This past week, the Botswana Government undertook a humiliating climb-down as it yielded to public pressure to reverse its decision to sponsor only 4000 students for tertiary education this year.
The debacle at the Ministry of Education is incompetence of the worst kind.
The limping economy notwithstanding, the decision by Government had to be shamefully rescinded as it became increasingly clear that it was an unbearable political baggage that could not be carried through into a General Election.
While Government’s handling of the mess at the Ministry of Education has, from beginning to the end, been a process of reckless provocation, the good thing is that even on the face of such massive and extreme abuse, the public has to their credit held back and avoided reacting in kind.
For now, there may be some air of respite, but going forward, many questions abound.
And, as it turns out, such questions can only be answered after the election.
The best we can do is to hold our breath, prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
The days of benevolence are over.
That said, Vice President Mompati Merafhe immediately catalogued events that had led to government reversing its decision. It dawn on me – not for the first time – that this Government’s inattention to detail will ultimately be its undoing.
It also occurred to me that it’s highly likely that we are currently led by what is probably the weakest and most vulnerable government since independence.
There is a lot of confusion among the very people who are supposed to be leading.
And that confusion is unmistakable.
While we may curse the Minister of Education, the truth of the matter is that he is no worse than his other colleagues in government, only he happens, by the nature of his ministry, to be in the public glare.
I believe that President Ian Khama strongly yearns to sack Minister of Education Jacob Nkate.
The P 915 million shortfall by the Ministry of Education last year is not just reprehensible but also unpardonable.
Ordinarily, Khama would have used that opportunity to see Nkate’s back.
The sad thing for Khama is that the pool from which he draws his ministers is literally depleted.
What is left is a group of backbenches, a group of people Khama openly detests.
To put the education debacle into context, despite his industry and obvious shrewdness as a politician, the Minister of Education has never at any point been popular with his BDP parliamentary colleagues.
Many of his colleagues harbour a lot of personal jealousy against him.
Not without justice, many resent him for his personal friendship and loyalty to Ian Khama.
In the same vein, detractors like to hark on his unfortunate past.
The fact that two years ago he became the BDP Secretary General, albeit by a slim margin, inspires smoldering jealousy and hatred among the many inside his party who openly loathe him and wish him ill.
Recklessly and without reason, many of them unfairly look at him as just one of Khama’s creatures.
The situation has always been compounded by Nkate’s poorly developed diplomatic skills.
For all his talents, Nkate is never easy with the less gifted MPs, especially those who happen to sympathise with his opposing faction, a faction which he has, out of bad political judgment, allowed to degenerate into his nemesis.
The truth of the matter is that just as Merafhe so honestly put it, Jacob Nkate is a highly capable politician.
His biggest problem, which I suspect has more to do with his age than anything else, is that he is given to making some of the most embarrassing mistakes.
I believe that however generous one may try to be, the P915 million budget shortfall last year is, strictly speaking, a resigning matter.
The same applies to the mishaps consuming the Ministry of Education today.
But then Nkate will stay put.
Other than that Khama and Nkate are close associates, a much bigger problem is that, inside the BDP, the President has become too weak a figure to fire a person of Nkate’s stature.
Not only would Nkate’s sacking stir up the obvious trouble, his departure would also deny Khama a grassroots link with the party which the President needs much more badly now than ever, especially when one remembers what the recent humiliation of Daniel Kwelagobe is set to cause in the next few months.
This government is much more incompetent than we have ever thought.
While we thank government for going back on their earlier ill-advised decisions, we note that, as in all previous similar instances, the government acted not out of good faith but rather to score political points out of a totally unwarranted gesture of benevolence.
Thanks to issues at the Ministry of Education, we now know that ours is a government driven by hysteria.
Thanks also to that ministry’s gaffes, we also know that today’s government is probably the weakest government we’ve ever had.