Following the 49th anniversary of independence celebrations hosted at the National Stadium in 2015, The Badge of Courage delivered a mild assessment of the event and its reception by the public. The essay titled ‘Botswana Day has lost meaning, however, it is not too late to redeem it’, opined that only a handful of people who take themselves seriously still have special feelings towards Botswana Day. The essay argued that many citizens are reluctant or disinterested to participate in the Botswana Day activities mainly because they no longer identify with it and by extension, with their own country. This opinion which carried the weight of a hard fact was indeed a sobering reminder that many Batswana have lost a sense of love for their country and that the country’s leadership was faced with a monumental challenge of making Batswana love their country again.
Actually we do not celebrate Botswana Day simply because we want to create time for fun and joy. Instead, we celebrate it to remind ourselves that independence is the spirit and soul of the nation, to reconnect and recommit ourselves to the values that this country was founded upon. Principally, Botswana Day should celebrate the ideals of democracy, our free country and the opportunities inherent in a free country.
Customarily, if conditions are sufficient for citizens to be proud of their country and to celebrate it there would not be a compelling reason for the government to spend hugely in creating hype and excitement among citizens. Citizens would celebrate without having to be appeased with loads of red meat and sweet. The reason why the government has set aside huge sums of money to excite and entice citizens to actively and cheerfully participate in the 50th anniversary celebrations is precisely because Batswana show very little interest in this comedy with some publicly denouncing the anniversary celebrations as a scam designed to line the pocket of some gold diggers and parasites with close ties to the country’s rulers.
Unfortunately, the powers that be would never publicly acknowledge that many Batswana are dissatisfied, upset and evidently angry that the quality of life has been left to deteriorate to appalling levels. This failure and lack of courage to concede that many citizens are disillusioned with their country or at least some aspects of its internal polity makes it difficult for the nation to openly and honestly confront the challenge with a view to restoring our pride by cultivating a sense of citizenship and genuine feelings of nationalism towards Botswana. This is the challenge we, as a nation, have got to face head on.
Yet, it requires that we, first of everything, concede that many Batswana no longer love their country and are therefore less loyal to it and may not sacrifice their lives for it. Next, we need to concede that this is unfortunate, undesirable and harmful to nation building and national prosperity hence the dire need to fix it, specifically by coming up with both short-term and long-term measures intended to make Batswana love their country again. This should be singled out as the biggest challenge Botswana face today.
Botswana has always been the pride of each and every Motswana irrespective of ethnicity, social class and gender, and this pride was chiefly anchored on our unique value system that fostered a cohesive society. It has to be emphasized that no amount of short-termism feasting, countless music festivals and decorations could genuinely cultivate a sense of true citizenship. No matter how much is invested in development interventions for as long as citizens suggest overtly or covertly, despair and a deep sense of profound hostility towards their country our efforts will come to nought because we too keen to spite, sabotage and stab each other on the back.
A great nation is in actual fact a consequence of the greatness of its people, their individual and collective pledge and contribution to make their nation great. Thus, if citizens are hostile towards their own country it means that country has daring enemies from within, traitors, saboteurs who are more than willing to deliberately and relentlessly sabotage it. Henceforth, a crucial starting point in our efforts to achieve sustainable and inclusive prosperity would be to inspire citizens with a love of their country; to inspire citizens to proudly identify with their country and affirm their individual and collective commitment to making Botswana much better for us all.
This inspiration cannot be achieved by bullying citizens into showing off Botswana colours on their protruding tummies that signify poor lifestyle, itself a consequence of destitution. Citizens do not take pride for merely belonging to a great nation but rather for being given opportunities to contribute to collective achievements. Citizens would only be proud of the achievements of their country if those accomplishments reflect their individual and collective contributions. Never would citizens be proud of their country when the government finds it convenient and prudent to make people queue for a coup of soup like abandoned dogs feeding from a community trough.
They say you can lead a horse to the river, but you cannot make it drink the water. No amount of bullying, intimidation, threat of marginalization, mocking and public humiliation will make citizens love their country for as long as conditions on ground are hostile to the individual and collective pursuit of happiness. Naturally, people love that which deserves their love. Bombarding citizens with the presence of national flags on lamp posts, tree branches and seducing them with the sight of donkey carts with Botswana colours is a trick for infants and desperate, retarded midgets.
Citizens who take themselves seriously, citizens who are ambitious, citizens who have a good sense of life and have the self-confidence to uplift their standard of living are more interested in interventions designed to avail opportunities for Batswana to return their country to prosperity rather than a free meal. Citizens who believe in their abilities and abide in the ideals of democracy and the pursuit of happiness and greatness desire to hear about measures being put in place to help the economy rebound and overcome its challenges and to stabilize in the long term.
Botswana has progressed through countless hardships and managed to become a great nation through its relentless people who felt a genuine and intimate connection to their country subsisting side by side with possibilities for achieving their dreams. This sense of belonging and the inherent connection to the country gave citizens so much to be proud of and the associated security to prosper; the confidence to be resilient and to aim higher and achieve the impossible. Today many citizens are frustrated, unhappy and angry to the point where they openly express their hatred for their country mainly because the leadership is undoubtedly content with own socio-economic and political privileges and are therefore completely averse to the abysmal conditions under which the ordinary Motswana subsists.
Batswana are not a bunch of spoilt brats who want to live on generous hand outs but rather hate to be poor, needy and more so being taken for some desperate urchins who would be happy to be baited with the aroma of beans and chicken feet. Many Batswana have studied and lived is some fancy cities in the developed world but they always wanted to come back home. Today many want to emigrate while many more would at least prefer to have a home here but a life elsewhere because Botswana has become inhospitable and certainly gone to the dogs.
Batswana had never envied other Africans who have chosen a life of a pet in foreign countries but they are certainly beginning to learn border jumping. The truth is that the choice to pack up, abandon one’s family and choose to start life elsewhere is not an easy one and indicates the extent of hopelessness and the feeling of being illegitimate in your country of birth. Thus, border jumpers represent the lot that has been rejected by their countries but yet are a much better bet than enemies from within.