Thursday, June 13, 2024

Poverty and unemployment making Botswana an unsafe place

There is no question that unemployment has become an exceedingly sensitive public debate.

It is a hot potato, made all the worse by the fact that even the official statistics depicting it no longer inspire public confidence as more and more people begin to suspect that not only are these statistics outdated they also are an outcome of a process that has questionable, possibly duplicitous integrity.

The sensitivity of unemployment was there for all to see when a group of young people were last week brutally beaten for daring to protest and demonstrate their plight in front of the National Assembly.

The response from the security services, with clear approval from their political masters was swift, disproportionate and brutal.

There is need to put everything into perspective, not least because Botswana has over the years retained the image of Africa’s star pupil.

The disproportionately numerous accolades bestowed on the country over the years mean that an iron-clad image has been created of a much venerated country where honey and milk flow.

Our leaders have taken advantage of these accolades by telling us that the situation is so good that even people from afar can see it.

Busting such an image would be a tall order.

In fact for many outsiders whose image of Botswana is only what they have read, coming here is the only way to disabuse themselves of the falsified rosy image about the country. 

Botswana is a country with very high unemployment levels.

Even by Africa’s average standards, unemployment in Botswana is excessively high, especially among the youth. The social fabric has been one of the biggest victims of high levels of unemployment.
For now it’s not clear how our rich sleep in peace and are able to keep their consciences clean when they are surrounded by so much squalor and poverty that are all manmade.
The veneer of equality  that has from the beginning been a big part of the economic prudence has been torn to pieces.
As the strong economic weave that has always held us together flounder so does the edifying force of social cohesion that have always united us.
The Khama regime has been vindictive but also polarising. Dissenting voices are no longer appreciated much less encouraged. 

The vicious attacks by security services on unarmed peaceful demonstrators who sought to register their plight will forever remain a blight on our public conscience. But it was by no means an isolated incident.

Under Khama our security services have become irredeemably politicised. In fact the whole of the public service is.
While all that is of and by itself disconcerting enough, more worrying should be the fact that when it comes to Khama legacy it’s just a tip of an iceberg that we will be fighting to corral long after Khama has left.

For a long time we have lived on the hope that Khama will change tack and wake  up to the damage that his divisive politics is doing to the fabric of this country.

The demonstrations in parliament last week are by the way an embodiment of social and economic hardships that many of our people are going through.

Under the circumstances the least one could expect from authorities is empathy and compassion.  Yet what we saw was unprecedented brutality.

There have been veiled suggestions that political opposition were behind these demonstrations. And more specifically that opposition was trying to make capital gains from the fallout.

Sadly no substantial proof has been provided.

In fact the only gripe that we have is the lameness of our political opposition to defend the rights of the young people who were violently beaten by security services.

More appalling has been the deafening silence of so-called Human Rights organizations who only talk about death penalty at the exclusion of other wanton human rights abuses.

These organizations should be scrutinized, not only by their donors but also by the public on whose behalf such money is doled out.

Together with poverty, unemployment is suffocating many of our young people and killing their potential, ambition and even hope.

The upshot of these twin evils is that we see a country fast unraveling into an abyss of ever declining levels of safety and security.

We call on the private sector and government to do more to help fight unemployment.

As it is we find it difficult to see how the rich are able to sleep at night amid such high levels of poverty that are a result of unemployment.


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