswana, the country’s premier diamond miner is much more than a company. It is a breadbasket, carrying the hopes and aspirations of the entire nation.
Nothing better illustrates the continuing vulnerability of Botswana’s economy than diamonds’ preeminent role in it.

All attempts to wean Botswana from dependence on diamonds have thus far been a spectacular failure.

Given the importance of diamonds, reducing dependence on them have for some observers often amounted to a wasteful and even aimless fantasy.

Diamonds notwithstanding, quite inevitably, doubts and questions are shifting towards the future.
Opinion is divided about the long-term viability of Botswana as a sovereign state without diamonds.

A life after diamonds is a national security issue that has been postponed for far too long, but which can no longer be postponed any further.
The world has identified climate change as a pressing life and death issue.

In Botswana, it is a future without diamonds that should be of cardinal importance to our policy planners.

So far there has been no breakthrough.

Time after time, diamonds take Botswana’s economy down only for the same diamonds to take it up again.
It has been a road to nowhere.

The biggest crisis that Botswana faces has got to be a future shorn of diamonds.

So far nobody among our political pretenders is pondering that future; ostensibly, not even their handlers!