Friday, October 30, 2020

It’s sad to see civil service become yet another wing of the BDP

To an alarming extent, the BDP and the civil service have become so intertwined as to be confused as one.

Even the most casual of the commentators would come to the conclusion that the irredeemably dirty internal BDP politics have become a regrettable influence on the civil service.

I still find it impossible to explain how it came about that the civil service has allowed itself to become a willing shareholder of such a plainly discredited entity like the BDP.

Civil servants used to be decent, hard working, ambitious but well meaning and honourable people driven more by a clean sense of public duty than a retirement into the BDP.

By all intents and purposes, civil servants used to be detached from party politics, not just in letter but also in spirit.

That has all changed.
Their failure to stay above the fray, choosing instead to meddle with politics (especially BDP politics) has seen them lose almost all of those enviable attributes.

Civil servants’ fondness to suck up to BDP politicians coupled with unthinking eagerness to show they belonged to the ruling class has driven them knee deep into dishonour.

There is now too much frolicking between the party and the professional cadre; not least a result of contaminating forms of inbreeding including shared commercial interests between the two sides.

That was not supposed to be.
The BDP and the civil service were never meant to be one.

As was the case at independence, the two should remain separate and different – never to be confused with one another.
Yet the BDP is aggressively pursuing policies that recklessly kill the neutrality and sanctity of the civil service by turning the top echelons into their breeding grounds.

For reasons that largely remain obscure, the ruling party seems content with going ahead with further blurring the thin line that divides itself from the civil service.

The trajectories of the BDP are overlapping more often with the two crossing paths much more often than has ever been the case before.
The result is a horrifying type of cronyism, corruption relationship and general decay.

In fact, it is an open secret that a good number of serving civil servants are card carrying members of the ruling party, with some of them going deeper as to openly associate with one faction or another.

The embedded relationship is altogether surprising given that, early on, the BDP founder, Seretse Khama, insisted on separating the two, and at a time when manpower and skills shortage would have generously allowed and permitted an open overlapping of the two.

What the BDP does not know is that they could be the chief beneficiary of this deliberate lapse today. But they could become chief victims tomorrow.
That said, an intervention is altogether necessary.

A way has to be found to detach the civil service from the corrupting grip of the BDP.

Of course, it will not be easy, especially because a disturbingly high number of senior civil servants are these days always lining up or positioning themselves for a retirement as cabinet ministers.

I do not wish to be catty about individuals, but I think there is something amiss if close to 80 percent of cabinet ministers are former permanent secretaries, or that level, a good number of whom were literally plucked off the service into becoming politicians without undergoing any ethically expected cooling period.
This is not to speak of many more former civil servants now warming the back benches.

Even more disturbing is that ambitions in the civil service are no longer informed by detached professionalism borne of cold neutrality and service.
Rather, there is a lingering specter of nurtured hopes to always cross the barrier into the ruling party politics.
This has not only undermined the crucially needed credibility, it has also eroded standards of professionalism, in the process, killing the much needed aura of neutrality.
From a professional perspective, this ranks as a crisis.

Of course, the country’s political opposition is also to blame.

Their well documented failure to seize opportunities and rise to the occasion has, over the years, made the civil service to look down upon them as hopeless, in some case even turning to be allergic to their way of political thinking.

With the BDP continuously in power for over forty years and with no likelihood of a change of guard, civil servants, naturally, have ceased seeing themselves as professionals expected to implement the policies of whatever party that may come into power.

Instead, they see themselves as an extension of the ruling party.
With no hope of an alternative party coming to power, civil servants, especially at the top, seem to have grown increasingly allergic to anything that is perceived to be associated with the opposition, behaving more like a ruling party sub committee responsible for ideology.

This goes against the tenets that civil servants need space within which to operate – space in which they can easily transcend the narrow, parochial and forever shifting political party interests.

The BDP has always had a knack and talent for self promotion.
But I sense that extending their empire into the civil service is a bit too much.

To win back the national mood and respect, the civil service has to detach itself from the ruling party. It is also in the BDP self interest to keep the civil service as a neutral national asset.

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