Botswana’s short history has seen four presidents to date, all of whom faced challenges as far apart in nature and composition as day and night. However, in the four odd decades of independence under the rule of the same political party, it has become apparent that Batswana developed a culture of ignorance borne out of complacency, tainted with a bit of giving in to the status quo, whatever it may be, as far as their political reactions go.
With that in mind, it has become a given that no matter how vile and disgusting some of Botswana’s politicians get in as far as plundering the wealth at the expense of masses, such politicians can rest assured that not only will the system fail in bringing them to book, most of all, there will be a very silent outcry from the Botswana civil society, coupled by the usual beer hall bickering.
Perhaps to explain where this chronic and cancerous state of complacency that Batswana suffer from comes from, one has to look a little back at the history of Botswana, her development after independence, Batswana as a people as well as their view of politics. Virtually anyone who has done even the basic of reading of Botswana’s history around the independence era is familiar with the appalling state that she was in as far as her developments and infrastructure were.
People who made it through that period tell of a shrubby desert, with parched forests that stretched as far as the eye can see. Some give accounts of trips similar to Gaborone-Francistown in distance taking days and even weeks to make, depending on the mode of transport at the exposure of the traveller.
Again here, any reader into the country’s history will attest to the fact that Botswana’s politics were at its peak, in-fact more active than they ever were and ever will be. Opposition politics gained their inspiration from the wrangling of South Africa. Most of Botswana opposition politicians, some alive to this day were involved in one way or another in South Africa’s struggle against the oppressive white rule. They would come home and try to ignite the same fire and passion into the hearts of Batswana. Whether they were successful or not is another topic for another day.
It would be a great injustice to suggest that BDP just stood there and watched in a passive trance, otherwise how would one explain their position at the helm of Botswana’s politics since 1965 to 2010. BDP had their own message to preach which countered and discredited that of the opposition parties. Evidently it worked.
Fast forward to post independence Botswana and you get a picture of a development journey that is on its way to prosperity. That journey starts picking up pace at the discovery of diamonds in the 1970s. Now all of a sudden Botswana is an active player in the international race tracks, with every corner of the universe wanting to have Botswana on its running team, to stretch the metaphor a little bit.
The BDP from the time they won the first elections to the discovery of diamonds have preached a message that played into the emotions of Batswana. That message if one can take the liberty to paraphrase it would have gone something like this: “we will take care of your every need”, and that has formed the basis of the relationship of BDP’s government and Batswana.
Upon winning elections, BDP went on coming up with and implementing policies around provision of the most basic to the least basic of services like health, education, infrastructure, agriculture initiatives, employment etc all these virtually at no or very little cost to ordinary Batswana. All they had to do was be there when such were being rolled out.
For a very long time a lot of us have come to know how life is very easy in Botswana. All one has to do is wake up, bathe and go to school for free and not have to worry what they will eat while there, where their books will come from and other costs associated with being a student/pupil as these were provided for.
The same scenario played itself out throughout the life of an individual while they went through formal school (primary, junior high and high school).
In my experience the only worry my parents had to worry about was the development fund that was not more than P200 and paid once or so in a year. The same luxurious benefits are extended once they proceed to tertiary institution where you have your tuition, lodging, meals, learning materials and a living allowance paid for.
Although these luxurious amenities have changed somewhat over the years, our parents tell of a job market that was so ripe that one would need not go for tertiary training because upon completing their national service (Tirelo Sechaba) one would find a job in civil service waiting for them, and tertiary training would follow for most while in service. Most prominent Batswana are beneficiaries of this system, some even schooling overseas at prestigious institutions at no cost to them.
How does all this fit in today’s politicians’ disregard for the general population? With such benefits extended to Batswana, would they not appear ungrateful and unappreciative of all that has been extended to them by their government if they were to raise even the slightest protest? Would they not come off as biting the hands that feeds them if they were to ask for more in addition to free health, free education, reasonably low services such as water, power and infrastructure?
Most of all, Batswana who have never had to fight for anything in life but have everything provided for them by their government would never know where and how to begin questioning any injustices that they see metted against them.
As a result of this spoon feeding by the government most Batswana have come to rely on what is readily there and have disowned every responsibility that is supposed to rest upon their shoulders. There are a number of instances that are a classic case of this: how many of Batswana ever stand up and argue their case when there is cause for such? How many Batswana take an active role in their children’s education instead of passing such responsibility to the teaching professionals?
How many Batswana actually ever stand up and speak out against mistreatment by their notoriously unreasonable Asian employers? How many Batswana even own a copy of an employment Act document? When was the last time you saw a group of Batswana responding to a call for a noble cause like an HIV/AIDS walk or a peaceful protest called by some civil body? I doubt if any MP can ever testify that he or she ever fielded a call from voters to lobby government on the song of the day (constitutional reform).
Most Batswana will always justify their non-participation and complacency by alluding to the fact that they have their lives to live, have children to take care of and will not want to get themselves in something that does not put food on their tables.
Thanks to such indoctrination that we as Batswana have been subjected to over the years of Botswana’s independence, one can rest in the assurance that the BDP-Debswana debacle will remain just a media coverage and will have no real impact on Batswana to actively call Botswana laws to take effect…and the BDP can sleep peacefully and wait for 2014.