Wednesday, July 24, 2024

THE FEAR OF PRESIDENT KHAMA AND THE RISE OF DICTATORSHIP IN BOTSWANA: THE COMPLETE STORY

When we were young, many of us had an entrenched fear of successful people especially those who owned vehicles and shops. Apparently it was commonly believed that such people used muti concocted from human body parts to grow and fortify their businesses. These fears were so deep-seated that that it was a taboo to ask for a ride from strangers. The fear of ritual murderers has gripped many people well into their adult lives. While many adults are no longer living in fear of ritual murderers, they have developed a new fear. A majority of adults, especially those who are politically awake with an ounce of self-respect have an overwhelming fear of President Khama.

These outspoken Batswana who are reluctant to be run over like toads live in fear, not of thugs but of their state president.In fact, the only people who do not fear President Khama are the half dead, brainless sleepwalkers who do not care whether they are physically or emotionally abused or humiliated. Owing to this morbid fear, many folks believe that President Khama has the ability to hear all those who speak ill of him wherever they are.

This irrational fear is certainly breeding a dictator. In his book ‘The Allure of toxic leaders: why we follow destructive bosses and corrupt politicians’, Jean Lipman-Blumen contends that toxic leaders couldn’t exist without their followers’ compliance. Leadership requires followers and dictators need followers who accept to have their rights taken away and their dignity invaded with impunity. Significantly, dictators require followers who accept to be subjected to arbitrary and irrational rules.

Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times commented that the Arab awakenings happened because the Arab people stopped fearing their leaders. In other words, dictators thrive on a culture of fear that they always nurture so that people fear them and fear each other thus allowing the cruel leaders to sit atop the whole society doling patronage and blankets. Thus, people who have a desire to live a dignified life must bury their fears of their leaders and rise to the occasion. Be warned fellow citizens!

After the Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Margaret Nasha launched her book, Madam Speaker Sir, every Tom and Sarah proffered their differing opinions. However, my attention was aroused by commentators who unequivocally wrote Dr Nasha’s political obituary. Many of these people commented that Dr Nasha has effectively crossed paths with President Khama and is a sure history. The Botswana Gazette of March 26 carried a story titled ‘Nasha’s book political suicide?’ and quoted former Speaker of the National Assembly Ray Molomo saying ‘I don’t think Khama will like the content of the book unless he has broad shoulders.

Of course other leaders would just appreciate that as leaders they can be criticised’. The import of this statement is that President Khama is not among those leaders who accept to be criticized. Coming from a BDP stalwart, a senior citizen and a former Speaker, the statement is weighty and revealing of the person we have as our state president ÔÇô a cold-blooded tyrant.

Essentially, this means that President Khama does not tolerate criticism and is quick to marginalize or fix those who criticize his leadership. It also means that citizens who aspire to live a comfortable life or who are not yet ready to depart mother earth must do the right thing and sing praises for President Khama. Jean Lipman-Blumen argues that people have a special weakness for cruel leaders who make them feel like part of a chosen group, largely because most people love to be part of something revered like a president’s inner circle or at least seemingly so despite a festering malignancy.

Certainly, many Batswana fear to speak out against President Khama’s poor decisions because they fear that doing so would result in being marginalized and deliberately impoverished. The ripple effect of this fear is that President Khama has become the guarantor of our freedoms, dignity, rights and good life. Therefore criticizing him and questioning his decisions is equivalent to condemning one to a life of servitude figuratively and literally. This effectively leaves many with no choice but to be blindly loyal to President Khama.

Unfortunately, dictators never work to minimize fear but rather consolidate and use it to exert control over the citizens. President Khama is very much aware and is filled with pride that he is considered cruel and vindictive by his own people but he has never attempted to assure his people that it is not true that he has henchmen who have been instructed to eliminate detractors nor have his handlers helped to dispel such fears. This silence is telling more so that President Khama is known to be extremely sensitive to criticism and negative media coverage. Bearing in mind that Khama’s party and government are constantly on the offensive against criticism directed at President Khama it becomes clear why they are unable to give assurances.

At the height of the so called Mosugate ÔÇô reports public resources were being used for the construction of President Khama’s holiday home ÔÇô suggestions were floated that the anti-corruption organ should immediately launch an investigation into the allegations in the same way like the Public Protector in South Africa investigated the alleged use of public funds to upgrade Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla. However, strong public opinion suggested that unlike the Public Protector in Zuma’s case, the Botswana’s Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime officers would not risk their lives by looking into the Mosu compound allegations. The matter was considered a dangerous expedition implying that President Khama is an absolute ruler and a Frankenstein devil that is above the law.

British philosopher Bertrand Russell writes that ‘neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear’. Precisely, fear propels people into a class of the walking dead who happily cede everything that defines a modest human being. Hobbes in The Leviathan argues that fear motivates the creation of a social contract in which citizens cede their whole being to the sovereign. Batswana understandably want to be safe and left with no choice, they have become President Khama’ssedated pets. The fear of President Khama means that his actions cannot be challenged, enabling him to do as he pleases.

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