Thursday, April 9, 2020

Khama’s critics are wrong to force him into marriage

There is no better illustration of a lack of depth and seriousness in the discourse of our public debates than recent stealth attempts to put pressure on Vice President Ian Khama to get married before his assumption of the State Presidency.

People who make marriage calls on the Vice President often back themselves with dark forebodings that an unmarried president is likely to present a protocol crisis.

An implication is being wantonly thrown about that in a way an unmarried President is somewhat unfulfilled.

That is weird.

I cannot think of a substitute for marriage as a social institution, but cannot unfortunately share the implied criticisms by fanatics who find sense in assertions that an unmarried president is somehow incomplete.

Such criticisms are simply mistaken.

Thankfully, in keeping in line with his now legendary reputation of detachment, Khama has not responded, thereby rendering such a thinly veiled remonstrance against his abilities as inconsequential.

There is, however, every reason to discuss Khama’s impending presidency.

There are many more important and pressing things the nation should demand to know from and about Ian Khama, especially on the eve of him becoming President of the Republic.
Marriage, unfortunately, is not one of those.

Insisting that somehow married people make good presidents is certainly not a respectable way of composing a set of attributes and qualities we expect from our leadership.

The president of Botswana occupies a very powerful and influential position.
Such a person is backed by a litany of laws deliberately designed to empower and allow him to single-handedly (expressly without consulting anyone) determine the destiny of the entire country.

There is always the danger that such powers could fall into the wrong hands.
On very few circumstances have Botswana’s Presidents so far gone full length as to put such powers into practice.

But the possibility, and some may say risk, of such potentially lethal powers being put to practice remains.

On that score, it is important for people to know well before hand the caliber not to speak of the ideological inclinations of such a person.

Very few people know Khama really well.

That is what should, for now, concern the thousands of Batswana who have so far only seen Khama on television, in newspapers or listened to him on radio as he stumbled and tripped himself trying to speak our language.

A much wider circle of hangers-on that claims they do is actually a group of wishful thinkers who hope to imbibe and ingratiate themselves with his favours.
They are the people who look at him not as a politician, but rather a fount of future patronage who will be churning out largesse by way of cabinet appointments and other assortments.

It has been well chronicled that Khama arrived into politics against his will.

It was hoped that his name would bring some semblance of stability into the ruling party at a time when factional bickering was at its height.

He was also expected to use his popularity and name appeal to cushion Festus Mogae whose presidency was founded on politically shaky ground.
To make matters worse Khama has also made it clear that he does not enjoy politics.

Even more worrying, however, is the widely held perception that the future president has a low opinion of his civilian offices.

On numerous instances he has been portrayed as someone who hero worships military attributes.

For many civilians used to a life under a pluralistic parliamentary democracy, that is disconcerting.

Khama has done nothing to allay such fears.

It may be that he has made a deliberate decision not to take the national glare off the sitting president until the last day, especially because he knows the extent to which the sitting President pales in stature when put beside him.

But then such caution and delay comes at a price.

Khama should remember that people’s faith in him is not infinite.

Like a pilot we are told he is, it is extremely important that he prepares his own ground ahead of landing.

The fact that a few months before he takes over, Khama has still not made any spectacular announcement to signal the likely direction of his presidency is what should concern us; not him getting married. After all, forced marriage could become a source of hell.

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