It is without doubt that Batswana are livid to a dictatorship.
They have declared, in unison, their love for a democratic form of government. All through the years Batswana have known no other form of government except liberal democracy or partial democracy to be precise. A distinct feature of this form of government is the presence of civil liberties. As you come into contact with people from parts of the world where civil liberties have disappeared or as you see or hear what is happening in parts of the world where democracy is under siege, you realize what it means to safeguard and defend civil liberties. Yet, it is amazing that despite sustained efforts in promoting and protecting democracy the world over, civil liberties are disappearing in many countries including such great democracies as the USA. This is despite the much talked about democratization process that swept across the globe since the last century.
At a time when it is expected that this paradigm shift was getting institutionalized, that the shift from authoritarian forms of government towards liberal democracies was beginning to engulf the whole world for the benefit of mankind, there are vivid signals that things are actually moving in reverse, very fast and on a sustained basis.
Old and traditionally democratic societies like Botswana are concocting bogus stories to justify an assault on civil liberties. When in the past Batswana spoke freely and loudly against wrong doing by the political elites, today people whisper their frustrations, they choose their words very carefully and when in doubt they opt to die in silence.
They look around before they express their concerns and prefer to state their genuine concerns only when in the company of those they are familiar with.
They tremble when they say what they believe in, people live in hiding afraid to speak to each other out of fear that they might be in the company of wrong people ÔÇô the DISS operatives.
Fear dominates our lives as our vehicles get impounded for small misdemeanors and people get searched in highly undignified manners. People are arbitrarily ordered to dress in specific ways and maintain the highest level of discipline. Others talk so passionately about their beloved freedoms that are the basis of a free and safe nation to live in. They talk nostalgically about yester year Botswana when you could tell the state president to his face. Times have changed; life is getting tough and unbearable as many of us do not enjoy real liberty.
Our democracy is being rejected, assaulted and annihilated. It is so sad that civil liberties are only enjoyed by those who identify with the views of the political elites or those who think as they do. The leadership seems to think that human rights are not for people who disagree with them. Yet, all through the years we have taken things for granted and hoped that the very people brutalizing our civil liberties will preserve them for us and generations to come. We believed that our political leadership has our interests at heart and that they love democracy as much as we do. Still, all through the years it has become patently clear that our leadership have other ideas about life.
They have shown a phobia for criticism and have become short tempered, easily irritated and insidiously bigger than the state and the collectivity of individuals that constitute the Botswana society. They have become a monster that feeds on its own children. In spite of this defilement of our democracy, Batswana still display a frightening carefree attitude. Of course, they are clearly worried but not very much interested in taking any meaningful action to preserve civil liberties. Admittedly, they are sincerely concerned but seem to have not the slightest idea of what to do or who has to defend their democracy.
During tea or lunch breaks, in bars and coffee shops we tirelessly narrate our ghostly ordeals with state secrets agents, underground operatives and some overzealous lackeys.
Of course, some narrations are exaggerated but they are a mirror of the real world awaiting us.
Without doubt it is clear that our erstwhile normal and free way of living is disappearing very fast but it is business as usual perhaps because older adults have had their lives and care less about the lives of those who are still to blossom into full humans.
The civil society has inherited this disease and has adopted a lackluster approach to issues of national concern.
They are known to make noise when they hear that an inmate is due for execution and after the execution they revert back to their comfort zones and wait for the police to fatally shoot a bystander before they spring into panic action based on a fake concern for human rights only to hibernate after the victim has been buried. Whereas the blame for this tragic development could be apportioned to President Khama, Batswana should also take a greater share of it.
Batswana are convinced that their country is going to the dogs; that their beautiful nation is sliding into anarchy but they do not want to stand up and be counted. They hardly care when things go wrong except to occasionally mumble their muted disapproval. At times we have courageous and vocal people who seem determined to defend democracy only to loose momentum claiming to have been threatened with death.
They will then shift allegiance and opt for money spinning ventures often doing ‘dirty’ work for the enemy and in some cases boasting about their love for money, dirty or clean.
Come to think of it, many of our present sorrows are rooted in our own unwillingness to take personal or group responsibility to defend the fundamental principles of democracy. We are a society that is religious in obedience and our timidity is instructive and distinctive.
We are hapless and hypnotized by the Khama name which perhaps explains why President Khama’s approval rating at 88% (Afro barometer) has been the highest known figure of any current head of state, in spite of his anti-democracy credentials. To most of us he is our idol and we love him no matter what. He is like an errant special kid. Because we derive maximum pleasure from cheering our leaders and because we forsake our self-worth, we essentially deserve to live and learn the hard way.
We have subsisted in the comfort zone for far too long and have come to take life for granted. We are inward looking, mostly concerned with the welfare of our immediate family members.
We are largely unconcerned with human rights violations of the other person. Societies that are formed out of difficult circumstances know exactly what it means to preserve civil liberties. They have come to feel a real responsibility to take trouble to bring about the full observance for all people for their civil liberties. Perhaps this is the experience we need – a taste of repression and brutality.
Such a small amount of tyranny is necessary to cultivate active citizenship, to compel us to develop an interest in public affairs beyond ritualistic observance like periodical elections. Thus, we dearly need to learn to defend our democracy the hard way. We need a slightly cruel political leadership to walk us half way to hell so as to develop a sense of responsibility and urgency and appreciate that in a democracy, laws govern and not individuals who consider themselves special and above the law.
We are a pathetic flock that is criminally responsible for our disappearing democracy. Our sustained silence is a tacit approval for a dictatorship and we deserve no sympathy. It is understandable to sympathize with people who have never known democracy and whose suffering therefore personify their very being, than with people who seems to enjoy abuse. Nevertheless, it is a fact that it is easier to loose democracy than to win it back. Thus, while I wish someone walk us the Zimbabwe route, I am pretty alive to the fact that once nearer to hell, we may never become a democracy again.
But we have limited choices and I can bet that unless subjected to a despotic rule, we may never weave our way out of this vicious cycle of passivity, meekness and submissiveness. It is difficult to see us becoming more vocal and assertive in defending our civil liberties. I have heard people argue that there is no need for human rights education in Botswana because there are no human rights abuses, yet such education is necessary to equip people with skills and knowledge to be able to defend democracy.
We need someone to walk us half way to hell so that it occurs to us that we are the only people who can protect ourselves from an abusive political leadership. For young people who must start living, such an obscene experience is crucial to get them started on the right footing.
By now it should be clear to young people that their parents and older brothers and sisters have betrayed and auctioned them. They, therefore, have to take it upon themselves to make Botswana a free and secure country. An experience such as this is necessary for the minds of young people to become fertile for angry and extremists thoughts that will usher in new values and behaviors necessary for people who live for a purpose.