Friday, September 18, 2020

Giving democracy a bad name

It would seem like President Ian Khama was committed to abolishing alcohol long before he took residence at State House.

The bracing determination with which alcohol is being abolished gives one the impression that this has been the overarching objective of Khama’s presidency long before he actually landed the country’s most powerful job.

There is nothing wrong with that.
The problem though is that a whole lot of false reasons are now being hauled and peddled before the nation as a pretext for abolishing alcohol.
It’s time the President looked the public in the eye and told them he has, after a long soul-searching exercise, decided to abolish alcohol.
It may prove unlovable, unpleasant, even deeply divisive, but if its price to be paid so be it.
It’s time to tell the truth.

Honesty and candour have always been Khama’s biggest political capital.
He should not allow his prejudices against alcohol to undo his most potent weapon ÔÇô a weapon with which he has always confounded his foes.

Dressing up fake reasons for coming up with such a manifestly counter productive set of solutions to the alcohol problem can only give Botswana’s democracy a bad name.

In a totally unintended way, the 70% alcohol levy is proving an eye opener for many of us.
We may dislike the manner by which a whole nation is treated like a group of school kids but, at least, we now know where we are headed.
We may hate the crude, uncivil disingenuous manner by which government is handling the alcohol issue but at least we now have a glimpse of what is in store for us as, at least for the next ten years.

The dream is over.
We like to persist in regarding ourselves as the best democracy in Africa.

It’s a fallacy that spurs a collective yearning to absolve ourselves from confronting our shortcomings as a nation.
Psychologists call it denial.
Zimbabwe is better in other respects.
It may sound unpatriotic but we are, at any rate, a declining democracy.

We used to be a great nation, but judged against our past standards we are not great in anything any longer.
If anything, we have become a shadow of our former selves.

The alcohol levy and the senseless Media Bill are proof that ours is a degenerating system that thrives more on historical nostalgia than contemporary reality.

Unless one is caught up in the effects of a hang over, it’s difficult to sustain the argument that we are the best democracy.

The real danger is that if we continue to be complacent, deluding ourselves that we are the best, while our government drives us back into stone age, it will not be long before our system becomes totally dysfunctional.

We should be worried that, lately, our leaders have been adopting a discourse where more and more they regard people like they are animated toys.
There is no better example of the increasingly eccentric behaviour of our leadership than their reasoning behind increasing alcohol prices by 70%.
Their attempts to justify the Media Bill are an even graver cause for concern.

There may be good reasons for why Botswana government wants to kill the alcohol in Botswana.
But the ones given so far are not true.
A past master of deceit, our government is very good at twisting facts and disgracefully undermining people’s intelligence.

That is exactly what is happening with the Media Bill.
Nothing depresses more than seeing a State President and his deputy crisscrossing the country, trying to justify their actions against alcohol with reasons they know are patently untrue.

Of the two men, I have some sympathy for the President.
Despite his unmistakable prejudice, at least his stance against alcohol has always been a subject of public knowledge.

The same cannot be said about the Vice President.
While the Vice President is trying hard to make us believe he is a convert to the cause his tone betrays him.

While he tries hard to denigrate alcohol he still comes across as a person who has been forced to negotiate the sale of his own child.
He knows how morally absurd the government arguments against alcohol are.
He knows so well that the government line is a campaign of obfuscation which can only spell disaster.


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