Leo Tolstoy once uttered the words “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.”
Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah on the other hand wrote “The Beautiful Ones are not yet born.” The latter’s novel is all about treatment of the theme of corruption wrought by poverty. It is about the story of an upright man resisting the temptations of easy bribes and easy satisfactions and winning for his honesty nothing but scorn even from those he loves.
My colleague from the University of Botswana, a literature guru we fondly call “Mahatma” once borrowed me a copy of Armah’s novel. The latest reports on maladministration and bully practices in Botswana mainly at Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO), alleged looting at Bamangwato Concession Limited (BCL) made me remember Armah’s novel as well as utterances made by Leo Tolstroy and Prof Prempeh. In his novel, Ayi Kwei Armah successfully prophesied the situation that will happen in many other African countries. Ironically the country that has mesmerized many scholars, academics and the likes by attracting good names and accolades “The Beloved Botswana” or rather the once “Beloved Botswana” has also joined in the African corruption bandwagon. All other things coming from politicians and public policy wonks are just a facade, outright lies.
Leo Tolstoy’s words have kept me wondering especially with respect to the nature and behavior of our politicians in Botswana. I often ask myself many questions like what if politicians were like Pinocchio. Would the world be different if people’s noses grew as they lied? I am yet to see an honest and truthful politician especially those in charge of government and responsible for governance institutions and structures or is it the other way around, where technocrats mislead deliberately mislead the Ministers. One Minister on appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises is quoted as having said “I am aware that all this questioning is done because of political motivation.” “Politics is a doggy business and my friends have told me. I know what is happening outside this room. The Minister told the committee members that he did not appear before them for character assassination.”
He said all the decisions he made at that organization were due to the fact that he was never advised by anyone and being lied to by officials. “Sometimes the advice we are given is wrong and we are all victims including myself.I wish to point out dear reader that, while I do my best to keep politics out of my life, unfortunately I cannot avoid it, mainly as an academic and a public policy wonk.
I have bad experiences on my previous opinion pieces on corruption and mismanagement as well as others dating as far back as 2008. Many of these were received differently by different people with some over-reacting and in the process threatening to physically assault me, the most prominent one being the one that I received from a disgruntled former tall and skinny cabinet minister who slapped me with a legal suit of P2million, claiming defamation. In his application to sue, all that the former cabinet Minister could say was that the article brought to him painful memories which he was trying to forget.There are many incidents I have come across, that I can cite, such as that call I received one fateful Saturday morning from a very powerful, prominent figure who just lost it and went on with his vicious tirade. Telling me off is the right word to use. Well I was not bothered at all; I did not really care for I did not expect to be done favours. I also once received a nasty email when I was still studying in Boston, MA, USA, from a prominent, powerful someone. In her email, she stooped so low and stated that I must come back home ke tle go lema tshimo tsa masotla tsa ga King Kgafela Kgafela II. Phew and Sisi is all that I could say on receiving her mail. I was disgusted and disappointed.
“Unfortunately in Botswana, Bolope has now become an institutionalised culture, it is a norm and it is happening everywhere at every institution including the church” said my clinical psychology friend. “It is worse Thabo, to the extent that if you do not follow instructions and directives, you will stay in one position, you will be sabotaged and denied opportunities, “Le bagolo tota ba lopela, tshele, lefufa reign supreme, everywhere.
In concluding in our conversation my clinical psychologist friend had this to say “You know Thabo, Nnanayana is my hero, when she talked about some people getting bo J grades, many thought she was just being funny.” For his part Ghanaian Professor, H Kwesi Prempeh stated that Corruption is keeping intelligent people from politics. In Botswana, politics is now business and has indirectly side-lined persons with intelligence and ability to govern, and replaced with substandard leaders. Unfortunately Smart People Are Good at Being Dumb in Politics.
One Adam Phetlhe in one of the midweek news papers even pointed out that Ministers Khama, Mabeo and Seretse should be summarily dismissed. In his weekly column, Sonny Serite had this to say “It is heaven on earth for the Khama brothers, they are the luckiest sons, I have ever known. Looking at their demeanor, they surely are convinced, it is God and them”. Sonny goes further and states “ At times, I ask myself, is it because those guys didn’t spend much time at school and they missed on the opportunity to learn that their father just happened to be the first President of this republic and not the owner of this country.”
Nowadays in Botswana it is unimaginable for a small boy/girl to say “I will like to become a President” and when asked what he has as a reason to become the President of the country, the boy/girl replies “to be nicknamed BTV, to always be seen on BTV be caring by distributing blankets, dishing soup with Magwinya (fat cakes) and even be kind enough to give out free bibles to the elderly.
As to whether Botswana can still be viewed as a heaven of prosperity and stability is an illusion and Abdi Ismail Samatar who described the country as “ The African Miracle” in which he also alleged that Botswana has eluded the rampant corruption bedeviling most Third World Country. That was just a myth in that Samatar’s analysis is almost totally uncritical of the glaring negative features of Botswana’s corruption scandals and embezzlement of huge some of money by BDP political vampires, close family members and friends in the 1990s and has become worse since April Fool day 2008 to date.
Thabo Lucas Seleke writes from Seleme Farm, Rasesa