Friday, October 23, 2020

Khama’s Government is ruining Botswana

Those of us who watched the movie called ‘The Titanic’ may know that whereas the characters are fictional, the entire story is based on a real life tragedy.

The movie depicts the loss of over a thousand lives aboard the ill-fated journey of the most advanced ship of the time. The journey commenced with excited faces aboard The Titanic dreaming of an exhilarating experience of a life time. Everyone was headed for the easy expedition, having to just get into the ship and sail. But as the journey unfolded, it became clear that the crew was inadequately prepared for a worst case scenario and when disaster struck, no one stepped up to lead the rescue mission.

It was pandemonium all over, with the crew looking ordinary, unprepared, clueless and panicking more than the passengers. The Government of President Khama has striking similarities with ‘The Titanic’ crew. On April 1 2008, President Khama and his lieutenants set sail on a fishing expedition, armed only with power, pride and over-sized arrogance.

Like ‘The Titanic’ crew, they were so confident in their ways of doing things that they started doling out countless palliative, over-ambitious and unsustainable social schemes unperturbed by their likely impact on an economy that has resisted attempts at diversification for ages. They pictured Botswana’s economy was unsinkable after years of a diamond-propelled boom. They couldn’t imagine anything which could upset the global economy and the Botswana economy in particular and so they stuck to the thinking that made us successful yesterday as though times were not changing. Even when the first signs appeared, they continued to wear brave, confident and egoistic faces that deceived the nation into believing that our economy was indeed in safe hands and insulated against external shocks.

They ignored facts and disregarded clear warnings from economists and ‘other prophets of doom’. Thanks to the Recession, it knocked the wind out of their sails and made them ordinary mortals, our equals who have been over sold. Indeed the Recession made them what they are ÔÇô false faces, facades if you may. They stood unfamiliar with their responsibilities, unable to craft a coordinated national response to the crisis, out of sorts like a rapist caught in the act. Herein was their popular slogan asserted in many platforms with unmistaken confidence in the economy: we will not discontinue major development project, they have to be implemented to stimulate the economy. A little while later, they whisper like juveniles in a drunken stupor that the nation should make sacrifices, and this after the nation was misled into believing that President Khama’s crew was in total control, that effective intervention measures were in place. How gullible we were to believe these pseudo diviners!

Botswana is such a mess at the moment and it is pretty difficult to see our economy ever recuperating and re-asserting itself as the Singapore of Southern Africa. This country is certainly doomed under the current administration and is sinking very fast. Poor decision making and failed leadership is now the hallmark of this laughable government and if people still nurse any hopes for the Khama magic to transform this nation, God forbid. With due respect to His Excellency the President, and notwithstanding his approval rating and a lively public image, Khama’s leadership is ruining Botswana and a good part of it stems from miscalculations, a populist orientation and egotism, virtual monoculture, sincere errors of judgment and outright indifference to common sense. These are tough times which demand that Botswana be governed by men and women with the ability to keep it afloat and protect it, a leadership that has a disposition for unlearning in order to learn and change or adapt to changing circumstances.

Yet, instead of steering the economy from total collapse, the President elects to hide or idle in the countryside from where he occasionally issues thoughtless and totally ridiculous directives and unilaterally craft personalized tactless policies and programs. Of course, the President is within his mandate to consult elders in the rural areas but it is wrong for him to make laws based solely on his incoherent and infantile conversations with senior citizens who have lived their lives and care not about civil liberties and economic prosperity. Our grannies no longer have much interest in life and are not bothered an inch about assault on civil liberties. They have had their time for night life and don’t care if the government imposes a curfew for the funniest and craziest reasons, which is why they don’t give a damn about restrictions on freedoms. While he idles in the rural areas, his lieutenants go about intimidating, bullying, insulting and terrorizing anyone who cares to engage them. The President should admit that the Recession has denied him the opportunity to effectively play his preferred role of Father Christmas and by necessity scale down his unimaginative and irrational projects that hardly add value to the economy.

Keeping people busy by deploying them to weed the streets is illogical and not a priority during these cruel times and this perhaps confirms his haphazard and short term planning horizons. The Recession is a reality but should not be used as a scapegoat for failed leadership. It should be conceived as a test of character, economic and political sophistication. It should be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate one’s mettle over and above childish and comic projects like constituency football. The coming months will likely be more complicated with plenty bruising as the crisis continues to bite and expose nations deficient in leadership like Botswana. What is critical here is that Botswana be governed by a leadership of competence not a leadership that manages the economy like a spaza shop or kiosk.

The last thing we need is a leadership that subscribes to the hit and miss economic model. These are critical times that demand an urgent remaking of the government decision making process and the establishment of more effective consultative processes to ensure that efficient and public oriented tactics are crafted. Unfortunately, President Khama’s leadership style, based on the philosophy of full-blown monoculture, is a barrier to change of strategies and creativity because it has no room for alternative views. Khama’s administration has already recorded a string of unpardonable failures during its prime time in office ÔÇô the first twelve months that usually come to define the future and there are no signs of improvements. His leadership style of an autocratic and chaotic nature during these ruthless times impairs Botswana’s ability to effectively respond to the crisis.

Certainly by his own account, economics and politics are neither fields of his expertise nor his most passionate interests. In this context, recent events cast the current leadership in a dismal light because it failed in its political function. Thus, Khama and his lieutenants must take responsibility, admit failure and opt for early retirement. Their continued stay in office in spite of a catalogue of failures will likely have devastating consequences for this country and it is unlikely the country will recover from this institutionalized inertia. Cabinet Ministers like Baledzi Gaolatlhe, P. Skelemani and P. H. Kedikilwe, principled as they are, have either lost interest in government or have been whipped into playing dumb. Of late, they are a disgrace.

For the record, the prolific economist that is Minister Gaolathe has connived with President Khama to un-procedurally fund Khama’s pet projects at the expense of much more deserving national priorities. Many people and groups of people have been calling on Minister Nkate to step down on account of the mess at the Ministry of Education, but this, in my view, is a simplistic approach, for this mess is just a fraction of an entire tragic and rotten leadership. A piecemeal approach is, therefore, inconsequential and a waste of time. The whole lot that is Khama’s Cabinet must swallow their pride, do the only logical thing and step down.
This is an overdue moral imperative.

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