Enough warnings have been sounded, but not heeded, about the danger of the circumstance in which the electorate permits the state press to be the dominant form of media ownership and control in a democracy.
Such dominance makes for the untidy situation in which one party – the ruling party – avails of itself the state media for the announcement of its festivals, political obituaries and all manner of shenanigans, the better part of which would amount to little more than an irritating distraction for a population that has, for a good six months now, been force fed the falsehood that the ‘credit crunch’, alias, ‘international economic recession’, is the source of their permanent courtship with poverty, disease and illiteracy.
Why really, should this desperate lot of distinguished paupers be entertained with prime-time speeches, via some sorry bureaucrat, about why the ‘tautona wa phathi ya ga Domkrag’ is having trouble with folk who should be counted among his most trusted lieutenants?
Would it not have been the more gallant thing for the ‘tautona’ to refocus the attention of the people on the hard reality that, not only has government performed badly ÔÇô read ‘failed’ ÔÇô at economic diversification, but that it has been famously tardy at seeking diversification of markets for beef and diamonds.
That actually, this is the real problem of the Botswana. That the economic planners should have taken note, a long time ago of advice that the British aristocrats and the spoilt brats who run the finance houses of the United States and the multi-national corporations that run alongside them, are not the world’s only carnivores and connoisseurs of diamonds.
Beijing alone, or half of the city, should surely ÔÇô American credit crunch or not ÔÇô be able to devour any tonnage of beef that the Batswana have to offer, with or without the frills of special arrangements that a handful of the Botswana farmers have with the European Union.
Add to the Chinese, the Indians and the Tiger economies and you have an alternative buyer of almost any commodity that Botswana has to offer.
But no, for the fear of communism and all sorts of other monsters, the planners preferred to remain glued to the most vicious exploiters of African labour and the continent’s natural resources, the British and the Americans.
The nation, in such tough times, is compelled to listen to the lamentations of leader of one party, through a proxy, on television and on radio, about why his lieutenants, in five quick months, are now up to here with his idiosyncratic behaviours.
Just as an aside: Could somebody shed some light on the appropriateness ÔÇô or lack thereof ÔÇô of the use of ‘tautona’ next to ‘phathi ya ga Domkraga’, when the more familiar usage appears to ring more clearly when tautona stands next to ‘wa Botswana’?
Aaah, no! Yes, that makes sense now. It serves the state press better, that is should appear that matters of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party should be perceived and understood as if they are synonymous with things of the country or the nation.
And so the reader announces: “The membership of the Botswana Democratic Party and all Batswana … should rightly be disturbed at the pervasive maragaraga at the BDP…So, I have taken steps beyond anything that tradition and customary practice would have permitted, to appoint committees and other things to steer the party back to line.
Between the lines, that should read: …to indicate to those who do not like my style that they can go hang.
Exaggeration should not take the better of us. Rather, it is sturdy and persistent vigilance that should prevail. Because statements that veer in that direction must raise the anxiety: –
ÔÇó If at the next election, the Botswana Democratic Party loses, will President Ian Khama permit the winner to rule?
ÔÇó Could it be that President Ian Khama believes so strongly that the Botswana Democratic Party belongs to Sir Seretse Khama, and therefore by way of inheritance to himself, such that he will not meet his political demise, if it should come, without creating such chaos and mayhem that his party will go down with him?
These are uncomfortable questions, but they are raised only because the current political climate ÔÇô not at Domkrag alone ÔÇô but in the country, requires that they should be asked.
It is not the Batswana alone who ask these questions. Anyone who listened to the South African Broadcasting talk show, ‘African Views’, last Tuesday, should worry about the unprecedented manner in which Botswana’s democratic credentials were so forcefully challenged for what appear to be very credible reasons.
The sibling rivalry aside in the Southern African Development Community aside, the poignant point was made, that the proof of the existence of democracy lies in the tests to which it is put.
The panellists raised questions about whether the legal instruments and other institutions that uphold democracy in Botswana ÔÇô especially in the absence of a working opposition or robust civil society ÔÇô have been adequately tested in such a way as to award Botswana the status of ‘a working democracy’.
An ‘anonymous’ caller from Botswana suggested that President Ian Khama runs the country as if he were President Gaddafi! The comparison, in isolation, is not shocking. It is, rather the possibility ÔÇô perhaps even probability ÔÇô that the perception is more pervasive than might have been suggested by the lone voice of that caller.
In any case, what really is the matter with Kaddafi? He seems, if one goes by his little green book, a socialist and an Africanist of good standing, if one ignores the Islamicised rhetoric. He did build homes for his people and they are well fed and educated compared to our folk at the CKGR, and in the Central District, where poverty is reported to be most widespread!
The point is that the pervasive dominance of the state media ÔÇô the least desirable of all under a democratic dispensation of the bourgeois type ÔÇô will deprive the Batswana of a substantive debate about the questions and the anxieties raised above.
The Batswana will not get the opportunity to compare, in their own terms, the behaviours of Gaddafi and that of President Khama.
They will not bet the chance to ask where Khama will leave if his party is defeated at the next election. There will be little debate about where indeed Khama may be on a suicidal mission that sways if the BDP does not work to his perception of what he wants it to be, then no one else will enjoy the benefits of its established popularity.
Whichever way one looks at it, the next general election is beginning to look increasingly like a contest between President Khama on one side and Democracy of the BDP, by the voters and for the Batswana.