For quite some time, there has been criticism flying back and forth between the media and government.
This is very healthy.
Botswana needs the adversarial relationship for its growth. Instead of seeking validation, both institutions should always canvass a diversity of opinions to excite debate and enhance the market place of ideas. That is the only way we are going to grow and develop as a nation.
As we have said in the past, during the stone-age communities that had access to stone progressed faster than those that did not have access to stone.
During the iron-age, communities that had access to iron progressed faster than those that did not have access to iron. And similarly, during the information age, nations that have access to information will develop faster than those that do not have access to information. So both government and the media would be worse off if either party were to withhold important information that would help them function more effectively because it is deemed critical.
The problem, however, is that both institutions seem to be seeking validation, instead of criticism that would flip their switches, rattle them out of their comfort zones and force them to grow.
We salute the likes of Minister Ramsden and President Khama, Sonny Serite, Spencer Mogapi to name just a few who have had to nurse bloodied noses because they dared speak their minds either against government or the media in spite of the consequences.
Our space of public opinions and ideas is all the richer because of their contributions. We may not always agree with what they have to say, but we should protect their right to say it because our progress and democracy depends on it.
We should also protect the healthy debate from negative energies. Often times, we are too quick to label. Whenever Khama criticizes the media, or Serite criticizes government we poison the debate with labels like “attack”, “slam” or “lambast”.
This frames the context of an otherwise healthy debate into that of a fight, and often times we lose sight of the real picture and get bogged down on the frame.
There is need for an honest conversation among all Batswana to rescue public discourse which is currently floundering on the rocks of intolerance.
This will among other things demand that we plumb the murky depths of public perceptions. Because of the negative labels that we attach to the debate between the media and government, we are now saddled with a situation where government officials feel the media is always out to get them and the media, on the other hand, feels that the government is out to get them.
Unfortunately, this is a self fulfilling prophesy. Every time the media writes or says anything, government takes it as evidence that we are out to get them.
In the same vein, every time government does something the media takes it as further proof that government wants to silence the media. It has become a vicious cycle. And how we break it is what is important.
The fact of the matter is that we all love this country.
It is wrong for anyone to believe that they are more patriotic than the other.
Our difference is not so much about taking the country forward, but rather how we take it forward.
As President Khama always points out, “This is the only Botswana that we have.” We cannot agree with him more.
Where we tend to differ with him is when he goes further to push his zeal and start questioning other people’s motives, including, by way of insinuating, that he likes the country more than everyone else.
Nobody wants to see Botswana destroyed. We cannot all be State Presidents, but in our small ways we are contributing to the development of this nation.
Despite the diversity of our opinions, we all share a common goal that is to make the best for Botswana, and make Botswana what Botswana should be.
In as much as we cherish diversity of opinion, what is important is to always underline he fact that there is a limit as to how far we can go before we poison the air as to push ourselves and our country beyond the elasticity point, so to speak.