Six weeks into the civil service strike, President Ian Khama has still not found the need to dialogue with the Union leaders. Dear reader, I know I’m on the verge of boring you with my regular takes on Khama but that is only because the buck has to stop with him. Don’t even ask me what he should do to stop the strike because as head of the country, I expect him to have the answer (o rile o tla kgona). Khama continues to address the workers indirectly through irrelevant platforms that do not facilitate dialogue. He continues to preach his side of the story and is not willing to listen to the workers’ side of the story or atleast allow them to be heard through the same medium of communication available to him. When the strike commenced, first on the pulpit to preach government propaganda was none other than the preacher man, Reverend John Seakgosing, Minister of Health. The man of God went against what he preaches at church and broke one of the elementary commandments of the Holy Book: Thou shall not lie. He told the entire nation how all was well in the public health sector despite the involvement of Doctors and nurses at government hospitals (or hospitles as he would pronounce).The poor reverend has since disappeared into oblivion, probably after his conscience reminded him that it was a sin to lie.
Assistant Minister in the Office of the President, Mokgweetsi Masisi was not to be left out in the propaganda bandwagon as he instantly became the face of government on national television. He too came with his half cooked truths and, at times, full blown lies. In the process of trying to impress Khama as his Mr Shield, Masisi earned himself ‘enemies’ and his constituency was one of the first to issue a petition against government’s stone heartedness. Masisi has since toned down and has stopped his frequent appearances on national television even though he is said to have bragged that he is not bothered about the petition because as far as he thinks, the protesters were from Gaborone and not Moshupa. (ehe Rra!)
The then acting Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe also had to pay heavily for his appointment as Merafhe’s stand in. The highly intelligent Kedikilwe (yes he is) found himself having to show his allegiance to the President and was forced to act dumb like all Khama’s lieutenants. I couldn’t stop feeling sorry for Rre Kedikilwe as he hopped between Eloyi church and the Mass Media Complex trying to push government propaganda in the midst of the public service strike. Some of us who are well versed with Kedikilwe’s brain content were readily able to detect he did not believe in what he was saying. That is why he ended up diverting his attention to his ministerial portfolio because it was very clear what he was saying regarding the strike, betrayed his intellectual analysis of the situation.
I hear from the grapevine that after being made to utter gibberish on national television, Kedikilwe vowed never ever to embarrass himself again and this explains why the ailing Merafhe had to be dragged from his sickbed to come and do what he knows best: defend the indefensible at all costs. With all of his cabinet ministers shying away from spearheading his propaganda and misleading the nation, Khama had no choice but to ‘resurrect’ his trusted lieutenant, Merafhe.
Sticking by his army vows, Merafhe knows a soldier dies fighting and remains loyal to his commander. Less than two days from his four months sick leave, the older and frail version of the otherwise bubbly and baby-faced Merafhe addressed the nation on national television. No offence intended but Merafhe now looks really old (ok he now looks his age) and I had thought with his old age would come wisdom for we have been made to believe age is the fountain of wisdom. Alas, all he brings back are veiled threats towards the striking civil servants.
And then after six weeks, the man at the helm of the country, President Ian Khama, continued to address the wrong people on the issue of the strike. All along he has been addressing rural folks at the Kgotla while refusing to address the concerned workers. The only difference with his latest rumblings is, he delivered it in Gaborone in an air-conditioned room and not at a Kgotla at Natale village. Otherwise he dished the same sushi. Khama has decided to address the wrong crowd through his Kgotla meetings, most of whom do not grasp the difference between deficit and deceit. He knows very well that by addressing the unemployed and the destitute, many of them will buy into his deceitful statements as he churns out huge financial figures laced with economics lexicon which I have reason to doubt he too understands.
It is of no use for the president to go on national television emotionally charged. We want the president to deliver a state of the nation address. We don’t want to be given snippets of his meetings with high profile government officials who hold their positions through his prerogative.
You see, at first I wanted to applaud Khama for finally having seen the need to address the nation on the impasse between his government and its workers but he spoiled everything the moment he decided to divert from his drafted speech and became petty. Instead of addressing issues at hand, Khama decided to play blame games and accused some people of inciting workers and students. We know for sure that Khama relies heavily on information passed on to him by the Directorate of Intelligence Services and we know for certain that they always feed him information that they know will wag his tail. That is why he swore he was pretty sure that opposition party leaders were behind the strike even though we all know opposition parties only showed their sympathy after it became evident no solution was forthcoming. One would have expected a State President to stay clear of petty statements and instead plead with the workers to go back to work. By making statements such as “the bottom line is they will not get what they want”, the president is only hardening the workers’ attitude. If at all some of us appear sympathetic to the plight of the workers, it is only because Khama forces us to be.
Khama will make us believe those who say his fear for interaction with the educated emanates from his short stay at school because otherwise I do not understand why Khama would be so dreadful of the middle class, most of who would not shy away from throwing probing questions at him. You see, at times when Khama says government has no money, I’m tempted to believe him. I mean, which government would have money when its cabinet ministers are permitted to be chauffer driven across the country for private tuition. Do we expect government to have money when the president is free to take BDF trucks fully loaded with quad bikes and entertain his friends at Makgadikgadi. How can this government have money when, without any justification, a fully fledged army barracks is built at the State House? It’s crazy to expect this government to have money after millions of Pula have been spent to silence departmental directors who were pushed out of their jobs just because the President decided he could not work with them. It is shocking that government wants to abdicate its obligation of remunerating its workers on the account of its extravagant spending. If I choose not to prioritize and allocate my budget according to my needs vis-├á-vis wants, I should not blame my son’s Head teacher when he wants school fees because it is none of his business that I decided to buy alcohol with the money I should have spared for my son’s education. In the same light, as government went on a shopping spree of P46 000 refrigerators for ministers and P2 000 000 caravans for the president, they should have known there still remained another obligation: workers’ salaries.