Monday, May 27, 2024

Tribute to Professor Good – the Unapologetic Professor!

In penning this article RAP seeks to remember Professor Kenneth Good, the Australian national and a professor of political studies who has since passed on. Professor Good lived and taught at the University of   Botswana substantively from 1990. A principal tribute of this article is that of offering an exposition of the basic tenets of Professor Good in accordance with the perspective of his revolutionary scholastic thought. 

In February 2005, the then President of Botswana, Festus Mogae unfairly declared Professor Good an undesirable inhabitant to Botswana and unreasonably evicted him from the country by a ‘Notice of Determination as Prohibited Immigrant under Presidential decree’. Good was being declared a prohibited immigrant as punishment for being an outspoken critic of the BDP government in the broad and vital areas of human rights, democracy, political education and the San. As a social scientist and an academic he has in the course of his work provoked a conservative reaction against his radical, critical and robust approach to issues of national and international politics and contemporary societal concerns. It is no wonder his lectures caused uneasiness for the power of the BDP State to the extent of evicting him from Botswana with the utmost barbaric force.     

Professor Good was one of the few educators who brought about unparalleled seminal lectures based on proper education, truth, justice and equality. Unlike most professors, Professor Good expanded a teaching which uniquely and truly spoke to the particular discrepancies of Botswana`s political history and the core of the socio-economic problems that affect Batswana, particularly “expressions of prejudice against Basarwa.” His willingness and desire to search and involve himself beyond the theory of the classroom into the broader light of universal truths and social reality makes him a professor par excellence – a speaker of truth. He didn’t shy away from pointing out the democracy errors of the BDP State. 

This was a professor whose genius was curious and not afraid to honor truth. Professor Good was a scholar who not only considered the assertions of Botswana moral democracy but also pondered its significance to the (un)equal development of its people. The criticism of Professor Good touched on substantive aspects of the powers and prerogatives of the BDP powers. The Professor will be remembered by his extensive and creative writing on issues including; Presidentialism and low accountability in government,  the San, inequality and the exploitation of diamonds, undiversified economy, weak civil society and state incapacity to name a few. His theme of education was focalized by fields concerned with sociology, anthropology, social psychology and political science investigated in the richness of their interpenetration with other aspects of reality in Botswana. He was able to make progress in this kind of work so much greater than that made by other authors.

In pointing out the frailties of democracy in Botswana, Professor Good clearly showed how Botswana NGOs like to stress the Botswana`s achievements regarding democracy and stability and avoided existing sociopolitical inequalities such as huge inequalities between remote people and urban elites; policies that specifically favor high salaries for top civil servants and lower wages for manual workers; gender relations in the workplace and experiences of the San people. This has resulted, in Professor Good`s words – “in complacency as academics, journalists and politicians have paid glowing tribute to what Botswana soon became unquestioningly known as “the shining light of democracy”.

In evaluating the danger of Botswana`s constitution, Good criticized the actual working of the constitution and often did so on the grounds that it is failing to safeguard the liberties of the citizens. Indeed there are many parts of Botswana constitution which make it symbolic and tokenistic rather than substantive and effective. The Botswana Constitution as a matter of fact lacks formal, textual protection of bureaucratic autonomy. In essence, the Botswana Constitution has not been designed to guarantee constitutional democracy rather it has been designed to provide for a democracy in which democratic institutions are maintained without any democratic independence. As Kenneth Good rightfully pointed out, the constitution of Botswana gives the President and his government to be “accountable to themselves”.  The Botswana constitution has been created as a disguised branch of the executive that has less to do with jurisdiction, thus causing it to be bound to fall prey to political influence. It does not provide for institutional restraints to prevent lapses into authoritarian system. 

The function of Botswana constitution depends on the prerogatives of the presidency than on the importance of institutional and cultural checks of democracy as it has been shaped with the attitude that makes the president the chief referee instructing the contestants in the rules of play i.e. the executive, parliament, and judiciary. By entrusting the Head of State with far – sweeping powers and unfettered democratic power (such as the deference of the constitution to the President in choosing High Court justices), the Botswana democracy legitimates Head of State in his own sphere as the only natural guardian of the Constitution. As Aristotle put it, “Those constitutions which consider the common interest are the right constitutions, judged by the standards of absolute justice. Those constitutions which consider only the personal interest of the rulers are all wrong constitutions, or perversions of the right forms.

In sighting the National Security Act which provides for secretiveness and authoritarianism of the State, Professor Good illustrated how the BDP State tightly controls access to information so as to maintain status quo in the Botswana elitist society. A case in point is that of the partnership between De Beers and Botswana whose contracts and written codes are virtually unheard of. As Good pointed out the diamond partnership between Botswana and De Beers is “secretive to the point of paranoia.”  National Security Act as professor Good stated, promotes “breeding culture of contempt and of being involved in “a witch hunt”, if one persists to complain and raise issues of policy and administrative matters. In actual fact Professor Good fell victim of this undemocratic statute which consists of coercion and domination. We stand to agree with Professor Good, that secrecy is a preserve of elites in Botswana and it stands in sharp opposition to democracy. Good rightfully pointed out “that information helps to empower people, while secrecy weakens them, especially the less educated majority, who do not have access to specialist publications.”

Professor Good also doubted the political will of the BDP state to implement and manipulate change in the desired directions of investment in manufacturing. Sighting the managerial weaknesses and inefficiencies of BDC as the leading development parastatal in its failure to protect Botswana`s assembly capacity of Hyundai Motor Distributors which had a capacity to employ a workforce of 1,100 in 1998; its inadequate investment in the Selibe – Phikwe Regional Development Project; its complete failure of managing Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, as originating in the overt corruption among the ruling elite. Perhaps to add on this sorry state of affairs is that Botswana democracy has also entered a period of malaise including; an extended period of a witches` brew of rampant corruption, bad governance, and the abuse of power by executives` intent on hollowing out institutions of accountability and accumulating power and wealth for themselves and their cronies. The preoccupation with these problems has contributed to the further deficiency of Botswana democracy, a trend that has emboldened the ruling party.

RAP will always remember Professor Good as a man who unapologetically and uncompromisingly agitated for equality and justice for everyone, more so for the despised Basarwa. Professor Kenneth Good decried the widening and deepening gap of inequality in Botswana; conditions of “negative peace”; and the continued subordination of the San. As an obituary oath, RAP pledges itself of, by and for the rallying call of Professor Good of “struggling for a “real democracy in Botswana” – a democracy that will prevent a small part of society from controlling the economy and that aims to put all citizens in a position to manage their own affairs on a footing of a suitable degree of social and economic equality. Of Professor Good it can be said; “Behold a real revolutionary hath reigned!”

Long live the revolutionary spirit of Professor Good, long live!

Brother Chairman

Gaontebale Mokgosi

Real Alternative Party


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