Wednesday, May 22, 2024

“Botswana has been sold out by its former presidents”

Perhaps there is an unwritten rule that retired state presidents should never interfere with their successor’s rule. I wouldn’t have any qualms with such a proclamation for it would ensure that the retirees do not perpetuate on state power once their terms have expired.

Precisely, they have had their time at the helm, whether remarkable or dull and stale, and should give the incumbent some breathing space to sketch out his/her leadership philosophy and development policies and programs. Nonetheless, retired presidents do not have to forfeit their citizenship on retirement. Whereas they should not interfere with the day to day operations of the new administration, they nevertheless have to maintain a big role in an advisory capacity given their decade long hands-on experience and rare wisdom. It is just not easy to let them simply fade away from the local scene. I am pretty aware that our former presidents are actively engaged in such international and regional assignment at promoting projects for peace and mediation, good governance and efficient responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Certainly they have been able to execute their assigned tasks with aplomb but unfortunately their pre-occupation with such assignments has meant that they abandon their country.

Let it be stated clearly that decisions for active citizenship and any measure of patriotism are matters of personal choice and therefore under normal circumstances, the decision by former presidents Masire and Mogae to abandon their country by engaging in some odd international assignments wouldn’t bother me an inch. But retired presidents do not become like the normal common man when they leave office. They continue to wield power and considerable influence which is partly why they get engaged in mediation and mobilization of nation states for collective action.
Hence, the silence of the two gentlemen on the local scene is highly instructive: the past is haunting them and they are ashamed and feeling guilty. Certainly the two gentlemen are more than culpable for the problems besieging this once wonderful country and their culpability lie in their poor judgment and bad choices.

Former president Masire pioneered the monstrous automatic succession, justifying its enactment with some flawed and emotive reasoning based on a poor sense of political stability and continuity. Past immediate president Mogae defied all logic to poach the commander of the BDF and groomed him as his ultimate successor. They may have done what they did in good faith but their initiatives have trapped, ambushed and set us on fire that is going to be difficult to put off. The revelation by former president Mogae’s legal advisor that he assisted in the elimination of P. H. Kedikilwe from the succession battle for the state presidency goes to show that big decisions with far-reaching implications were and are taken for the benefit of the party rather than in the best interest of the nation.

Our leaders personalize(d) the future of Botswana in a way that imposes dynastic politics in Botswana. The spooks of their constitutional initiatives and personal preferences have started to cause havoc at every instance and since the two gentlemen cannot be called to exorcise the demons, they must own up and apologize for their miscalculations.
They must of necessity opt out of the retired presidents’ club or face possible humiliation at being ejected if they do not do so of their own free will.

They must also never avail themselves for any international or regional assignment related to the pursuit of democracy and peace precisely because they are the direct architects of the collapse of Botswana’s democracy. This seems a little spiteful but they deserve it for what they did to Botswana. Recent events in Botswana have tarnished their integrity and standing as fountains of wisdom and as a result, Botswana no longer has the moral high ground on democracy and would no longer command due respect as an example of a resilient democracy.

It is going to be pretty difficult for Botswana to mediate in Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere because we are a degenerate democracy or more succinctly, a former democracy or call it, if you like an expired political and economic brand. I expect Basotho to tell Masire to his face to head back home and heal his own country before attempting to offer his counsel on democracy and peace, the next time he visits the mountain Kingdom. Mr. Mogae will have it tough and ugly explaining to university students in the USA (given their entrenched stereotypes about Africa and its leaders) why he opted to recruit a Lieutenant General to succeed him ahead of capable, tried and tested democrats outside of the barracks. And for sure Mugabe will tell President Khama more than all we know if he (Khama) dares denounce Mugabe’s leadership style, and I want to believe that it is no longer appropriate for Botswana to call for the prosecution of leaders who had committed human rights violations and war crimes lest we be accused of being hypocrites because we are no better.

The only difference is that, comparatively, our crimes against humanity are of a low key, ‘one or two shootings’. The world must be told that the two African gentlemen they admire most have fathered us a perverted, corrupted and blood-stained democracy and therefore have no moral standing to preach democracy, peace and good governance to aspiring democracies.

They are simply not fit to do so, on account of their sadistic initiatives which have facilitated the collapse of democracy in Botswana, unless of course if the world doesn’t care that the two former statesmen are sponsored to go about selling stale democracy to emerging states. They have successfully molested Africa’s oldest model democracy on successive periods and on a sustained basis. Yes, we may still be far much better than most of Africa but we have irretrievably regressed.

We try, however hard, to live normal lives because we know no other form of life other than living freely. When we still speak out against the direction our country is headed and when we continue to criticize the leadership, it is not so much because we are free to do so, but rather because we TEND TO FORGET that we are no longer free to speak out and as well because we are alive to the reality that we are losing everything and it is incumbent upon us to try to salvage the little that is still left and or rebuild our country accordingly.

We may not be in prison already but we know the ultimate consequences of confronting the devil.
Renowned British philosopher Bertrand Russell opined that ‘to conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom’.

Clergyman Martin Luther King Jr. warned that ‘our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’. In Setswana we say ‘ngwana yo o sa leleng o swela tharing’. We do not get arrested not because we are free as before, not because the leadership embraces criticism, but rather because they do not want to be blunt about their dislike for freedoms.
Instead, they will call for higher levels of discipline and respect for those in positions of authority. They opt for what we may christen killing us softly, politely and bit by bit; asking people to apologize publicly in a show of power; to toe the line and eventually they question your patriotism and then you get charged with a very bizarre offense like raping a crocodile. Oh my country, my pride! Rre Masire and Rre Mogae, what were you doing really? Why did you do this to us? All the same enjoy your deserved pensions.


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