Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The end of the miracle?

We are living in a confused world. For this country in particular, the way things unfold lately best captures how hopelessness and despair has become the new buzzwords in both private and public affairs. Madness is the appropriate word to describe the new Botswana and beyond. Certainly, I will not concern myself with crazy developments emerging beyond our borders. Yes, somehow they can impact on our lives here, but surely in an indirect manner with insignificant price to pay. This article addresses contemporary events that provide a clear indications of a country on its way to hell. I seriously mean it, we have embarked on a journey to nowhere as a people. We are matching helplessly to a place none of us know – we are headed for the cliff.  As indicated earlier the purpose of this instalment is to reflect on latest developments in our economy that best capture the sorry state we find ourselves in as a country, on the verge of celebrating its golden jubilee. We were meant to enjoy to the fullest the remarkable achievements that were made over the last half century as a self-governing people. But it would appear everything is going up in smoke.

When we attained self-rule almost fifty years ago, we are told, this place was a wasteland. No one gave us a chance to succeed among the league of nations. Numerous visits by British economists made a grim conclusion about our development prospects and requirements ÔÇô to them there was a negligible chances of rapid economic growth and development. Sadly, we were to continue as the poorest nation on earth. What a painful way to arrive on this earth. It was a terrible start that could be imagined for the imminent state. Fast forward to where we are today. Botswana has come to be a bright spot amongst many developing nations. We achieved a lot, economically, socially and politically. We proved our distractors wrong. And the secret to our success proved a combination of factors; luck, prudent utilisation of resources and an exemplary leadership, rooted in good governance, respect of law and selfless in advancing interest of Batswana. Indeed we came closer to the capital on the hill.

Recent developments, however, suggest we are a nation going down at an alarming rate. We are spiralling out of control. And the sad thing is that no one appears to be in control. Also and more painful, no one appears to care. We are more or less a people on a suicide mission. To make matters worse, it is happening at a monumental period in our existence as a nation. At 50, one takes time to reflect on past successes and challenges. There is an honest introspection, capturing the past to understand the present so that we can built a better future. We fail dismally to engage in that crucial human endeavour.  Instead, we want to look the other way and hope for the best. When we are told the truth, a painful one for that matter, soon we label that critic unpatriotic. He deserves no audience because he does not want to see the best side of this country. This has been the sorry tale of our post-success period. 

I listened with concern this morning on radio when the Vice President, rre Masisi, talked at length on how very soon Botswana will be bright from the new alternative energy sources. Initially, I was impressed that at last someone realised abundance of natural energy at our disposal. The excitement soon dissipated when he mentioned the amount of monies involved in the project. Slightly more than 4 billion pula! I remembered what the minister of energy and water resources promised Batswana in the recent past; Morupule B power plant was functional and capable of meeting local energy demands. And that precisely explained why we did not have to endure constant power interruptions this winter. I am now left wondering if we have decided to privatise energy supply while government-owned BPC was about to meet local power demand. Are we killing BPC? What happened to over 16 billion that went into Morupule B project? How is that money going to be recouped?  And many other related questions came to my mind.

Before VP’s speech there were also reports suggesting that history was made in parliament last week where a plethora of bills were rushed through the night with little benefit to the nation. To illustrate, a bill seeking to introduce electronic voting machine (ENV) was passed, meaning that manual paper based voting would soon be a thing of the past. Although ENV could help make our elections a bit easier when counting, the process leading to adoption of the bill raised questions. Yes, public consultations have not yet been done. Not only the process was doggy, the timing raised pressing concerns. Is the BDP trying to extend its lease of life by stealing the elections? Why fix something which not a problem like vote counting? In fact, elections become meaningful for many Batswana for that same suspension they had to endure while awaiting ballot counting. Here they find time to stay awake until the wee hours of the morning because any other day at 11pm everything meaningful has to stop! But why should we worry about delay in vote counting? With a small voting population of ours, all that was needed was to increase manpower to facilitate quick turnaround, if indeed that was the problem.

And the biggest scandal proved to be police brutality in front of parliament against protesting youths against unemployment. We know in Africa official data is hardly convincing. Here, like elsewhere, we are told youth unemployment, especially graduate related one is hovering around 20 percent. We all know this is a lie. More than half of those who graduate cannot get job opportunities. Not only that, those employed are working under precarious conditions, such as temporary contracts. And sadly, it seems the ruling party MPs find nothing amiss with the current situation given their response on the floor of parliament when dealing with youth unemployment movement concerns.

50 years later it is becoming clearer that the underpinning factors that explained our miracle are seriously undermined by the current leadership. And they have brought us to where we currently find ourselves. Certainly, being the very same people who brought into this mess, it follows then that they are not the ones to offer solutions to problems we face. To recapture the miracle we need fresh minds.

*Dr Molefhe teaches Public Administration at the University of Botswana


Read this week's paper