Thursday, June 4, 2020

How long should we have our nappies changed and our bellies fed by South Africans?

BY VICTOR BAATWENG

This past few weeks the social media in Botswana have been abuzz about a story of how a local innovator was snubbed some few years ago and now his foreign counterpart is likely to be favored by the government. We are yet to establish the merits of the case but given the backlash from the members of the public on social media the case caught our attention. It reminded us of a similar case that also served as a bitter-sweet reminder of how reliant we are on our neighbor and big brother ÔÇô South Africa.

Just as a recap, less than three years back (2016) an incident on service procurement by Botswana’s Premier Soccer league committee/board led to some sort of embarrassment and subsequent public outrage. The embarrassment and subsequent public outrage at the time were caused by a printing mistake by a South African company engaged by the Botswana Premier Soccer League. Instead of printing P for our local currency ÔÇô Pula, the South African company printed “R” to represents South African Rand on the tickets. The mistake irked some of the locals who could not stop accusing both the main sponsor Mascom wireless and Premier League of undermining Botswana. The feeling at the time was why cross the borders for a simple task such as printing soccer match tickets. The same question is being asked on why government agencies are reported to be looking across the border for a solution that is already in the homes soil.

These two cases are a bitter-sweet reminder and forms part of the bigger picture that tells the story of Botswana’s long walk to economic transformation.

These incidents aside, it is an open secret that Botswana has long been depended on South Africa for nearly all the goods listed on the consumer basket. Be it vehicle spare parts, tooth pick, and even toilet paper. This endless list, which include amongst others power supply, music, food make one wonder where exactly we could be headed as a country in terms of economic transformation. If anyone does not agree that our over reliance on South Africa marks nothing but our downfall they should look at the amount of money we are losing due to bookings made in South Africa by European tourists visiting our own tourism sites. Our law makers see nothing wrong with such, it seems. Are we not ashamed of ourselves that even at 53 years of independence our nappies are changed and our bellies are still fed by South Africans?

The truth of the matter is South Africa with its challenges like other countries in the region have certainly done well for itself despite is “governance” issues in the last few years. So let no one come forth and claim that we are not able to be economically independent because of global economic troubles. Let no one claim that due to challenges we can still not make use of our cattle hides to create more jobs for our people. Maybe such person could come forth and explain why when you arrive in any town or city in Botswana the banks, restaurants, supermarkets and clothes stores are overwhelmingly South African.

We are two months away from our country’s 53rd birthday celebrations. Indeed 30 September 2019 shall mark exactly 53 years since we gained “independence” from Britain. This independence we assume means all sorts, including the liberty to choose on how we make money, reinvest such money and distribute resources amongst the communities across the country. The independence we desire for should mean being able to reduce the number of bottled water (like we did) offered to visitors, most of which were produced in South Africa.

At 53 years, the question that Botswana could be asking itself is when it is going “practically” proof to the world that we are NOT one of South Africa’s provinces? Indeed as we celebrate our 53rd anniversary we should demonstrate to the world that we are not a baby of South Africa and that South Africa is NOT our mother.

It will of cause not be easy thing to do but it is not something out of reach. The past years power crisis in that country and in our own country is a very a good example of what could happen even when it comes to food production, fuel supply and even entertainment. The #Bottomline is that our over-reliance on our neighbours will one day make us pay a heavy price should they decide to stop servicing us or fail to deliver due to natural circumstances. We got to empower our people to produce and innovate for the local and international market.

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