Monday, June 5, 2023

Batswana must be a little more patriotic

I am sometimes taken aback by locals who never see anything good about Botswana. Upon receipt of positive international reports about Botswana, they question the results, methodologies and those who conducted such studies. They don’t believe on anything positive about Botswana. They sink into self-deprecation; self-effacing, self-doubt: “Nnyaa ba a re akela”, they doubt the country the capacity of the country to excel; in fact they doubt themselves. Now here is the strange thing, when they receive negative reviews of the country, they complain again: “Ke raya gore re gaisiwa le ke boRwanda tota!” Perhaps it is after all that we are a sorry sad bunch.

I am convinced that we need to get into the habit of celebrating what is good about Botswana and there is a lot that is wonderful about this country. Such pride in and celebration of our achievements is not a claim that everything is perfect about the country, actually there is a lot that is not positive about Botswana. But we must remember that every country has its positives and negatives. Let us get into the habit of celebrating that which is good about Botswana and cultivate a sense of national pride as a people. I am proud to be a Motswana.

Patriotism is national loyalty, etymologically it is the love of one’s fatherland. Stephen Nathanson’s definition of patriotism includes a special affection for one’s own country; a sense of personal identification with one’s country; a special concern for the well-being of one’s country and a willingness to sacrifice to promote the good of one’s country. The idea is a noble one. However the term has been abused and largely contested. Just a few years ago, about five years, some in government wished to reserve the term for themselves. They saw anyone who criticized any government policy as unpatriotic.

This view has largely not changed. This is a mistake because the love of one’s country doesn’t exclude its criticism. Indeed, one’s love for their country may engender in them a deep love for their country to the point that any government policy that is perceived to work against the progress and success of a country, may call for a criticism from some of the nations’ citizens. What has been most disappointing is that there are some who justify unpatriotic tendencies. They claim that Botswana is corrupt. Some say they hate Botswana’s electoral system; they prefer proportional representation which they perceive as far compared to the current system. Some point to the lack of water and electricity; they point to the bad state of higher education, especially the mess at BIUST and what they see as declining standards at UB.

They point to the failed Glass Project in Palapye, they raise the declining school results. They don’t stop there. They raise to me poor salaries; they say to me: “We don’t even have a passenger train”. They are furious at the televised blanket handouts. They cannot understand why there is shortage of land when good land on a few powerful hands. Some are unhappy about the saga surrounding Kgosi Kgafela of the Bakgatla. Some are upset at high levels of graduate unemployment. It must be said that a criticism of one’s country should not be misconstrued as unpatriotic. Those who have a different view of things must not be disposed to be unpatriotic.

Even those who belong to opposition parties must be consumed by patriotism. It must be said that opposition politics must be anchored on patriotism and without patriotism opposition politics are doomed. How does one do opposition politics without the love of their fatherland? The challenge of one’s government policies must be seen as an essential part of patriotism for someone who is in government or in opposition. Someone cannot say they are unpatriotic because they are unemployed or because the price of petrol has gone up. Our patriotism cannot fluctuate with the price of petrol, neither can we say we are unpatriotic because we are unemployed.

Patriotism cannot be for the employed while the unemployed are unpatriotic. Patriotism cannot be the preserve of the successful. Patriotism should engender citizens who in their criticism of their government are motivated by a deep and genuine love for their country. Equally it should make us so proud of ourselves as a people such that when our country is praised both locally and internationally, we respond appropriately with pride and delight and not with self-deprecation and doubt. It is therefore important that in our outlook as Batswana we remain proud of who we are as a people, because our country has achieved much.

The country’s investment on education has been unparalled in the world. The building of schools and making education accessible to all citizens across different classes is our national strength. Making decent health care accessible to all citizens, including free medication is something that we should be proud of. Many in other countries are surprised at the fact that in Botswana we can apply for land and have it allocated to every citizen of age free of charge, yes including a farm! It is good to be a Motswana. We must be proud of how we have conducted our elections and that we haven’t had a military coup like many African states. Yes we should be proud of our advanced road and communication network. We have some of the spectacular parks and natural resources.

We are the largest producer of rough diamonds in the world. This is not to say all of these are run optimally, but it is to say they are our strength which we should be proud of. We need to celebrate ourselves a little bit more because our lack of patriotism is having a negative impact on the way we see ourselves. Because of our lack of patriotism we have lost confidence in ourselves, in our products, in our educated persons, in our innovation, in our companies, in our artists, in our government and our God-given talents and gifts. It’s about time we became proud of who we are as a people. I am proud to be a Motswana.


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