Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The economy, not Khama will deserve Masisi’s attention next year

For President Mokgweetsi Masisi the year ends in exactly the same way as it started; with his predecessor at his throat.

There is a lot of uncertainty in the air.

For close to three years now, one thing has remained constant in Botswana; the Masisi/Khama dispute.

Ian Khama wants it to stay that way because he is scared of setting into irrelevance.

The truth though is that Khama has become a total irrelevant, including to his own people who have woken one morning to see themselves in opposition, for the first time since the advent of the republic.

The nation is just emerging from a bruising election that took its toll on the people.

People are far still from recovery. They remain exhausted and drained.

Of course elections gave the Masisi side a victory.

With that victory, it means the issue of power dynamics in Botswana has been settled for another five years.

The Khama side is however all out contesting and challenging that outcome, alleging fraud.

Ian Khama in particular has come out guns blazing.

It is possible that Khama knows a weak side in Masisi that the rest of us don’t.

Everytime he opens his mouth, Masisi goes ballistic in response.

It is still difficult to see how a whole Head of State should be reacting and even taking his cue from a man many people dismiss as possibly unhinged.

The president has a responsibility to the nation and of course to Botswana’s international partners.

Khama has no such obligations, save, except may be to himself.

That is why he sees nothing wrong talking about Botswana crash-landing.

The electoral dispute will be settled by the courts, save to point out that for now people are ready to give Masisi a chance, provided he bets for them.

Betting here means creating a better life. The theatre therefore is on the bread and butter issues.

The cancelling of development projects on whose shoulders lie so many hopes is a bad omen.

As president, Khama had specifically rendered former Presidents, Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae for what he termed meddling.

He now does not see anything wrong with what started as meddling, before escalating into what if Khama had his way would become a geopolitical flareup that would get Masisi under siege.

For a man who never played any meaningful diplomatic role for the ten years when he was in power, this is astonishing.

At least based on the results of the elections, to say he is a regional leader would be an exaggeration.

He is a tribal politician.

His party won three seats in Serowe. Nothing more.

Talk of punching above one’s weight!

He is burnishing himself ahead of his country.

The charade is no longer comical. It’s a nuisance.

He says he is launching a democracy watchdog.

This is the same man of said the media is not part of democracy, the same man who launched a witch-hunt against some media houses, including sponsoring a wave of trumped up charges against journalist.

He now sees himself as a custodian of democracy.

The man sees himself as a patriarch of a dynasty that should rule Botswana into infinity.

The one-time self-proclaimed patriot has overnight become a national security menace.

He has had ten years to show and prove his democratic credentials.

He failed miserably.

Now he doesn’t want anybody else to pass that exam which he failed.

Many had believed the coming and passing of elections would bring some respite.

If anything, it has worsened the polarity.

The animating source of conflict between Masisi and his predecessor is greed – not, power as many people believe.

The man wants to continue as the dominating standard bearer of Botswana’s political economy. That is impossible.

The relation between Masisi and Khama is like an arms race.

Nobody wants to de-escalate, much less stop the venom.

The good thing though is that the nation is no longer paying attention.

As always, the nation has moved on, way ahead of the self-serving belligerents.

A bigger storm is however brewing in the horizons. Everything about it has to do with the economy.

Botswana’s economy is a pretty bad shape.

The deficit is fast becoming unmanageable.

Judging by the way some development projects are already being cancelled, something is not well.

The economy is on a bad footing.

Masisi better tell the nation to tighten their seat belts because there is sure going to be some rough turbulence ahead. That turbulence might prove more consequential than the self-serving crash-landing we hear about from Ian Khama.

But there has to be evidence that everybody is wearing a belt.

In the 2009 recession, the nation was told to fasten the belts by people who were themselves not wearing any belts. That cannot be allowed to go on this time around.

This is the last edition of the year.  We wish all our readers a safe and merry festive season.

See you in the new year.

Enjoy. Do not indulge.

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Sunday Standard July 12 – 18

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 12 - 18, 2020.