The John Kalafatis murder by security agents came at a time when Batswana were beginning to worry that their country was changing for the worst.
Almost everyone can remember the moment they felt that this is not the same Botswana anymore.
For some, it was during a phone conversation with a friend, when they suddenly felt the need to censor themselves because someone may be listening in on your telephone conversation.
For others, it was that happy go lucky moment at the local pub when you suddenly realize that your conversation should be guarded because someone may be spying on you.
For an outspoken few, it is that moment when you hear a knock on the door and your mind starts imagining all sorts of things. Batswana can not even walk the streets at night without armed soldiers harassing them.
Everyone was living in fear and bottled anger.
Last week’s analysis by Sydney Pilane, retired advisor to President Festus Mogae, and this week’s front page story in the Botswana Guardian do not only show abuse of power and poor state of governance in the country, but also reveal how weak our systems are.
It revealed how our systems have concentrated power in a single pair of hands without creating adequate checks to ensure that the powerful birds of prey do not feed on the weak flock. And if there was any one incident that underlined the country’s mood of doom and gloom, it was the tragic murder of John Kalafatis.
The John Kalafatis’ extra judicial killing, although very tragic, has offered Botswana a safety valve to let off steam, rallied Batswana around the demand for a better way of running government and offered the country an opportunity to review its systems. That for a long time we have had peace and stability had more to do with luck and the goodwill of our leaders than with the efficiency of our systems. Recent developments have, however, revealed the danger of placing a country’s destiny on the whim of the president and not the efficiency of institutions.
That non governmental organizations, political leaders from across the political divide and the general civil society are now clamouring for accountability and a new way of doing things is a good sign that Botswana is now waking from its slumber. This should convince the country’s leadership that they can no longer take Batswana for granted. Democracy can never work unless leaders credit their followers with greatness. Only then will they stop treating their followers as children who can not think for themselves and start treating them as adults who should be afforded the opportunity to influence the process of governance.
The John Kalafatis murder, although tragic, has also proved that big gifts sometimes come in ugly packages.
We trust that Batswana will ensure that John Kalafatis’ death will not be in vain.