Monday, June 5, 2023

Accountability is the only way out

A culture of impunity is eroding whatever gains Botswana has made over the years to support of democratic institutions. This culture of impunity is weakening our institutions but also undermining our democracy. It was not always like this. It started the moment people in power and those close to it felt they could get away with anything. Now everybody things they are above the law. When Ian Khama arrived into the presidency a few years ago the country was made to believe that there would be consequences against those who did not meet the performance targets set.

He also went public to say those working for him will be held to the highest standards, not just in performance but also as moral barometers that would be aspired by the public. At that time Khama enjoyed unassailable goodwill from the nation. He was promising exactly what the nation had long clamored for; integrity, morality and honesty. The days of sleaze were behind, so we thought. He was seen as an embodiment of hope, a kind of messiah who was literally walking on water. But that has all since unraveled. Nothing seems to be working, at least not at a scale that was promised. Discontent and disenchantment have replaced hope. What the nation knows is that performance targets were set, but never obeyed. For example an international airport was built as part of preparations for the 2010 World Cup that was held in South Africa. Five years on, that same airport is still not complete today. About four or five stadiums were built at around the time, five years on they are still not usable. In Serowe a stadium was built on a ground that has since proved defective. Nobody has paid a price fort it notwithstanding the fact that advice was give but not obeyed. The trouble is that under President Ian Khama a shady infrastructure where public money is used to finance ruling party has been allowed to flourish. This has literally rendered Khama himself a hostage of the very people had wanted to use to siphon money from government to the party.

These people are in security agencies but some of them are in top positions in the civil service as well as a few who call themselves businessmen even as they cannot for a minute name a single business that they are running beyond the commission renting schemes under which they corruptly dish out government tenders and contracts. This has not only undermined the public service, it also has demoralized hard working public servants. The only way out is to start afresh. President Ian Khama has to start by telling the cronies surrounding him to stop trading in his name and using him as a bogeyman in their business deals. And that is not all. He also has to personally restructure the civil service. He can no longer delegate. The leadership of Eric Molale as Permanent Secretary to the President has become irredeemable. In fact Molale’s ineptitude is much to blame for all the malaise eating the public service today. Whatever Khama owes Molale, the price has been too much as paid by the nation.

Sticking with Molale at all cost as Khama has thus far done will ultimately prove one of the most defining low moments of Khama’s presidency when historians get to review the President’s legacy. Elections due in October present Khama with a rare opportunity with which to start from a clean slate. In doing so he must act with a strong knowledge that after October elections, he will be starting his last lap under which there will set in a mandatory lame duck period.

When that time sets in the president will lose the public goodwill and the clout that are all necessary to implement big and long term decisions. People surrounding him will start to discount him as an important variable of the future. In short, president needs to claim the moral high ground with which he arrived into the presidency but which with time he has shockingly lost. And time is not running out. And worse the things that we see now happening were not originally part of the script that promised the nation. It’s important that alone, away from his swathe of hangers-on, he starts making a reflection.

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