Sunday, May 19, 2024

Can Africa still dial ‘911 Botswana’ for political rescue?

I am a sad, old padre who has seen more than he needs to understand about African politicians. I have lived on all continents except South America yet I survive on the pulse of the continent that made me. Africa is a gem but Africans are not. Therefore, my answer to the question above is that the people of Africa are marooned and with no rescue coming. I no longer believe that there is a 911 number for Africa’s citizens to dial for common sense. I am afraid to let go off of Botswana’s Ian Khama. This man forced other leaders to pay attention to Zimbabwe.

Although Africa is full of idiotic leaders who all were challenged by Robert Mugabe, Khama still remains the only president in Africa who challenges regional and continental positions on Zimbabwe and goes against the misguided African Union, which is no mean achievement considering how ferocious and closely knit African leaders are. Misery emanates from opposing but dominant good intentions. That is why misery is powerful and why anger is destructive. Botswana unwittingly set high standards for itself and for Africa, in both political and economic terms. When inconsistences emerge within its efforts and its intentions, Botswana should not complain because a true democracy is recognized by its ability to wither storms while being fair and protective of each and every member of its citizenry, including political opponents. I have a feeling that the people who run the country of Botswana do not appear to understand the level of expectations they set for themselves and for the rest of the continent. I do not believe that even the Presidency is aware of the magnitude of responsibility that Botswana invited unto itself and is now unwittingly expected to carry.

Botswana is a land run by a government full of people with a sense of a somewhat conservative fiscal outlook compared to looting presidents elsewhere in Africa. Politicians in Africa seem to believe that all there is to it is to grab all you can and the citizens be damned. Apart from Robert and Grace Mugabe’s disgraceful monetary and political escapades, the story of the late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha continues to insult the conscience of Africans, and even the world. Sani Abacha was president of Nigeria for less than five years (November 17, 1993 ÔÇô June 8, 1998) but Abacha managed to steal between $3 and $5 billion of public money, part of which ($480 million), was just last week ordered by US district judge John Bates in Washington to be released back to the government of Nigeria. I am very unhappy with African leaders. There is a pervasive attitude among Africa’s sitting presidents over the deaths of political opponents. In Africa, though, there are no political opponents but political enemies.

Enter Gomolemo Motswaledi. Before I go any further, let me assure you that Rra Motswaledi’s death will never be explained to the satisfaction of many. I have lived through this to know enough. We, in Zimbabwe, have lost illustrious sons who even the ruthless and undiscriminating hand of God would not have touched. It is always those with better ideas who die under mysterious circumstances before they can implement an agenda for their nations. The welfare of any opposition leader is one of paramount importance to any democratic government. In America, we see a sitting president offering full Secret Service protection to an opponent who is fighting to dethrone him. It is unfortunate that Motswaledi’s demise has to be explained by the government that he was trying to dethrone. And it has to be explained fully because the citizens put their safety, hopes and expectations in their government. Confronted by understandable backlash, suspicion and total lack of trust, President Khama rattled my faith, by saying “we want them (opposition) in the election; that is where we will kill them”. No president should ever talk about killing people, however figuratively intended.

Talking about elections and killings in one breath triggers nightmares for us Zimbabweans and damages democracy. The heart of the matter is that the death of Rra Motswaledi has pushed Botswana into unchartered waters. Any government is the chief suspect in the death of a political opponent.

The difference occurs in the way a government handles the aftermath and as long as there is a single inconsistency, the people will always believe that the truth is being suppressed. Botswana is doing a bad job of it and has suddenly fired a salvo to the nation that an individual is only safe if the government chooses. Sadly, Africa can no longer dial 911 Botswana for political protection; we seem to be getting alike by the day. While it is not Botswana’s primary concern to save the African continent, Botswana and its government offered Africans something that they did not see in their own countries.

But to now see the government of Botswana stammering, stuttering and behaving the way it is doing during the demise of one of its most illustrious sons is pathetic. The week Motswaledi died, a Gallup Poll revealed that Botswana’s President Khama was voted the second best President in Africa. But do the people of Botswana agree that they have such a gem among them? Do the people of Africa and beyond believe so, especially when the man voted the best President in Africa, 69-year-old Ibrahim Boubacar Ke├»ta of Mali, has only been president for less than a year, having ascended to power in the then war-torn Mali on September 4th, 2013? Be that as it may, the people of Botswana have a better say in this than Gallup Poll which even ranked Mugabe better than Jacob Zuma.

There is something indecent about the Mugabe/Zuma pairing that casts a darker cloud over our region. We deserve better. It is a glorious occasion that Botswana is slowly realizing what other people in Africa have been and are still going through. We in Zimbabwe lose our sons, daughters, mothers, uncles, fathers, friends and relatives and the first thing that happens when you go to the police to report, you, yourself, gets arrested. I urge President Khama to keep Botswana on an even keel. The disappearance of any citizen under suspicious circumstances is cause for concern for every citizen.

President Khama’s arrogance and ill-advised comments in Thamaga last week do not augur well for a man of his stature. At independence, Botswana showed a violence-free and accommodative doctrine, which it still tries to enforce to this day. Today, in any country in the world, we dial 911 for emergencies. This is one of those rare times when governments of our world agreed. Politicians around the world can agree…when it does not affect them personally. The President of Botswana must ensure total transparency in the investigation of this abominable incident. This is what happens in civilized countries because political opponents are not enemies. Botswana must take a stand right now and ensure that such things never happen again. Botswana had somehow distinguished itself from the rest. In difficult times, we in Africa had always believed ‘there is always Botswana…!’

The Government of Botswana is already mishandling a sad event that is of national concern. It reminds me so much of home where Zimbabweans still have hundreds of such unresolved cases, with the police never explaining how our loved ones perished when inconsistencies in the so-called accidents remain unexplained. No, Botswana; that is a wrong path. Make a u-turn right here!


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