Sunday, September 27, 2020

Criticism not the same as ‘Pull Him Down Syndrome’

I am not in the habit of responding to newspaper articles that purport to rebut my essays for the reasons that, in public discourse, conflicting views are fundamental natural strictures. I do not lay claim to superior wisdom neither am I self-opinionated or infallible. I usually urge people to partake in public debates on topical issues and, therefore, it will be remiss of me to land hard on those who challenge my views. Discussions permit us to share knowledge and thoughts however weird and booby. It is also a truism that discussions also help us to share ignorance and, where possible, to put things right through the acquisition of new knowledge.

Nevertheless, I am inclined to comment on Peter Mosarwe’s essay titled “Kenneth Dipholo has a PHD mentality”.
I do so for the simple reason that the essay was a little personal and also because the author indirectly and inadvertently concurs with most of the views expressed in my earlier essay.

I classify my comments as constructive criticism rather than the beast called Pull-Him-Down. Allow me, therefore, to start by placing the word ‘criticism’ in its proper premises so that it is distinguished from the so called Pull Him Down syndrome. A critique is normally a philosophical juxtaposition which seeks to unravel a phenomenon that is otherwise hidden from an uncritical mind or sub-standard analysis or comprehension. Criticism entails searching for contrasts, probing what otherwise appears to be readily acceptable or common knowledge, sharing doubts on assumptions and practices and, to a greater extent, reviewing and seeking to perfect public policy, procedures, practices and assumptions. Whereas criticism may at times be destructive, its supreme basis is nonetheless to point out deficiencies in policy pronouncements and programme implementation with a view to closing up the gaps and bolster our behaviors, assumptions and practices. Criticism is often destructive because the targets of such criticism equate it with insult, insubordination and general lack of discipline in a way that makes it abdominal.

Traditionally, people in positions of authority like Chiefs were immune to criticism. Many of our people still hold to this belief system and bitterly resent criticism more especially that is directed at leaders. It is, therefore, the duty of critics to educate the people so that they come to embrace criticism and they will have to do so by intensifying the criticism so that those who easily get offended come to terms with this contemporary art. Criticism is, therefore, part of the mathematical equation for social progress and christening it as Pull Him Down syndrome is perfectly out of order and a retreat to the animal kingdom. PHD is now a scary buzzword that is used with the intent to malign critics by depicting them as uncouth and subversive elements. By making constant reference to it, critics are likened to terrorists with links to al-Qaeda and, therefore, as enemies of the state. The PHD syndrome is being used as a guise to force compliance from an already fearful public.

Peter Mosarwe holds the view that I am jealous of President Khama. It will be irresponsible, unreasonable and disproportionate for me to be jealous of a statesman and a chief of such considerable stature. Jealousy needs to be proportionate and realistic. It should be within the limits of pragmatism ÔÇô one’s capabilities and opportunities. Realistically, therefore, I would be jealous of Mosarwe for providing an unofficial guard of honour for President Khama if I so desired. But that would be envy not jealousy. Precisely, therefore, people who attack President Khama’s critics are the very people who are consumed by jealousy for they fear to lose what they already have ÔÇô their closeness to President Khama. Jealousy is born out of fear to lose what one already has. Unfortunately, such people are not jealous of the critics because the critics do not essentially desire to be closer to Khama neither are they jealous of President Khama because he is too smart for them. They are, therefore, jealous of themselves. Their fear of criticism stunts their personal growth and breeds hatred. Such hatred creates imaginary enemies. The resultant struggle to safeguard their possessions and space, which is in all probability jealousy, diverts their attention and energies from real challenges and set them on a collision course with themselves – the fine art of self-destruction.

My earlier essay contended that it is possible that President Khama did not succeed in accelerating the pace of project implementation because the government of Khama continues to decry slow implementation of projects. I also posited that it is possible that President Khama did succeed in his mission but that his success was obliterated by our unrealistic expectations of him. With a prejudiced reading mind, Mosarwe omits to read the statements in totality and instead prefers to single out the former proposition and had his personae wounded more than President Khama. Not all my writings on Khama portray him as a failure. I have, on many occasions, said that Khama stands a good chance of becoming the greatest president Botswana ever had because he boasts of an amazing public support and carries a considerable goodwill value. To many people, me included, President Khama embodies success.

Nevertheless, I have posited that Khama risks losing out on these opportunities because he permits lackeys to adulterate his thoughts and practices. He allows himself to be held prisoner by the multitudes who crave to be in ‘regular contact with him’ as expressed by Mosarwe. He allows himself to be held hostage by unrealistic and excessive expectations. If Mosarwe’s read of my article was not concocted with prejudice, he could have discerned a similar reasoning in the same edition of the Sunday Standard (April 20-26, 2008) advanced by Spencer Mogapi that ‘while attachment with the ordinary people is by far his [Khama’s] biggest strength, it also contrives to drive what is by far his worst habit – populism’. Mogapi further reasons that ‘the truth of the matter though is that Khama is riding on a wave of expectations he might never fulfill’. And I am declared jealous with the intent to pull down President Khama when I ask his cronies and genuine supporters to educate the people that President Khama will not make their donkeys and goats increase in number. This is a simple and honest reasoning that inexplicably irks some people. Even at the family level you do not promise your kids dirt bikes and private aeroplanes that are in all probability beyond the reach of your pockets.
It is irresponsible and self-defeating.

Mosarwe points out that poor project implementation ‘had become entrenched in the culture of the public service’. In other words, results may not be coming too soon. This support my argument that if people are made to believe that President Khama will instantly fix problems that inflict our society, we are manufacturing a time bomb sooner than later, when things don’t improve and people become disillusioned with Khama’s presidency. My essay contended so, Mosarwe contends so though falling short of predicting the outcome, but then sets out to challenge my point, his point, our point. Clutching at straws!!

Mosarwe argues that the improvements that came with Khama’s intervention could not as yet lead to discernible and tangible result to the ordinary man on the street, inclusive myself, but I am admonished for stating that the result of Khama’s intervention, in any, are still to positively impact on the lives of the ordinary people. So this honest truth is acceptable only if proffered by Mosarwe. Victory of concurrence!!

On numerous occasions it has been explained that it is not true that Khama is responsible for the many new policies and procedures that are generally unpopular. Some of us suspected that Khama was instrumental in the death of the National Service (Tirelo Sechaba), the new liquor regulations, the security and intelligence law and so forth. This has been denied by the government and Khama’s supporters. Yet the same people want the public to agree and gladly accept that Khama initiated positive changes such as those listed by Mosarwe ÔÇô speeding procurement processes, decentralization of financial disbursement procedures and so forth. This reminds me of a play named ‘Of the good I can speak of you, but not the bad’. We do not seek to deny that Khama has initiated some positive changes but we contend that this selective linking of Khama to good things only smack of insincerity and lack of tack in manipulation and is very strange and anomalous. Often people are readily deceived if deception is based on a slightly balanced score card.

People should realize that president Khama’s critics have not the slightest intention of injuring his emotional and physical being or pulling him down. Instead, critics are simply and sincerely offering their critical advice based on identified deficiencies in the management of our fragile nation. Good leaders are expected to engage the critics as a consultative mechanism rather then seeking to silence, marginalize or co-opt them.
Writing to newspapers under pseudonyms will not help Khama.
Botswana cannot afford to travel the same worn path that is tantamount to rhetoric or use retread policies and programmes that are tired. We need to chart a new course that offers real hope for the future and critical advice is part of the equation, a kind of an unshakable principle based on the infallible word of God.

That some people got rich through unconventional means needs no elaboration. The problem is that Mosarwe’s prejudiced analytical stance made it appear as though the statement is directed at Khama. This is a general statement that is factual. Records of cases relating to corruption, embezzlement, nepotism, theft and so forth are in the public domain.

It is a pity that Mosarwe takes textbook theories for some abstract art that does not relate to the real world. Theories embody more than just sweetened statements for alternative hopes. Theories operate at a higher level as logical explanations of a phenomenon. They can be used to predict human nature and future occurrences, but significantly, theories are capable of being tested through experiment, and can be verified through observation. For instance, participatory development and management theories explain that people are most likely to be motivated if they feel part of the decision making process. It is a truism that even herd-boys derive satisfaction from being considered as ‘partner farmers’. They feel proud and motivated if the master farmers consult and involve them. This is no cheap talk. Test it by experimentation, Mosarwe! When we use the theory of universal gravitation (force of gravity) that I learnt during my formative schooling to explain why a morula tree fruits drop down on earth than go up, it isn’t a simple aspect of theorization. It is real and practical and indicates that theories have relevance to the real world.

To this point in time I am least worried by bitter responses emanating from President Khama’s distant supporters. After all, they neither have the influence nor the power to issue a proclamation ordering everyone to show friendliness and amiability to the country’s leadership. I will only get worried when government representatives adopt an extremist’s interpretation of criticism which, of course, will be founded on fear and an extremely poor sense of enmity. Stigmatizing critics and attempting to Christianize them so that they serve the spiritual and political needs of the country’s leadership is absurd and satanic. Once again, we urge Mosarwe to come out of the shade.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.