Monday, June 1, 2020

Give the power back to the people

Automatic succession has done more damage to Botswana’s credibility as a democracy than any other issue I can think of.

Automatic succession has rendered democracy meaningless.
The tragedy though is that the system’s true ravages are still to reach us as a nation.

Today, a whole nation is holding its breath, helplessly fearful that the current President could, if he so wished, position one of his younger brothers as a future President, thereby making him the third in the dynasty.
By allowing the power to choose a successor President to rest in just one person, Batswana have become accomplices to the abuse we should expect going forward.

It’s high time we stopped thinking everything is fine with our democracy for we are only deluding ourselves.
The election of a President in Botswana has to be reviewed.

Invariably, power is always abused when it rests in just a few hands.
The solution lies in diluting it.
And what better way to dilute power than by spreading it among many hands.
In a very brutal way, automatic succession totally disregards the moral component of democracy, the linchpin of which that the ultimate power to choose the elected representatives lies directly with the people.

However hard one tries, I cannot imagine a more acute betrayal of democracy than taking away the people’s right to elect the country’s most powerful person and bestowing that right into the lap of just one individual.

Former President Sir Ketumile Masire has consistently argued that automatic succession provides a climate of certainty; a seductive argument indeed.
The fear of uncertainty can never be enough a plausible reason to force a whole country with a long democratic tradition to surrender the people’s power to choose its most important political leader to just one person.
By so saying the former president is doing nothing more than provide us with a comforting paternalism that he introduced automatic succession as part of the price to pay for certainty.
I cannot think of a more crude way to betray the people who had trusted Sir Ketumile to lead them and enrich their democratic institutions.

Like power, democracy should be used to fend for the people, not to betray them.
It is ridiculous that Sir Ketumile is trying to persuade an entire country to believe him that a mechanical sacrifice of one of the elementary principles of democracy was ever worth the warm blanket of certainty.

More than anyone of us, Sir Ketumile knows that automatic succession – his undisputed brainchild also provides a sprawling repressive environment under which people are alienated from the State President.

The only credit we should ever give Sir Ketumile is that over and above delivering this cockeyed system, he also strengthened the one party-dictatorship under the BDP watch, a ruthless political juggernaut which together with Seretse Khama he founded in the early 1960s.

Under automatic succession Botswana is not so much different from autocracy.
The true effects are still to come.
Which is why it’s high time the power to elect a president is given back directly to the people who rightfully own it.

That is also the best way of restoring a covenant between the State President and the people he governs.

Only direct election of the President by the people will restore the pact between the governor and the governed.
There can be no alternative, especially given the fact that in Botswana the State President literally controls everything that moves under the sun.
Our biggest problem is, of course, the one-party mentality which clouds everything else.

The ruling BDP is so strong that without having to say it, its word has effectively come to be accepted as a holy scripture.
This breeds not just arrogance but also corruption.

It also allows a strong leeway for a disregard of the people’s will.
While in a democracy the power to choose leaders vests with the people, I still cannot believe that we have put so much of our fate in just one unelected person.

It’s very silly that the people are not even considered when presidents and their heirs are considered in Botswana.
Of course, the problem is we are living in a defacto one party state, a situation that is not about to change anytime soon. On its own the opposition stands no chance against the moneyed BDP.

Coming to think of it, who do we blame when the sitting President (who we did not choose) makes really wild decisions?


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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.