A fortnight ago, Dr Jeff Ramsay wrote an article in this newspaper in which he vehemently contends that President Khama has performed miracles since ascending to the highest office in the land. Whilst I strongly believe that citizens who serve this country diligently and tirelessly should be given credit for the good job that they are doing, I also believe that government spin doctors should desist from using their positions to mislead the unsuspecting citizens.
In his article, Dr Ramsay states that the introduction of “the ISPAAD initiative was accompanied by a significant expansion of the area under cultivation with a subsequent rise in crop yields.” For purposes of supporting his statement, he should have demonstrated with numbers, the total area cultivated, the quantity that was produced before and after implementation as well as the extent to which the agricultural sector has contributed to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a result of ISPAAD. Furthermore, he should have enlightened us on what Khama is doing differently from his predecessors that has resulted in the programme being so successful.
Dr Ramsay also fails to present statistics supporting the success stories that he refers to in his article such as Ipelegeng, Youth Development Fund, constituency football league and the graduate internship programme. Enlightened citizens in the twenty first century can only appreciate the success of government programmes if they know how much has been spent on the same and if there are visible improvements in the lives of the intended beneficiaries. It is unhelpful for us to be told that the constituency football league has attracted the participation of over 1500 teams. At what cost to the tax payer? What is the impact of the league on the lives of people who participate? Do we have people who can proudly stand up and tell us that their lives have changed for the better as a result of having participated in the league? Is it sustainable? As for youth empowerment, one may want to know the number of people who have benefitted so far, amount spent and the success rate of projects undertaken under the programme.
Regarding implementation of on-going projects and those which have already been budgeted for, one does not need to be a genius to know that it makes perfect sense for the same to be completed on time irrespective of whether there is a financial crisis or not. All people who manage government projects will agree with me that what is done by the Khama administration is normal and has always been done in the public sector. The same can be said of regular briefings on projects as well as their monitoring and evaluation. All these things have always been done in the public sector even when Khama was still in the military. It is therefore not fair for Dr Ramsay to give people the wrong impression that these things were introduced under the Khama administration. Associating all public policies and programmes with Khama is unhelpful to the developmental efforts of our nation. Why is it happening now when so many programmes introduced in the past were never associated directly with Khama’s predecessors?
In the same vein, I fail to understand why Dr Ramsay is of the view that service delivery has improved tremendously since Khama became the president when we all know that he failed to turn things around when he was given the mandate of coordinating implementation of government projects during his tenure as the VP. What is it that he did in two years that he failed to do in nine years as coordinator of Government projects? And if indeed Khama has turned things around as Dr Ramsay wants us to believe, how does one explain a statement that was made by the VP Mompati Merafhe in Dec 2009 when addressing members of the Botswana Government Workers Union. When making reference to a survey that was carried out, Merafhe is quoted saying that, “The findings of the survey have indicated that the public service is performing under the normative benchmark of 50 per cent.” He went further to say that most government departments were found wanting in areas such as efficiency, keeping customers informed, and treating customers with respect. Now, who between the VP and Dr Ramsay should we believe since they do not seem to be singing from the same hymn book?
I find it interesting that Dr Ramsay has deliberately decided not to tell us how the president has fared so far in terms of upholding and protecting the ideals and principles of democracy. All that he does is to suggest that our democracy is still intact because people are free to criticize the current administration. It is imperative for us to understand and appreciate the fact that freedom of expression is not the beginning and the end of democracy. If we are to assess the democratic credentials of countries on the basis of whether there is freedom of expression or not, then countries like Zimbabwe which in the view of our president is undemocratic, will pass the test simply because their academics have always criticized the Mugabe administration and continue to do so.
If Khama is such a true democrat who tolerates criticism as Dr Ramsay wants us to believe, how does he explain the situation that the BDP finds itself in today under his leadership? How does he explain a situation whereby the head of state keeps quiet when fourteen people lose their lives at the hands of security agents? And most importantly, why is it that people nowadays live in fear when our democracy is so intact?
*Dr Mothusi teaches Political & Administrative Studies at the University of Botswana