President Khama, I salute you, Your Excellency!
I hope this message of mine finds you in good spirits, seeing as I do that you just landed the SADC Chairmanship.
The morons at SADC finally saw the light, did they not? Your country hosts the SADC Headquarters yet they made you wait a long time to sit in that beautiful official chair, probably made by those pesky but enterprising Zimbabwean brothers of mine in Broadhurst.
But, I digress, Sir.
I always felt sorry for you because, for reasons I have still to find out, Robert Mugabe annoyed you and pushed your patience to the extreme. I mean, for many years, the old geezer has been and is still sending waves and waves of political and economic refugees into your country.
You are most kind, Sir, and I speak on the back of experience. Your patience with Zimbabweans surpasses that you hold for the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change.
I mean, unlike Zimbabweans who are everywhere like the UDC, the UDC are a noisy lot, aren’t they? And, unlike Zimbabweans, the UDC people challenge you every day, even when you are on holiday.
But you are clever, I dare say, Sir. You ignore them and never go to parliament to be humiliated by their exceedingly difficult questions. Phew, they ask a lot of questions, don’t they?
Oh, I saw your handiwork when the papers showed one Phenyo Butale sprawled on the pavement like one who had been side-footed by a rabbit. Wow! I thought it was just gazelles that do that to cheetahs.
You were right, Sir, if you do not attend parliament, why should an MP attend parliament? Let the country rot away; who cares?
I kind of like your spank, Mr. President. That is exactly what Mugabe does and, as a result, Zimbabwe is dying and its last kicks are being felt in Botswana and in other African countries.
Because of the way Mugabe treats parliament, business, the media and his disdain for the people the country is on its deathbed.
For more than 15 years, we were happy because our unemployment rate stood at 85%; wasn’t that great? Is there any other African country with such a statistic? Remember our hyper-inflation around November/October 2008 when Zimbabwe inflation stood at 231,150,888% and when one US dollar was exchanged for 2,621,984,228 Zimbabwe dollars?
Now things are worse and I wonder how your country is surviving. We do not feel so good because employers have been given permission to lay off those few people, the 15% of the population that worked and paid taxes to keep the government afloat.
Even teachers are being laid off while the number of students is increasing.
Companies are closing down and “are relocating to neighbouring” countries. I hope you catch those companies in transit for safe-keeping so as to return them to us when we liberate our country. They even might, in the meantime, employ the Zimbabweans you are struggling to care for in your country.
Like I have always warned Botswana, Mr. President, no one believes what is happening in Zimbabwe. It is too extreme and it sounds exaggerated like something cooked up by enemies to tarnish the image of Zimbabwe.
That is what happens and it starts with the kind of careless treatment of the media and humiliation of parliamentarians such as what happened to Butale.
I deducted a lot of points from you for that and hope you will ensure that it will not happen again, Sir.
Showing disdain to parliament and foregoing your responsibility to appear before elected national leaders is not kosher, Sir.
The media, along with Parliament, are partners in any democratic society. The absence of a free media in any country is an indication of the absence of democracy.
I, therefore, deducted a lot more points from you on turning your back on the media and for attempting to tinker around with imposition of a regulatory regime to reign in the media.
The worst disappointment you handed me, Sir, is not what you did but did not do.
Both in and outside Botswana, you are the one man who had dozens and dozens of chances to chart a new course for both Botswana, SADC and Africa.
You were your own man, unfettered by the useless tirades of liberation wars and meaningless camaraderie with “liberation war political parties”.
You were not owed anything and you owed no one anything.
Imagine if you had moved quickly to abolish automatic succession to the presidency in Botswana?
Imagine if you had opened up the media and gave it its deserved freedom, would they not have guarded it jealously for fear of losing it?
Imagine if you had respected the opposition in an honest belief that they are just as much of patriots as you are?
You came close to shaking up the old boys’ club when you stood all by yourself against some tyrants like Robert Mugabe, Muammar Gaddafi and others but that was not enough because you somehow were not consistent enough to grow a philosophy that younger politicians would be studying today.
African presidents have a nasty habit of supporting each other even in the face of genocide and you tried to shake them up at a great cost to your country.
I salute your lone-wolf stand against Mugabe. It was not your fault that Morgan Tsvangirai, the man you helped and supported so much, was exaggerated and turned out to be just another run-of-the-mill blundering politician with little forward vision. He failed because of the aggregation of stupidity, lack of focus and has an absence of ideology.
It was you, Sir, who made other African leaders debate the issue of Zimbabwe, albeit with little success but you played a role that brought some changes that actually demystified Mugabe on the continent.
So, Sir, fully recognizing that the SADC Chairmanship you now hold is mostly ceremonial, I still implore you to bring out issues of concern that African leaders must deal with. They might not do anything about it but the issue will be on the table.
As we chat now, Zimbabwe can go up in flames any day. Because people have been cornered by hunger, unemployment and abuse, it only takes one minor incident to set the country alight because people feel they have nothing to lose.
As companies close and people are laid off, Mugabe and his wife rolled out new products, including an ice cream brand from one of their companies. Even the paltry goods and second hand clothes that Zimbabweans buy from your country and elsewhere to take back home are being confiscated by Mugabe’s wife for distribution to their party’s supporters.
Go ahead, Sir, and make some noise.
On the home front, I will leave that to your countrymen to judge you, Sir, but I am worried that all the opportunities you had are gone now. I am afraid you even squandered the popularity you once enjoyed and the danger now is that whoever comes after you might not aim higher…even if he were to aim higher, the bar you set appears to be too low.