Tuesday, September 29, 2020

“With our governance record so poor should we even bother with privatization?”

Dear Editor

I am a regular reader of the Sunday Standard (because it has set the standard) and a first time writer.
I am compelled to join the uproar after informal discussions with many of my peers and mentors. The conclusions from many discussions closely or remotely related to the topic of privatisation are despair, optimism and pessimism. How can one word mean so many different things to many?

Optimists believe that we will all get a slice of the cake through the acquisition of holdings in many of the companies earmarked for privatization. There will be improved services and perhaps even lower prices as a result of a more competitive arena.
Pessimists hold the view that the same faces will snatch the largesse (and have long been raring to) and the middle class will scramble for the remaining crumbs.

The general citizenry will still be laughing at the lame attempts by PEEPA to sell the idea through mabijo cartoon, and thus render the exercise meaningless as an empowerment endeavour. The pessimists also say that the whole exercise is prone to abuses, as what happened during the selling of state owned assets in the former Soviet Union, where we will have smart people close to the transactions using privileged information to position themselves to aggrandise themselves in ways which would be looked down upon anywhere else in the heavens of Western Europe and New York we aspire to, at least in our conduct.

There may be legally nothing wrong with it here in Botswana to exploit information which, by all intents and purposes, should be deemed as insider trading, but it is very corrupt in the moral sense. It breaks the spirit of us aspiring entrepreneurs who so far are playing it legal and fair.

The tragedy is that in the future we will see no incentive to act honestly and above board. Some of these pantheons of industry that have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar (as per media revelations and their responses) have left us the ones who we look up to with our resolve deflated. Usually, if one is caught with their pants down people beg the question how long has abuse been going on for or, more succinctly, how long have we been hoodwinked and by how many more of our captains?

This year, 2008 has so far blessed us with a sneak preview of where we are heading. The collapses of the transporting companies, the apparent schoolyard bully tactics by the other large insurance company to wrestle Mosele from the entrepreneurs, the BIFM share purchase under the guise of citizen empowerment when hordes more could have been empowered through a competitive sale on the stock markets are just a peak at the dark soul of our top echelons of power.

 One just feels that the pessimists may be right this time and we are a very immature lot when it comes to our conduct and readiness to take the next step, called privatization. I as part of a class that will not submit to letting things just pass like generations before us, do not subscribe to legitimizing this exercise so others can legalize immorality.
 Yours truly

Lesedi ‘Kwon’ Leipego

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The Telegraph September 30

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 30, 2020.