Sunday, September 20, 2020

Comrade Khama should be humble

In terms of history, culture and tribal relations, the VP Ian Khama, is my young fellow. Even when he’s president, he would remain my young comrade. So then, as his senior, an optimist and patriotic public intellectual, I’m obligated to constantly impel him to self-transform and play a positive role in Botswana’s development. He shouldn’t perform below par and let the nation down.

Our leaders come across as omniscient, omnipotent and self-conceited. They’re desperately in need of false props to bolster their toxic self-importance. They’re no longer open to advice or rebuke. Khama shouldn’t be one of them. May the indomitable spirit of healthy faith and hope cause him to surrender only to positive influence!
Before I propose some ground rules for Khama’s presidency, I kindly ask him to revisit Spencer Mogapi’s column (Sunday Standard February 3-9) where he excellently encourages him to abolish superfluous self-glorification characterising the BDP.

Khama dramatically enters the helm during daunting challenges. Crime, corruption, poverty and unemployment are still depressingly high. We’re tormented by a looming “power crisis”. National productivity and efficiency levels are deplorably low. The HIV-AIDS pestilence is mercilessly ravaging the population, leading to dangerous discouragement and fatalistic attitudes. Democratic values and ideals have declined in SADC and other parts of Africa, such as Kenya. Kenya used to be an oasis of democracy, peace and tranquillity – like us. Owing to our self-incapacitating institutional malaise, Batswana are scared that we may also calamitously drift into a political inferno.

The quality of our leadership at personal and social levels has plummeted. Citizens’ economic dependency on government is still mounting. The government, political parties, the media and the civil society movement lack dynamism and animation skills to motivate and inspire the nation. Elections no longer serve any significant purpose other than creating an opening for political opportunists and hypocrites who’re not accountable to anyone. The entire nation is helplessly reeling from a profound “crisis of hope”; that is, our disorganised and prematurely defeated leaders are incapable of making Batswana feel that a positive future is possible.

In this thick cloud of darkness, we’ve Khama with unprecedented power and influence. (Apparently, he’s about to accumulate additional power in the BDP.)
Because most of our leaders have lost self-confidence and vision, they’re willing to heap up more power on him. Although every president needs sufficient power to achieve significant results, chances are that Khama may end up with overwhelming power that would render him ineffective. In my assessment, he already has more power than most world leaders. Even before he ascends to the presidency, he’s already a colossal institution par excellence.
Power tempts and corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. It causes some people to be recklessly fearless.

It exudes false confidence and self-exultation, and damagingly ruins those who wield it. Thus, I want Khama to be consistently simple, humble, compassionate and caring. Humility and simplicity would earn him healthy power. I want Khama to defeat toxic and corruptive power. He must keep power under absolute control. He should use it cautiously and creatively. He must ensure that power is evenly distributed in society, and honourably allow other institutions to check and balance his power. He shouldn’t emulate former president of Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings (ex-soldier like Khama). Even when Rawlings was supposed to be running a “democratic” government, he still rebelliously regretted that “today, we’re trapped in a constitutional rule”.

Khama should set inspiringly high standards for himself and his government. He should be unquestionably disciplined. He should convincingly subordinate personal desire for power to the national interest. At all times, he should display impeccable respect for the national constitution and public institutions. He should be so committed to Botswana that he would combat all forms of inequities, including those perpetrated against despised nationalities like the Basarwa. Under Khama, Botswana’s democratic credentials should surpass those of the so-called advanced nations. Their people should frequent Botswana to learn about authentic empowerment of citizens, especially “the people on the edge”.

I humbly pray that Khama should innovatively apply power to empower, and not disempower any section of the population. He should be an emancipator, a transformative facilitator, an enabler; and not an intimidator and roadblocker. He shouldn’t come across as a notorious bully, but a genuine friend and protector of all and sundry. He shouldn’t function like a politician obsessed with power, but an extraordinary statesman with a shared vision. He shouldn’t only operate on the basis of self-command, he should gently subordinate himself to the commands of God.

I repeatedly entreat Khama to humble himself and invite the Holy Spirit to prevail upon his thoughts, policies and actions. Humility doesn’t mean one is weak, it doesn’t mean one is faint-hearted or lacks self-assertiveness. These words of wisdom from Luke (18:14) are instructive: “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

Khama’s dad once advised, that “a leader of any group of people should be progressive”. He also insisted that leaders should always be calm and not take decisions under the influence of volcanic emotions. Comrade Khama himself once said “we’re Batswana first, and members of tribes second”.

And when he entered party politics he told Bangwato that even though he’s their chief, he’s not their God. I expect a lot from Khama precisely because of these progressive statements.
Humility would enable him to work with the opposition and civil society groups in accordance with the principle of smart partnership. He should learn to share power with others. One man, even if he’s immensely popular, cannot successfully run a country alone. Khama should also demonstrate profound and unrivalled respect for other leaders, including those in the opposition, the chiefs and religious leaders. They should also comradely respect him, and help him usher in a positive revolution.
Even if he defeats his opponents, he should remain magnanimous and gracious; enrolling the defeated in the process of democratic governance, and avoid political exclusion that has destabilised some African countries.

Khama should always remember that phenomenal leaders achieve effectiveness and greatness by accommodating others, and treating them with utmost respect and dignity. In this regard, he should emulate Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Lee Iacocca.

Khama is badly feared by many Batswana who think he’s only intelligently lying low just so that he could get the presidency, and then freely unleash the rein of terror worse than that of Idi Amin.

But as a significant leader who’s highly looked up to, Khama shouldn’t allow anything close to state terrorism to happen here. No individual should disappear, die or be imprisoned mysteriously under Khama’s government. He shouldn’t even bear grudges against anybody. He should apply emotional intelligence to overcome anger, fear and any other potentially destructive emotions. He should forgive all those he disagrees with and start everything afresh. Possibly, the negative perceptions about Khama emanate from the fact that people don’t really know him, his friends, and the values he represents. He largely remains an enigma.

Khama has a moral obligation to help people feel at ease with themselves. He shouldn’t preside over a republic in which some citizens are consumed by fear and anxiety. Once he’s president, he should immediately reveal the sort of development approach he would pursue, so that people would know exactly how to work with him. Effective leaders clearly communicate their visions and expectations to their people.

There’s also a widespread perception that Khama might “militarise” government and abolish democracy. People point to the ex-soldiers who’re already in cabinet and the civil service as evidence of this strategy. Khama should intelligently process this concern and ensure that his appointments of ex-soldiers and the operations of the Directorate of National intelligence don’t generate unnecessary apprehensions and ruin his credibility.

Finally, Khama should also vigorously produce patriotic and effective leaders so that when he steps down, Botswana would still function smoothly. Africa has been incapacitated by the “succession deprivation syndrome.” Selfish leaders pompously horde positions and don’t groom replacements.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.