Wednesday, October 27, 2021

South Africa is not our mother and we are not South Africa’s baby

A printing mistake by a South African company engaged by the Botswana Premier Soccer League this week exposed our country’s continued over reliance on its neighbour, South Africa. For the sake of those who missed the incident, the Botswana Premier League used the services of an unnamed South African company to print tickets for an ongoing soccer tournament sponsored by one of the local mobile phones operators ÔÇô Mascom Wireless. In the wake of angry locals who threatened to boycott the match due to a printing “mistake”, the office of the Premier league through its Facebook page issued the following statement. 

“The undeniable fact of the price appearing as ”R”. The tickets for the Semi Final 1st and 2nd leg are exactly the same, due to a bulk order made in order to retain a competitive price. These tickets are procured from a supplier in South Africa.  The supplier has admitted to this unforgivable mistake in so far as the Semi Final 2nd leg tickets are concerned. We wish to absolve our sponsor Mascom from any liability in the production and distribution of these tickets. We further apologize to Mascom for any discomfort and abuse this may have caused. Whilst we accept that this mistake is inexcusable and unforgivable, we wish to assure everyone that it was not actuated by malice or ill-faith, but rather a result of an honest mistake for which we shall institute sanction. Due to the lateness of the hour, it will be impossible to withdraw these tickets and produce a new consignment. We shall therefore proceed with those tickets in circulation, and pray for your indulgence and understanding.” 

Instead of printing P for our local currency, the South African company printed “R” on the tickets, which irked some of the locals who could not stop accusing both Mascom and Premier League of undermining Botswana. This forms part of the bigger picture that tells the story of Botswana’s long walk to economic transformation. It is quiet sad that 50 years since independence, our country still has no company that can print premier league tickets. Unless the premier league office comes out and justifies their reasons for overlooking any local company that does the same business, we shall assume that we do not have such companies locally. 

Premier league issues aside, it is an open secret that Botswana has long depended on neighbouring South Africa for nearly all the goods listed on the consumer basket; be it vehicle spare parts, tooth picks and even toilet paper. This endless list, which includes amongst others power supply, music and food makes one wonder where exactly we could be headed as a country in terms of economic transformation. If anyone does not agree that our over reliance on South Africa marks will result in our downfall they should look at the amount of money we are losing due to bookings made in South Africa by European tourists visiting our own country. Our law makers see nothing wrong with such, it seems. Are we not ashamed of ourselves that even at 50 years of independence our nappies are changed and our bellies are still fed by South Africans? 

The truth of the matter is that South Africans, with all their challenges have certainly done well for themselves despite recurring “governance” issues. So let no one come forth and claim that we are not able to be economically independent because of global economic troubles. Let no one claim that due to challenges we can still not make use of our cattle hides to create more jobs for our people. Maybe such a person could come forth and explain why when you arrive in any town or city in Botswana the banks, restaurants, supermarkets and clothes stores are overwhelmingly South African. 

We are six months away from our country’s 50th birthday celebrations. Indeed 30 September 2016 shall mark exactly 50 years since we gained “independence” from Britain. This independence we assume means all sorts of things, including the liberty to choose how we make money, invest such money and distribute resources amongst the communities across the country. The independence should mean being able to reduce the amount of South African manufactured bottled water that we offer to visitors on a daily basis.

At 50 years, the question that Botswana could be asking itself is when it is going to “practically” prove to the world that we are NOT one of South Africa’s provinces. Indeed as we celebrate our 50th anniversary we should demonstrate to the world that we are not a baby of South Africa and that South Africa is NOT our mother. It will of course not be an easy thing to do when we have employees working in Gaborone’s biggest park, Commerce Park having to carry containers filled with water to the toilets because the supply is unreliable.  

The #Bottomline is that our over-reliance on South Africa will one day make us pay a heavy price should our neighbours decide to stop servicing us or fail to deliver due to circumstances. The current power crisis in that country and in our own country is a very good example of what could happen even when it comes to food production, fuel etc. 

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