Sunday, September 27, 2020

Shaka Zulu, Christ and Political parties

I have been lucky in the last few days to get a copy of the SABC documentary about the great Zulu King, Shaka. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of what happens therein, but have learnt one or two things that I believe can help us understand leadership as our various political parties go for their national congresses to choose new leaders.

In one scene Shaka and his ngaka get into a discussion with the white explorers or shall we say colonizers about Jesus Christ. The ngaka asks why if Christ was powerful and the son of God he did not save himself? The white man explains that Christ had to die to wash the sins of the world. Shaka on the other hand argues that the heavens belong to Zulu and that Christ had to die so that his powers would devolve to him as he was the son of Zulu.

After exiting Shaka’s hut the white men get into a discussion, and one of them suggests that he would not be surprised if one day Jesus Christ found his place in the genealogy of Shaka Zulu. He goes further to suggest that Christ seems to possess this unique ability to be adopted by everyone.
Can a political party leader say, ‘Botswana belongs to the people and I am an offspring of the people. The people have to keep quiet so that I can speak for them. Can one say that this is about the people, their voice has this remarkable ability to be adopted by every politician?’

In my view I am not too far away from the mark in arguing that at the heart of most of our politicians lies this belief, that we must keep quiet and that they must speak for us. Most people will of course maintain that this is not the case for we are able to speak our minds. But they miss the point. Freedom to speak your mind as happens on radio phone in programs is to all intents and purposes useless. At best it is some form of entertainment.

I want to argue that we are kept quiet in the following manner. Imagine a situation where political parties ask us to choose representative to parliament from a pool of people who have never read and understood our constitution. The minute we send people of this calibre to parliament we are quiet, for they have nothing to say. These ill-equipped people speak on our behalf because we have elected them. They adopt our voice and appropriate it for themselves and in return give us silence.

In terms of our constitution parliament has the duty to make laws for the order, peace and good government of Botswana. There is therefore a trinity of duties imposed on our parliament. For over forty years our parliaments have given little regard to the aspect of good government. Instead our laws have largely been about order. This has happened because the people we chose to send to parliament have never understood that all laws they make must pass the trinity of tests. Every law that parliament passes must of necessity pass the test of whether it brings about order, peace and good government.

If parliament refuses to pass a law that promotes the trinity of order, peace and good government, it is failing its constitutional duty. The issue therefore is not about parliament actively making laws that meet the test, but rather that where a situation obtains that negatives order, peace and good government, parliament is duty bound to make a law that remedies the deficiency.

I have heard that parliament has approved a motion allowing Rre Shaleshando to present a bill on a Freedom of Information Law. Much as I am in support of such a law, I cannot help but wonder how our parliament makes the choice between a Freedom of Information Law and a Declaration of Assets Law. Are our esteemed members of parliament telling us that parliament would have met its duty to make law for the order, peace and good government of Botswana if it made the Freedom of Information Law but omitted to make a Declaration of Assets Law?

In my view it does not make sense that a parliament that has failed to use its powers to ensure it is properly provided with legal researchers and drafters can expect us to believe that permitting someone with limited resources to present a bill on Freedom of Information is a sign of how seriously it takes its duty to make laws for the order, peace and good government of Botswana.

Rre Shaleshando’s task on behalf of parliament would have been made easier if parliament had used its immense powers to ensure that each political party represented in parliament had researchers trained in the law. The current arrangement where constituency offices are manned by people of varying qualifications shows the little regard that parliament has to our constitution. Surely if your task is to make law it makes sense that you should have researchers trained in the law.

In my view it would serve us well to have an arrangement where we have at least one counsel serving the opposition ranks. The current arrangement where parliament is served by a counsel under the control of the executive wing for purposes of drafting laws does not make sense.

Unfortunately we have a breed of politician who believes that such an arrangement will shut them out, for their limitations may be exposed. They fear that someone an assistant trained in the law may outshine them. This failure to raise standards is promoted by our political parties. Our current crop of politicians look only after number one. They do not particularly care that their limitations are costing this country dearly. They find it convenient to hide behind the executive for it covers up for their shortcomings.

As our political parties converge at different places in our country they must understand that the current arrangement where mediocrity reigns supreme is not acceptable. We cannot have politicians who have never read our constitution put before us. We cannot have politicians tell us that parliament is weak and powerless when our constitution clearly sets out the nature of the relationship between parliament and the executive. That relationship clearly sets out that parliament has power to resource itself to be able to discharge its mandate. The executive has no power to place constraints on parliament that makes it difficult for it to discharge its mandate of making laws for the order, peace and good government of Botswana.

Our various political parties should desist from telling our people untruths. They must place before us leaders who understand their duty to this country and its people. The current situation where politics is really entertainment has to stop. We are competing with much larger populations for limited space, resources and opportunities. We cannot succeed if political parties do not up the ante. The coming elections in 2014 must usher in a new breed of politician. The time to start grooming such is now.

To paraphrase a former leader, “the old order must give way to the new”. We cannot continue to give power to people who effectively silence us. I am not here talking about existing laws but about the calibre of people we send to parliament. I am not saying this with reference to the ruling party only but to all political formations.

Democracy should not be reduced to a process of adoption and appropriation of our voice by politicians. Democracy should not silence us. It should raise our voice so that it is heard at the center of power.


Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

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