Saturday, April 4, 2020

Botswana scores high on governance

It is very encouraging to be reassured as a citizen that our leaders continue to strive to make this beautiful nation a land that, as citizens, we can be proud of.

Over the years, we have stood as the epitome of peace and the rule of law in Africa. Through the stewardship of our leaders, we have evolved from a people of various “tribes” living in a barren land to a politically united nation with a healthy economic backbone admired by most. So the accolades extended to us by the World Bank do not come as a surprise as we have earned them.

Having said that though, I would like to suggest that maybe we need to interrogate some of the indicators used to find out their credibility and reliability.

As good governance is a social phenomenon dealing with intricate human social engagements, it can not merely be reduced to statistical interpretations or scientific calibrations and be expected to reveal these intricate human social concerns.

Let us look at some of these indicators closely; shall we?

Voice and Accountability ÔÇô the World Bank views this as our ability to participate freely in electing who rules us, freedom of expression and a free media.

Of course, we have all these freedoms in place and, God, aren’t we privileged compared to our brethrens from across Africa?

Probably the question is: to what extent do Batswana actually enjoy these freedoms? Batswana still do not have any choice as to who their national President is as the presidency is handed down and Presidential succession is not through the ballot as true democracy dictates. The whole exercise is predetermined.

The Freedom of Information Act is still an enigma. Perhaps this explains why BTV and other related media seem unable to provide journalistic reporting that is decisive and empowering.

Political Stability and Absence of Violence ÔÇô well for this I salute our leadership and Batswana collectively. But I have a problem with the World Bank choosing to steel case political stability and lack of violence into just political coupes. Every five years we witness the birth of a new “political party” and brittle humour might see this as freedom of association, choice and political will. I see this as political instability as this is the very undoing of a strong democracy. Violence does not have to be bloodshed. The United Nations views Poverty as violence against humanity. Freedom is the ability to live without fear of any kind that is state induced. Ask people of Tsolamosese and Nkoyaphiri. They have a different tale to tell.

Government Effectiveness ÔÇô the quality of our public service has been a pain in the neck for quite a while now and this is why government is fervently rolling out PMS. Corruption in both the civil service and private sector is rife but probably not institutionalized ÔÇô yet.

There is no doubt in my mind that Botswana has the most elaborate and well meaning policies for citizen empowerment, social security etc.

However, the problem is some of these policies are not community negotiated interventions that are informed by national needs and environmental limitations. I use environment in a generic manner here. Let us take the issue of Basic Education that Professor Tabulawa laments about, shall we?

First, I must submit that there is nothing wrong with the notion of basic education. It is actually a very noble notion if it is informed by environmental needs and reflects the uniqueness of the environment in which it is applied. If it is targeted towards empowering the nation through interrogating what national needs should be addressed by the intervention for it to successfully mitigate the established national needs, then it is welcome. Basic education should interrogate where the nation is in the context of globalization. For example, in the Information Society basic education would strive to make Botswana youth active participants in access to and use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) for improved targeted education for empowerment.

Empowerment should be targeted towards social security and enable Batswana to shed themselves of manacles of poverty, illiteracy and being prisoners to direct foreign investment.

However, if it fails to recognize the uniqueness of the environment in which it is applied or it is transplanted wholesale, it is bound to fail as Professor Tabulawa correctly points out.

Botswana needs to wake up and be an active participant in the information society where information becomes a bargaining chip.

Why is it that after 41 years of independence Botswana still does not produce anything ÔÇô except beef from the frail beef industry and, of course, raw diamonds that we export raw only to buy processed multiple fold more expensive?

Where is the Asset Declaration Act? Who are we protecting here?

I hope in the journey of interrogating the World Bank Governance Indicators I have not confused you with rhetoric but have helped you as a citizen in jealously protecting and nurturing democracy.