Something needs to be done to restore relevance of Independence Day

09 Aug 2018

The world over, Independence Day celebrations mean much to citizens.

This does not only apply to countries that had to wage a war for independence, but even for those countries that peacefully got their independence.

The same cannot be said about Botswana.

This was not always like this.

There used to be a time when Batswana looked forward to celebrating their Independence Day.

Independence Day celebrations should provide a sense of unity and pride for the nation.

They should provide to citizens a sense of belonging.

They should instill a sense of spontaneous patriotism for citizens.

Independence Day should be a day when national leaders and citizens alike interact, look back and smile at what has been achieved, and also brace themselves for what opportunities and challenges lie ahead.

For all our differences and challenges as a nation, an independent Botswana has been a runaway success.

For all the genuine concerns about rising inequality and unemployment and declining opportunities, as a country Botswana has a lot to look back and celebrate.

No doubt we could have done better.

But then many countries in our position have fared rather worse.

We have a lot to celebrate as a people.

Next month, Botswana will celebrate 52 years of independence.

Rather than look at those things that divide us, we call on Batswana to use that moment to focus on those things that unite us.

Rather than focus on our failures, we call on our compatriots to rather celebrate our achievements.

Rather than dwell too disproportionately on our shortcomings as a people and country, we should rather focus on those things on which we excel.

A lot has been made of the fact that Batswana are among the unhappiest people on earth.

To a point this is true.

Rather than dismiss this out of hand we need to establish why that could be the case and work at correcting that.

Certainly as a people we have the potential to be the happiest people.

There are growing concerns among citizens that Independence Day has lost its meaning and significance.

There is a lot of truth.

Fifty two years of independence is compared to other countries a very short time.

In fact there should still be independence euphoria among us.

Others have argued that the lack of interest is a product of alienation felt by many of Batswana.

If that is true, the feeling is that there is effectively nothing to celebrate.

We hold a totally different view.

A good proportion of our people have a valid reason to be despondent.

That is even more valid among young people, many of who feel that they owe this country nothing.

We call on Government to come up with programs that will provide these young people with a sense of identity and belonging.

Such programmes will empower the currently alienated.

There used to be a time in our history when across the country people flocked to various Dikgotla to celebrate Independence Day.

Ways have to devised to get that spirit back.

Currently every year it is Gaborone that hosts the biggest celebrations.

That should be change to allow for rotation.