As Batswana catch some breath after one of the most acrimonious general election in the history of the country, it is becoming clearer that many Batswana are extremely fatigued, including those who are not politically active. In fact, many Batswana are frighteningly angry and evidently at each other’s throat in spite of having gone an extra mile to quell fatal anger that has been swelling in the last 2 decades.
In truth, we are a nation that is at war with itself. In the run up to the 2019 General Election, it seemed as though our lives were wholly dependent on politics so much that all of us thought about politics all the time. There was just too much politics as people envisaged every aspect of life through a political lens, with rigid political views that smacked of overly inflamed tempers, skepticism and purposeless life.
In his response to the State of the Nation Address, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Dumelang Saleshando observed that Botswana is increasingly a dysfunctional society. Indeed Botswana is a broken society and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) chorus of ‘re baakanya lehatshe’ [We are fixing/reconstructing our nation], is a candid admission that indeed Botswana society is not only dysfunctional but almost on the verge of disintegration wherein most people seem to have given up on life and are no longer interested in being a part of the so-called future Botswana envisaged through Vision 2036.
Whether the reconstruction of the nation chorus by the ruling BDP is a genuine commitment to renew Botswana or whether it was just sweetened electoral rhetoric, the reality is that there is a compelling need to introspect and intervene as a matter of urgency if we are to save our nation from becoming another African case of a failed state.
A conversation with some Batswana across the ages, weeks after the general election results were released reveals that if the living conditions of a majority of Batswana do not improve significantly between now and the next general election, many voters are most likely to disengage from politics because they are tired of politics that promise happiness and joy only to deliver anguish, heartache and squalor. Botswana is already grappling with voter apathy and any increase in the numbers of those who are disinterested in politics will turn our democracy and general elections into a cruel joke.
There is palpable despair, hopelessness and bitterness that seem to suggest a more deep-seated, profound disappointment than just frustrations with the outcome of the general election. When erstwhile hardworking citizens ultimately become lethargic and choose to watch pornography and trade in their body organs, you know they are saying the heck with life.
It would seem that a majority of Batswana are helpless mainly because politics tend to be disempowering in the sense of giving power and privileges to a few while the rest of the citizenry have to contend with pleading and begging for leftovers.
While a majority has taken up politics as an obligation to be endured than just a pastime to showcase one’s poor upbringing and test one’s abilities at spewing insults to the young and the old, they always get rewarded with stinking low pay-jobs whose working conditions are particularly inhuman.
Notwithstanding, every general election has tended to renew hopes for a better life with manifestos making sumptuous promises that immediately turn into heartbreaking-good-for-nothing pledges once a new government has been formed. In effect, many Batswana have come to dismiss electoral promises as just a ploy to get voters out of their homes and make them head to the polls to help the elite retain their privileged position in society.
Relatedly, many Batswana have come to dismiss politics as a ballgame in which all players and spectators attempt to bring each other down and cut into each other with reckless abandon. Many of the voters talked to have been honest enough to disclose that they are absolutely upset and entirely hopeless about life owing to repeated promises that were never really meant to be actualized.
Many voters revealed that they have entered a phase where confusion reigns supreme mainly because they are unable to tell who between the ruling party and the opposition tells the truth and who is a pathological liar mainly because of the habit of flip-flopping. Many people would agree that neither side is perfect, and that both sides mainly debate issues strictly along party lines which partly accounts for our stagnation as a nation because excellent ideas get frustrated and thrown out on the altar of partisanship.
These revelations could imply that many people are increasingly losing hope in politics and equating it to a bitch fight where the warring factions push each other back and forth without making any headway whatsoever. Batswana are evidently sick of this seemingly meaningless adventure that merely perpetuates paralysis while polarizing society along political and tribal identities.
More than anything else, Batswana are disheartened by a political culture that educates voters to merely find faults and pick fights at the slightest opportunity. As a result, many Batswana believe that all politicians are dishonest and are merely in politics for themselves and their families.
In a way, many Batswana are increasingly getting tired of following the so-called leaders who think their opinions and interpretation of events make more sense than the views of their followers to a point where those who differ with their leaders are called clumsy idiots.
A consequence of this is that many Batswana feel neglected, unrecognized and unrepresented. This ultimately makes them conclude that there is no value in politics, and by extension, in political representation. Thus, many Batswana are disillusioned and demoralized by the chaos that characterizes our party politics; the insults and hard lies told by adults.
Many people who could add value in politics are put off by our discourteous and abusive politics. Yet, this state of affairs of our politics cannot be blamed on some disastrously parented youth as we are made to believe. Our ugly politics have everything to do with the caliber of our political leaders. Where they cannot be faulted for introducing us into an obscene and vulgar culture, they have certainly rented thugs to do so on their behalf and have often unashamedly defended the actions and language of the thugs.
This particular feature of the state of our nation’s wellbeing demands immediate attention because it is the foundation for widespread malaise in our society. Botswana has prospered largely because of the resourcefulness of its citizens and we should be very worried when some of our people threaten to disengage or when there are signs that a majority are battling politics fatigue syndrome.
It has been indicated that rude and abusive thugs who pollute our politics are generously sponsored by our political leaders for personal gain. Thus, to put an end to this political thuggery, we need to target the leaders and demand that they become more responsible and mature as to place national interests ahead of the personal. Our political leaders must be reminded that their responsibility is, first and foremost, to the nation and thereafter to whatever thing one is affiliated.
It is however gratifying that the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament has risen above the narrow confines of partisan politics that feeds on petty quarrels, meaningless wrangling and sabotage that often disrupt meaningful progress. He has pronounced that they (opposition) are happy to SUPPORT government in all initiatives that seek to empower locals; create jobs and grow an inclusive economy. This is a departure from tradition where the opposition just had to disagree with the BDP in order to literally preserve their tag as the opposition.
In remarking that ‘if we rise above partisan differences, I am convinced we will find a working compromise to deliver decent jobs and decent lives for our voters’, he has effectively denounced petty politics especially in parliament and is challenging all political parties, individually and collectively, to introspect and put the country’s interests ahead of narrowly defined partisan agendas.
Thus, the era of banding like mating apes to jeer, taunt and frustrate sincere proposals from the other side, that seek to transform lives and make Botswana great again has been consigned to the dustbins of history.
We can no longer afford to get excited by monkey chants and verbal theatrics in Parliament and other platforms where the future of our country is under consideration. We want to see prosperity not through political lens and must consider ourselves Batswana first before our political party identities.
The public will be closely monitoring developments in Parliament and those MPs who debate and vote solely along party lines shall be blacklisted and will be dully de-campaigned at the next general election. To this end, we will mobilize civil society organizations in developing a monitoring scorecard to measure the performance of our legislators so that those who are in Parliament to grow their bellies and chubby cheeks are humiliated at the next polls.