Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Batswana don’t need politicians get back the economy of their country!

The bullying is not confined to poultry; it runs across the entire economy. It is pervasive and the stench can be felt from a distance!

This was my thought as I watched a video of the lawyer, Kgosi Ngakaagae – as he denounced the latest tactics by the “mafia” to erode the gains so far made by Batswana to enter the poultry industry.

The anger and frustration in his tone pretty much captures what is happening in the lives of many Batswana.

According to Ngakaagae the scene is set for a confrontation.

Those Batswana who do not want to be part of the economic liberation movement are free to do so, and they can stand by the side and watch.

Those Batswana who fight the movement will be met with a similar force by the movement.

He reminded me of George W. Bush after America was attacked in 2001: “You are either with us or against us,” the American president said at the time.

Batswana have taken enough blows and they refuse to turn the other cheeck.

They simply can no longer count on the leadership to fight from their corner.

Botswana is drifting into a perfect storm.

The country’s economy has descended into a mafia haven.

It started with citizens being ejected from the country’s procurement system by the foreign controlled cartels – mainly from the Arab and Chinese extraction.

Now Batswana are being hounded left, right and centre from every sector they try to enter.

The picture painted by Ngakaagae where citizens might have to form vigilante-like groups to enforce what they feel is rightfully theirs is a natural course adopted by people when they start to feel that their leaders are behaving like conmen.

It is a result of unkept promises, shattered dreams and dishonoured aspirations.

The current economic dynamics are making young Batswana more recalcitrant.

They have been waiting in the wings for far too long.

They are not willing to wait any longer as they watch the economy of their country being dismembered by underworld gangs masquerading as businessmen.

For many of these young Batswana, anticipation has morphed into despair, helplessness and despondency.

They are accusing the elite of all sorts of crimes chief of which is selling out the country.

In this the media is not wholly innocent.

It is the media that was leading a chorus in praise of misplaced ingenuity when big chain stores wreaked havoc and crowded out indigenous Batswana owned businesses.

When big chain stores like Choppies, Sefalana, Spar, Payless went out of their way to squeeze to the peripheries, citizen owned brands like the legendary Pop-Inn store the media led the celebrations.

When these stores expanded into the region they were sold as Botswana’s ambassadors abroad.

That was of course false and pretentious.

Countless other small stores in the countryside have had life strangled out of them.

Today Uncle Boys – a citizen liquor store that was once a thriving household name owned by the late Basimane Motlhobi has been asphyxiated by the likes of Tops and Liquorrama.

What exactly have been the effects of big butcheries and meat processors like Senn Foods and its peers on smaller citizen-owned butcheries should be properly and dispassionately evaluated.

The current model is breeding deep-seated resentment.

Indigenous Batswana are patronised for lacking business acumen and having a penchant for flashy cars.

This is an insulting generalization where a whole nation could be tarnished with one brush.

Actually, it smacks of racism.

Yet nothing is said about a non-indigenous businessman who owns over 80 percent of gas stations in Botswana and buys a flashy car almost every other week.

These are people who are used to having their own way. They are used to influence-buying and anything that gets on their way is brutally dealt with.

This network is similar to a network of mafia, And undoing it will not be easy, yet anybody who genuinely wants Batswana to participate in the economy of their country has to face the reality that this network is not only powerful but also hostile to the spirit of indigenous Batswana meaningfully participating in the economy of their country.

The thrust of their general attitude towards Batswana has been to look at them as a mass market made up of animated toys that are not really smart.

There is subtle racism involved. Which is why they partner with Batswana, not on merit but based on a calculus of influence purchase.

Once these so-called partners cease to have influence they are disposed and new ones found.

In other words, all roped in Batswana partners are for specific assignments and they have term limits beyond which they become expendable.

This is unbridled tokenism.

What this network is doing to Botswana cannot be achieved elsewhere, which is why some of these brands are struggling to make foothold outside Botswana.

Batswana should aspire not just to eat at Nando’s, KFC, Chicken Licken’ and the like.

Batswana should be allowed to dream big and become suppliers of these franchises.

They should even own these franchises.

We know the cruel story of a woman in Palapye who had a Nando’s franchise literally taken from her hands in a gangster-like contest. She tried to fight. In the end she was no match for the moneyed interests she was up against. That is just one human story of how citizens have had to put up with heartlessness of their guests over the years.

Excuses surrounding the economies of scale are being used to justify marginalizing citizen poultry farmers.

This reasoning is as implausible as the one about Batswana buying flashy cars and not taking care of their businesses.

It is unimaginable that an indigenous Motswana would be permitted to do in Gujarat, in Kerala or in Mumbai what these people are doing in Botswana, against Batswana.

What they are doing is footloose and cowboy-like.

Most disheartening is their assail on our institutions of governance which they impel, weaken and discredit.

Botswana has given in to what looks like unconventional non-conformity.

There is simply no strategic symmetry between citizens and so-called investors, except to see Batswana as a vast sea of menial labour.

We have failed to define who is an investor. And decimally failed to profile those coming in claiming to be investors.

And for that we are paying a heavy price. Batswana, including the leadership are not being taken for a ride – it’s far worse than that – they are being rudely insulted especially with the crumbs thrown at them.

To make matters worse, these people, making billions off the economy of Botswana are behaving like they are doing us any favours simply by just being here.

Batswana are right concentrate on poultry. But economic liberation will in the fullness of time have to expand to other sectors. The country’s fuel industry cannot be controlled by one naturalized citizen at the exclusion of everybody else. The beef and meat processing industry have to be opened up to indigenous Batswana.

It is brave, patriotic and selfless of Ngakaagae to take the bull by the horns. He needs to be supported.

Poultry is a first step. But the journey is much longer and the terrain will prove wretched.

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