Sunday, June 16, 2024

Are we becoming a Mafia state?

Before I dwell on the subject matter for today, I find it in order to congratulate His Excellency, Ian Khama, for his uninterrupted fourth win in the Khawa Dune challenge on the wildebeest category of the quad bikes over the weekend. That Khama is a sport fanatic cannot be overstated. He has this penchant for adventure that comes only second to his counterpart the other side of the world. Yes, I am talking about Russian President, Vladimir Putin, who also over the weekend found time in his busy schedule to participate in an exhibition hockey game in Sochi, the city that hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics. The 62 year old Putin, expectantly, did not disappoint, scoring 8 goals for his team’s victory. The World Post concludes thus: “During his 15 years as Russia’s leader, Putin has frequently displayed his athletic skills, most notably in judo and swimming. He took up hockey only in recent years to promote the sport.” The former KGB leader in the same vein as our president deserves congratulations.

Back to business for today ÔÇô in this instalment, I am posing a question about the possible direction our country seems to be taking if events reported lately in our media are anything to go by. In particular, I want to challenge the received position that Botswana is a unique polity in the continent ÔÇôan exemplary case of good governance. Indeed, this celebrated status about the Tswana is nothing new, for instance, Radcliffe-Brown once observed in the 1950s that certain features of the Tswana social arrangements made them “decidedly exceptional in Africa” so that they might “almost be regarded as an anomaly.” Very few have questioned this received position, especially in our post-independence period where everything has gone our way, if I may use that word. The economic growth could not be matched by any other economy in the world over the past decades. Politically, we developed somewhat functional democracy. The benefits of good governance meant that citizens enjoyed a relatively good way of life. Indeed, these were some of the things which made us different from others in an otherwise cursed continent.

But things have taken a decidedly different turn lately, if reports from the print and electronic media are true. Even the ruling party have taken note of such developments. Take, for example, the immediate past general elections in which the ruling BDP adopted a campaign tag line similar to that of another monolithic party down south ÔÇô “taking Botswana forward.” This was not just an ordinary campaign massage ÔÇô it was a calculated electioneering on the part of the BDP that things were not going smooth and therefore something positive needed to be done. On top of that we had a redcard that listed priority areas to be addressed should the ruling party win elections. Obviously, the purported material benefits included creation of jobs, fight against corruption, provision of social services such as water and electricity, to mention but a few. Indeed, a lot of Batswana bought into the line and voted, once again, the ruling party into power.

From what we are gathering from the reports Batswana will not get anything closer to what the BDP promised. For starters, there were no set targets, for example, the number of jobs the party was going to create to resolve, particularly youth unemployment. And to make things worse, provision of social services has reached a crisis level. To illustrate, this weekend the country was rendered dark by Botswana Powerless Corporation.

Compounding the situation, water rationing meant that I could not take a shower, and this was true for many people across the country. To say I was angry is an understatement. But what is at the centre of all these problems? As I have noted in past instalments, corruption seems to be institutionalising in our country. And when corruption becomes the way of life, it poses great danger for society as a whole. And one such arena greatly undermined by corruption is governance.

There are plenty of experiences elsewhere to demonstrate the effects of uncontrolled corruption. In his writings Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, characterises Nigeria as “A poli-thug state”. Effectively, he was saying his country is a Mafia state ÔÇô a state system where the government is tied with organised crime. In here organised crime groups are tied with authorities. This development is now perceived as a global threat! Imagine criminals penetrating government at unprecedented levels. I am afraid, recent turn of events reported in the media brings us much closer to countries such as Russia under Putin ÔÇô who has been accused of presiding over a Mafia state, and many others in Africa. Certainly, there is always a Godfather in the background, who ensures that illicit wealth is shared among the syndicate. These people are just about plundering economies of their respective countries. Unfortunately, left unchecked the masses are the once who pay a heavy price.

We should accept that we are a nation in deep crisis. The Chitube saga left me deeply concerned about my country. Why was I troubled? This chap is a lucky Zambian who found a receptive regime this side of the moon. A confessed criminal who rub shoulders with the powers that be – he also doubles as a diamonds smuggler. And let’s not forget he was brave enough to even challenge for a position within the BDP youth league elections this year. There was also another Zambian, Tembo who mysteriously met his creator somewhere in Gaborone. In all these events, the DISS appears to be a central player.
I am afraid; we are on a way to become a Mafia state, if we are not already there.

Dr Molefhe teaches Public Administration at the University of Botswana

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