A local weekend newspaper ran an article headlined ‘Govt is not made of idiots – Skelemani’.
According to the newspaper, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Phandu Skelemani addressed a Kgotla meeting in Francistown where he told his audience that government is made up of intellectuals who think twice before making decisions. I have written here before and I’m going to repeat: Skelemani is my ‘main man’. You rarely find people like Skelemani who have no qualms telling it like it is, or the way they see it. This is the kind of guy I’d readily accept to co-author this column with.
Before we interrogate the idiocy or the non existence thereof in those who make up government, I suggest we look at the meaning of this word: Idiot. We will look at its meaning vis-├á-vis the actions or decisions made by those who make up government. Let’s see if they have either committed or omitted anything that qualifies them as either idiots or intellectuals who think twice before making decisions.
An idiot can mean someone who is stupid. It can mean someone who is mentally ill. An idiot can be someone who has a very low level of intelligence. According to Wikipedia, an idiot, dolt, or dullard is a mentally deficient person, or someone who acts in a self-defeating or significantly counterproductive way. A dunce is an idiot who is specifically incapable of learning.
You see, Skelemani is aware that some people think this government is made of idiots, otherwise he would not have clarified that they are not idiots. Let’s also admit that even if government was made of idiots, Skelemani would not admit it. Such is the order of things in life. Without suggesting that Skelemani could be wrong, by the nature of things, idiots cannot be so idiotic as to admit they are idiots. The reason is simple. Idiots cannot detect their idiocy. This is so because what I may deem intellectually thoughtful may appear idiotic to the next person. That is, you may appear intelligent to me and a dummkopf to others. We look and judge differently. Such is life and we should not be shocked when idiots claim that they are intelligent or vice versa. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to dispute that government is not made up of idiots because really, we can spend the whole day pointing at idiots from opposite directions. I can say you are an idiot and you can say I am an idiot to suggest you are an idiot. We can engage in that argument all day until someone comes to tell us that we are both idiots to argue about who amongst is an idiot.
While addressing that Kgotla meeting in Francistown, Skelemani is reported as having said because they, as government, are scrupulous about economic matters, there was no way they could have increased salaries of civil servants. The newspaper quotes him, “..we are not stupid enough to let the country’s economy go down the drain.” While Skelemani and his buddies at government feel it would have been idiotic to increase salaries, other people are of the view it was idiotic not to do so. That is why I say we look and judge differently.
While Skelemani and his colleagues feel government’s initiatives to eradicate poverty are laudable, others feel they are laughable. There are those who feel government likes to throw short-term solutions to long term problems. They also say Skelemani and his colleagues are incapable of learning what poverty really is all about. They argue that poverty is not limited to not being able to secure a plate for lunch as the guys who make up government seem to believe. They say poverty-stricken people do not need spinach at the back of their yards, a majority of whom do not even posses yards. A lot of people feel it is self-defeating to repossess undeveloped plots from poor people and yet sing poverty eradication. They say landlessness is another form of poverty. They feel it is idiotic of Skelemani and his colleagues to go around addressing Kgotla meetings and tell the nation that they are suspending some projects and developments because their government does not have money yet they have no shame repossessing plots of people who, just like government, do not have money to develop their plots.
Some people are of the view it is idiotic to impose a curfew on the nation by ordering places of entertainment to close early while people want to dance the night away. They say this is counterproductive because people end up not going to sleep anyway, and instead go to unregulated and unlicensed places.
There are those who feel only a mentally ill person can find nothing wrong in the death of one or two citizens. Skelemani may want to know that some people feel it was idiotic of people who make government to keep quiet when Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika went berserk and rained terror on his people a few months ago. They couldn’t understand Skelemani’s explanation that he was waiting to be appraised by the Ambassador on the situation in Malawi before he could comment while he only relied on the idiot box (television) when he responded to similar situations in countries like Libya and Madagascar. While Skelemani asserts government is not made up of idiots, some people feel it was idiosyncratic of the Minister of Health to publicly declare normalcy in hospitals (or hospitles as he would pronounce) during the public service tools down, while the opposite obtained.
Some people have frowned at how our president seems to have boycotted international forums choosing instead, fireside consultations with rural folks. They see this as some kind of idiocy. There are those who have screwed their courage to the sticking place and labeled the president as intellectually incapacitated to run the country. They say his pronouncements on leadership are without rhyme or reason.
There are also some of us who share in Skelemani’s sentiments when he says, “I am a Minister to the whole country not just Francistown East constituency; therefore there is need for me to visit the rest of the country.” Skelemani is reported to have said this in response to some of his constituents who were idiot enough to complain that they only see him on TV.
I heard some people say it was idiotic to set up the DIS when Botswana faced no imminent security threat and more so that there was no budget allocated to setup the security organ. If indeed government is not made of idiots it would therefore mean idiots are those who believe it was idiotic to setup the DIS. Skelemani says government is made up of intellectuals who think twice before making decisions. These are intellectuals who made a decision to build BIUST so it can become one of the biggest universities in the world and are the ones now thinking twice about going ahead with that decision. These intellectuals thought twice and decided they are not going to re-employ the nurses who embarked on the public service strike and got sacked.
One of these intellectuals has thought twice and decided it is proper to have an acting minister of Defence and Security for close to a year now. These intellectuals have thought twice and decided foreign prisoners who suffer from HIV/AIDS should not get ARV’s. These intellectuals couldn’t solve an impasse between government and teachers and in the end compromised students’ education. They thought twice and decided, ‘to hell with the teachers even if it affects the students’.
Well, whether government is made up of idiots or not really depends on who is talking because at the end of the day, we look, think and judge differently. People may think government is made up of idiots but hey, the people who make up government are entitled to view themselves as intelligent people who think twice before they make decisions.