To cope with Botswana’s negative news cycle, despondency and apprehension, one has to get hooked to some of the most potent alcoholic beverages in the world or smoke tik all day and night to dull the pain and live under the delusion that life is good and worth living.
It is only those people with a poor sense of life who would quarrel with the observation that Botswana is mired in collective venting of the spleen. Scapegoating by blaming the past regime; accusing a relentless opposition for promising people miracle wages and daily reference to the nonsensical issue of the misfiring global economy only serves to demonstrate our inability to self-correct and pull ourselves out of the mess created by our own people.
Admittedly, by the time former President Dr Khama exited, Botswana had virtually reached a tipping point. The country was literally a minute away from the day of doom. Indeed the country was at a tipping point amid a dysfunctional economy that only served the interests of a select few. Institutions of the state had been reconfigured to serve an individual’s interests.
To round it off, the country was blacklisted as a tax haven by some of her trading partners in the developed world, while the European Union had put her on a blacklist for money laundering and financing terrorism. A dark cloud of hopelessness and helplessness enveloped the country and rendered life not worth living anymore. It was all gloom so much that many people wished they were never born.
Regardless of whether you agree or not, Botswana was truly bastardized. However, the dire situation became the normal as Batswana grittily soldiered on through valleys of death, literally and metaphorically. This unprecedented optimism and trust that the daredevil would ultimately fade away is what made cruel life look normal if not glorious.
It is only because citizens lacked the requisite courage to speak out loudly and/or revolt and it was only due to the failure of political nerve that the opposition lacked the ability to mobilize and organize citizens to start off a revolution. Otherwise, Khama’s disastrous presidency had prepared a fertile ground for a revolution.
While the change of guard in the presidency aborted a revolution, to ignore verbal protests by unemployed citizens; incidences of mob justice that continue to spiral and miniature angry debates and counter-arguments by several tribesmen would be a terrible mistake. In fact, these incidents are projected to become more frequent, organized and more brazen as time wears off and it becomes clear that election promises are just pie in the sky.
Thus, the sad reality is that Botswana is not yet out of the woods. It is just that Dr Khama who churned out short-term policies that were not motivated by any economic logic but by narrow political interests has left office. Otherwise the situation remains very precarious, volcanic and harrowing.
On this account, anyone who refuses to concede that Botswana had reached a tipping point under the stewardship of former president Dr Khama must have taken leave of their senses. And anyone who does not agree that the country has been hanging on cliff edge since must be living in a fool’s paradise.
There is no honor in denying that Botswana has been tinkering on the edges and sliding into abyss as a consequent of crooked government policy. We are a country that is at risk of grinding to a violent halt mainly due to wrong priorities that are shaped by political self-interest. Whereas the rot is a product of a delinquent past administration, it no longer serve any purpose using this as an excuse to avoid taking responsibility to clean the mess.
Whereas it is a fact that the former president and his miscreant rabble rousers still lurk around and distracts from the core business of formulating and implementing policy proposals that could ensure a sufficiently functioning government, we risk using these desperate ruffians to cover the incompetence and pedestrianism of those now in charge of the affairs of the republic.
It cannot be denied that Dr Khama’s administration messed Botswana’s economy and polity and bequeathed to us an economy on its deathbed, but spending an awful lot of quality time lamenting about a decade of plunder, neglect and mismanagement is not the best way to do demonstrate our abilities, inventiveness and purposefulness and certainly not the best way to rebuild state institutions that would oversee efficient management of public monies and promote the deepening of accountability.
We need to re-engineer and aggressively market a popular perspective that would concede that indeed the former president’s game plan cannot be ignored, but that the government machinery would not be bogged down in a taxing counter offensive. Thus, the gist of this thinking should be that stooping to his level would be an unproductive expenditure of time.
With a shrinking economy and chronic unemployment crisis, we cannot allow key institutions of the state and core personnel to be distracted by those with self-serving agenda. This is even more vital for the ruling BDP in general and the presidency in particular.
When President Dr Masisi reportedly remarked that ‘bo tautona jo kea bo batla, ke bo batla go gaisa jaaka nkile k abo batala…’, many citizens must have read into a man with a mission to stop the rot and halt the slide into abyss. Many must have envisaged a man with political courage, will power and requisite skills to turn around Botswana’s economy and re-launch it as one of the fastest growing economies among developing countries.
Arguably, many people still believe in President Dr Masisi and his lettered cabinet ministers who were, on the strength of their qualifications, carefully matched with ministerial portfolios to ensure high levels of professionalism and promote a relentless advance of the meritocracy. As such, many Batswana are willing to contribute in whatever they can to make Botswana prosperous.
In spite of there being some doubt about the legitimacy of the state owing to some issues with the 2019 general election, there is no doubt that the current administration enjoys substantial public goodwill and has the wherewithal to make Botswana great again.
The self-belief is evidently abundant; the caliber of most Cabinet Ministers is inspiring and support from the public across the political divide is plentiful save for the predictable noise coming from self-appointed Facebook firebrands and scaremongers who seem to have escaped from parenting, skipped adolescence and landed on computer keyboards as deficient adults.
In Botswana as is the case in many countries, the presidency, by virtue of its powers and status in the overall system of governance, is the lifeblood of the economy. Thus, if the presidency is mired in unending petty politics and infantile squabbling with waste adults whose motive is to decoy the new leadership towards failure, the entire state machinery would falter and the country will literally grind to a crushing halt.
The presidency is the bearer of a nation’s institutional strength and a loss of focus would have unmitigated consequences. Thus, the presidency should not only be focused and determined to turn around the Botswana economy but most importantly, must be seen as such by speaking the right language and developing thoughtful and original policies and programs that are fundamentally different from past programs created through a hit and miss approach.
Muddling through in the secure knowledge that Batswana are an absurdly patient and meek lot is no longer an option. The new administration’s rallying call to mend all and sundry (go baakanya lehatshe) must not become an illusion but instead it must be seen as a national commitment for a new dawn pillared on a belief that it is possible to reverse the damage of the last decade and recalibrate our state institutions in order to set the country on a highway to prosperity, again.
Scapegoating must end now even if the self-professed trouble maker has vowed to take dishonest politics to another level. Otherwise, it would mean that for as long as he lives, the state and the presidency in particular will forsake its core mandate in a bid to get even with a lone wolf who doesn’t give a hoot about the future of our country.
As we enter a new decade, Botswana needs a fundamental re-orientation of its political and economic system and the much hyped national transformation strategy is a good starting point. For God’s sake, this ought to be a compulsory task.