It all started with an insult in Lobatse. The students there had concerns which they wished to express. Wisely the minister met and addressed the students. That evening Venson-Moitoi went to Btv and made a strange but bold claim. She claimed that the letter that the students had written her, was actually not penned by them; but by some external force; precisely adults who were using the learners to fight their own battles. That was an insult to the students’ intelligence. She therefore appealed to the parents to back-off and allow children to proceed with their education.
That was Wednesday last week. On Thursday she was in Molepolole to address Kgari Sechele students.
She was met not by letters but rather by very vocal, eloquent and determined learners. It was a great confrontation. She experienced firsthand student brilliance. Some of the students proved to be amazingly intelligent in possession of advanced critical analytic skills. Some journalist friend based in Molepolole has compiled some of the comments from the students and sent them to me: “if two elephants are fighting it’s the grass that suffers”, “Bana ba Kgari Sechele if you saying nothing about your future you are going to end up being nothing”, ‘’Rona ma-form 4 it has been 7 months without education and we cannot afford to keep quiet when our right to education is being violated gape go se ka ga twe re influesiwa ke mapolotiki, we are old enough to speak for ourselves” ‘’Ke eletsa gore tona wa me o ka bo o tsile le Tautona, gore ke mo reye ke re: “Ao! ao!
ao!, A re sotlega fela o le teng”, “Nna ga re supporte strike e bile re bona matichara a rona ba ba kwa striking ba ntse ba re leletsa dihutara ba feta kwa tseleng rona re bua ka thuto ya rona fa re ka bona thuto fela”. That was Thursday. Friday the students from CJSSs in Molepolole went on a rampage; demonstrating their displeasure. Teargas, rubber bullets and stones were exchanged. That should have been a sufficient warning to the Minister of Education to close the schools. It was certainly a sufficient sign to the directors of Moeding College in Otse who closed the school last Friday.
On the same day that the students were rioting in Molepolole, the President Ian Khama Seretse Khama was in his own tranquil world. He came to the small village of Mmopane on the outskirts of Gaborone to demonstrate his benevolence as he distributed cheap Chinese blankets to the few poor who had been called and paraded for the Btv cameras. It was a classical contrast of Jesus and Judas. Here was the messiah giving alms to the poor and 45km away his police officers were panicking and exploding teargases in their hands as a horde of school kids gave them chase. A perfect image from Animal Farm; the humans chased by animals from the Manor Farm.
One would have thought that the schools would be closed for the security of the students and property. That did not happen. Yesterday we woke up to the Venson-Moitoi who was determined that schools would go on anyhow. She even urged parents to come and cook and clean the schools since the workers were on strike. I thought this lady is unreal!
Why would the president refuse to meet the striking union leaders to resolve the impasse? For a leader, it is reckless to bury your head in the sand and pretend that everything is OK. Doesn’t the president care about the plight of the country and of the students? Motshwarakgole says the man doesn’t care because he doesn’t have a child. If you think that is unkind then you are mistaken. Boko o mmitsa legatlapa le la lesole! One thing is clear though. The strike has demonstrated that Ian Khama is an incredibly poor leader who doesn’t know how to engage people with whom he differs.
Strong leadership is rarely measured by one’s capacity to distribute freebies to the poor. It is instead seen in men and women who are bold enough to face their challenges eyeball to eyeball and sort the issues that affect the country. Ian has failed this test repeatedly. His track record demonstrates that he is a man who is unable to engage directly and effectively with individuals with whom he differs. This was clear during what is now known as the Motswaledi case and it has been shown yet again in this matter with the unions. I respect Mogae; he would try to out-debate you; while Masire would use his cutting humour to defuse the volatile situation. Ian Khama on the contrary when faced with problems, he adopts the animal instinct of flight. He runs away. He is a terribly poor leader. He doesn’t solve problems. He runs from them, or alternatively he chases people away. Sadly, the country has come to a standstill because of his tactics tsa go ingaralatsa and play dead. He has to act and act decisively. Mr. President engage the unions directly and please don’t try and try and delegate your responsibilities to Kedikilwe or Masisi. Across the country the people are full of fury and it is increasingly becoming difficult to contain the situation. The doctors, nurses, students, government workers in general are angry. The strike is just about to spread to private businesses. Certainly this national circus must cease and the country needs to get back to work.