Sunday, September 27, 2020

“We should lower our expectations on Khama”

Some crazed BDP supporters are wondering what it is that President Khama has done or not done to deserve this much demonization. Some of them are even amazed that President Khama has not annihilated the critics.
President Khama knows full well that, as a state president in a democracy, he may not run away from the public gaze.

By accepting the state presidency, President Khama was in actual fact mortgaging his privacy and making himself available for rigorous scrutiny from all sorts of cynics. Some of such criticism could be justified whereas others could be unfair and insincere, but such is the price of being the most senior political manager.

Equally significant is that President Khama’s party, the BDP, especially that arm of it that is made of his rabid cheer leaders, presented him as the embodiment of civilization, moral rectitude and meritocracy. He was sold as a mystical superman, a magician who would cause our goats and donkeys to multiply instantly – a political messiah of gigantic proportions.

Now he is being presented as the face of the BDP, by virtue of being presented as the BDP’s chief campaigner for the 2009 general election, which means that for political opponents to significantly challenge the BDP, they first have to vandalize its face, hence its only natural that President Khama should brace himself for more verbal assault.

President Khama hardly helped the situation when he also presented himself as the special one. Consequently, it became an abomination to criticize Khama. Those who dare are depicted as uncouth, subversive and fake intellectuals with abundant Pull-Him-Down syndrome.

This has aroused unprecedented interest hence many people are watching his every move. Perhaps people should note that President Khama’s demonization is comparable to that of the USA and the reasons are almost identical which, of course, contrast sharply with our relations with characters of humble origin.

One of my sins has been to urge people to rein in their expectations so that they are not absolutely disappointed when the Khama magic fails to do us wonders. I had then reasoned that our unrealistic expectations on President Khama could obliterate his successes and make him an unpopular leader. I also cautioned that it was pretty dangerous to raise people’s expectations to unrealistic levels because when things fail to work, people would become disillusioned with Khama’s presidency and perhaps give up in life.

People who surrender to the challenges of life always tend to have a poor sense of life. In fact, they have no respect for the sanctity of life hence could become murderous, serial rapists, cannibals, pedophiles and the like.
In spite of our honest assessment, President Khama’s rabid supporters went for the jugular, ruthlessly berating skeptics and mercilessly spreading absolute falsehoods intended to malign and present them as a clique of Khama’s bashers. And all these accusations were made under the compulsion of dreadful deceit and vague wishful thinking disguised as legitimate expectations. How puerile!

I have no doubt in my mind that President Khama harbours an abundant motivation for economic prosperity. But his approach is essentially simplistic and based on a child formula disguised as rational decision making. To a greater extent, President Khama inherited the same tired programs that were churned out by his predecessors while merely applying make-up on them to make them look like his babies knowing that any thing pioneered or associated with him is erotic and infallible.

It may be too early to evaluate the impact of these retread policies and programs on the quality of life of the people but the current global economic recession will provide a litmus test, both in respect of the relevance and usefulness of these programs as well as President Khama’s real motives in respect of his numerous interventions.

Of paramount importance will be deliberate efforts by Khama himself to appeal to people to lower their inflated expectations. This would appear like an embarrassing retreat to President Khama and his agile lackeys but it is an imperative task and a test of character and sincerity.
The global economic recession is nonetheless an opportune moment to swallow pride and face reality. Otherwise the fear of embarrassment would be more devastating in the future than now.

It would be cold-blooded recklessness to continue deceiving people by shouting Khama’s name the loudest during these difficult times. Not only must the language of deception be toned down, it also must be tempered with ground truths.
We have reached a stage where an over-confident image only be described as short-lived.

Experience shows that when people’s bloated expectations are shattered, they feel cheated and taken for idiots. When their hopes for a better life come to naught, people resort to unsustainable and often unlawful ways of maintaining themselves and their families. They believe they are entitled to part of the wealth and possessions of the rich. They develop cruel mistrust for politicians, the leadership in particular and everyone else who have what they do not have which is in itself a potential source of societal disorder.

They ultimately lose hope of ever making it in life which could lead to mass suicides. As a polite display of their frustrations, they may choose to attack or denounce foreigners as we have seen happening in Europe and in South Africa in recent times. Which is why I once suggested that ‘’it is better to expect little or nothing and live frugally on surprises. Exaggerated pledges and promised crackdown on laziness is a real aversion to the truth,” (Sunday Standard, April 13 2008).

A good opportunity, however unwelcome, has presented BDP diviners a second chance to redeem themselves, without shame, by appealing to people to lower their expectations. The global economic recession demands that we face the world and tell our people that life has become more difficult and awful.
The global recession presents BDP soothsayers with an opportunity to tell the people that the dynamics have since changed and that the world is not what Khama inherited when he became President.

It presents us with an opportunity to take stock of our dishonest convictions and perhaps start afresh, this time by more intelligently telling people to their face that Khama is not Father Christmas. The ability and willingness to tell the truth is a fundamental aspect of our existence as human beings.

And what better time than doing now before people dismiss us as architects of fantasy. When things get tougher, people who looked to President Khama as their last hope for a better life may come to suspect that Khama’s presidency is the problem and that global recession is used as a scapegoat to conceal Khama’s weaknesses. This would be a dangerous perspective that could lead to widespread protests and spontaneous demonstrations.

President Khama’s supporters must make a retreat by way of acknowledging the heavy knocks on Botswana’s economy resulting from the global financial turmoil and by necessity plead with the people to accordingly restrain their expectations for massive prosperity which was hoped would be propelled by the magic of President Khama.

It is a fact that Botswana’s economy is experiencing an unprecedented shrink owing to the deteriorating global economic outlook. This is a challenge that demands sincerity, bravery and near methodical pursuit of truthfulness to help keep people away from the destructive path of unqualified expectations.

Semantic juggling, cynical indifference to reality and floral tribute to bankrupt ideas and disempowering social schemes is patently anomalous.
Politicians and their campaign managers should distinguish between candidly publicizing party and government programs on the one hand and flattery and over-stating the expected impacts of such interventions on the other.

All too often, poor people are given the impression that existing programs are enough to eliminate poverty on their own without the benefit of other factors. In fact messages are often over-loaded with excessive glorification and immoral rhetoric to excite and intoxicate people with an imaginary prosperous life in the future.

For instance, when it was announced that government will avail tractors to assist farmers to till their lands, there was little disclosure about the limitations of this scheme. Information about the scheme came out as if adequate tractors were already parked at the Office of the President or that they shall certainly be available in adequate quantities when the plowing season commenced. All too often, the style of publicizing relevant and targeted government programs seeks merely to enhance public perception on the ability of the government to deliver.

As a result many small farmers who have always relied on donkeys for draught power did very little to mobilize this important input, especially in terms of looking for their stray donkeys. This has caused many households great inconvenience and might exacerbate their poverty because most failed to plow due to shortage of draught power. Many small farmers are still waiting for their turn because normally tractor owners focus on so-called serious farmers first before they could assist poor households with fields whose size conjures an image of a backyard garden as they are too small to allow the tractor to meander freely.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.