Sunday, June 16, 2024

Looking back as the curtain for year 2011 starts to fall down

The year 2011 is without any doubt an eventful year. Many things with serious implications on different sectors of our economy happened. Some of the things that happened reveal the blemishes and pimples that we have in our political and administrative systems that most political commentators have presented and discussed adequately. These are things that I believe will forever change the manner in which public business is conducted within our republic.

Due to limited space, it is impossible for one to cover all the things that happened or made headlines. Hence, my intention today is to reflect briefly on some of the things that I believe will have a serious bearing on the manner in which we do things. These include the public sector strike, the prosecution and acquittal of Dikgakgamatso Seretse and Kenneth Matambo, the opposition umbrella project, the resignation of Kentse Rammidi from the BDP and the case of maladministration gripping the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC).

In April, public servants went on a strike that nearly brought the economy on its knees. The same lasted eight weeks and its effects are still felt today. It definitely tested the strength or lack thereof of President Khama and his administration.

Serious errors of judgment were made by the government and leaders of the trade unions. Some people in the health sector lost their jobs after defying a court order that instructed them to go back to work. The poor doctors and nurses were told by the leaders of their trade unions and some politicians that by participating in the strike, they are simply exercising their constitutional right and the government has no power to stop them.

But as we all know, all the people who lost their jobs now find themselves at the mercy of the government. Times are hard. Politicians across the political spectrum are preaching forgiveness and reconciliation. Unfortunately, “re-employment” seems to be the only word that President Khama and senior government officials can pronounce, understand and implement in relation to all those who lost their jobs.

What we witnessed during and after the strike was and is still a clash of egos and a power game played by two parties that are so determined to cripple and suffocate each other. One thing certain is that the relationship between government and trade unionists will forever remain acrimonious and antagonistic unless both sides display and develop capacity to learn from their mistakes. Sadly, innocent citizens are caught in the crossfire and they become the biggest losers in this tussle.
Regarding the prosecution and acquittal of Dikgakgamatso Seretse and Kenneth Matambo, one can say that their trials brought two things to light: that cabinet positions can be reserved for certain individuals depending on the relationship that they have with the president and that it is proper and normal for someone who is facing corruption charges not to step down from cabinet as it is done in other countries where principles of good governance are espoused and upheld. President Khama has without any doubt set a bad precedent that may haunt him in the future. Another thing worth highlighting is the umbrella project that seeks to bring together four opposition parties with the sole intention of unseating the ruling BDP. Since the cooperation talks seem to be characterized by mistrust, negative attitude towards each other, malice and the big brother mentality, some people have already concluded that they are destined to fail. But I am of the view that failure is not an option because there are many people who are hopeful that only the opposition collective can stop this country from drifting into an abyss. Failure of the cooperation talks will clearly indicate that our opposition parties never learn from their past mistakes. It will demonstrate that they are entities that cannot learn.

It will be proof enough that opposition parties in Botswana can neither rejuvenate nor reposition themselves well in the political landscape. It will be proof that almost certainly they cannot wrestle power from the BDP. It will also demonstrate that they are still immature and not ready to govern this republic. And all those who vote with their heads and not feet will never take opposition parties seriously. They will punish them at the polling stations.

The resignation of Kentse Rammidi from the BDP can never be ignored. Who thought that Rammidi could resign from the BDP and join the BNF? His resignation was expected to give impetus to the opposition unity talks simply because he is regarded by many people as a political heavyweight. Some loyal supporters of the BDP are still trying to come to terms with his departure more especially that he is the first politician in Botswana to resign from the ruling party whilst serving as the Secretary General.

Rammidi’s partying shot was that the BDP had abandoned the democratic principles that it had espoused since its formation. It is not yet clear as to whether or not his resignation from the BDP has negatively affected its day to day operations. But one thing certain about his decision to join the BNF is that BDP will lose the Kanye North constituency in 2014.

The last incident that I cannot afford to ignore is the case of maladministration that is gripping the government’s investment arm, the BDC. The forensic audit commissioned by the Board seems to have uncovered a lot of wrong things which are directly related to the Fengyue Glass project in Palapye.

The manner in which the project has been handled is a clear example of corporate governance turned upside-down. The letter written to Minister Matambo by BDC Managing Director, Matambo’s decision to demote his Permanent Secretary, fire some Board members a day before disciplinary hearings were to be conducted and replacing them with people who were members of the board that he (Matambo) reported to as the Managing Director of BDC clearly indicate that something is amiss. I strongly believe that the things that we read in the newspapers are just a tip of an iceberg.

I also believe that when the investigations are complete, some of the people who have always been held in high esteem will lose the respect that people accord them. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some people lose their freedom. Tears will be shed. By that time it is likely that there also will be blood on the floor.

The formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate a case of maladministration is happening for the first time in the history of our parliament and republic. In that respect, Odirile Motlhale and his colleagues must be commended for taking the decision to appoint a committee that will take a closer look at the manner in which the BDC conducts its business. It is a step in the right direction as other parastatals can now see that parliamentarians can pay them a visit if they are convinced that things are not done properly.

Since this is my last submission for the year, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all Batswana a happy Christmas and a prosperous new year. I greatly appreciate the positive feedback and stinging criticism that I have received from all the people who read the things that I present in this column. To all members of the “Revolutionary Table” at the UB staff lounge who never hesitate to give me a tongue lashing, I say God bless.

Dr Mothusi teaches Public Administration at the University of Botswana

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