Friday, September 22, 2023

Vice President Masisi was right to distance himself from Dr Khama’s failed presidency!

Mmegi of 26th January 2016, carried a story titled, ‘Masisi promises better life after Khama’ through which the Vice President promised Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) followers a better life after president Ian Khama vacates his seat in 2018.VP Masisi’s comments surprised many people who interpreted them to imply that life has been miserable under President Khama and that he, VP Masisi will do much better than President Khamawhen he assumes the reigns in 2018. TheBadge of Courage had sought to ignore VP Masisi’s comments as the utterances of an over-excited and ungrateful beneficiary of racketeering. That such indirect chastising of his superior who still has plenty time to reshuffle his cabinet was mistimed and suicidal.

However, after much reflection and thorough examination of the comments and the context in which the comments were made, it became clearthat such comments are pertinent and provide sufficient grounds for a critical evaluation of Dr Khama’s presidency. It is important to concede that past efforts to do so have been disorganized, casual and lacking in analytical rigor. This essay seeks to propose a template or model for evaluating the presidency of course taking into account changing circumstances. The proposed model draws from characteristics that are considered vital for determining the quality of the presidency. While they are not exhaustive, it is hoped that such dimensions will ensure constructive comparisons in the performances of the first citizens. It is further hoped that local presidential historians or scholars would continuously refine this model so that it remains relevant to our circumstances.

Presidential leadership should consists of several interrelated dimensions the first of which should be Presidential Roadmap, representing what one intends to achieve as president. Essentially, each president tends to identify a significant development challenge facing the country and set out on a mission to confront the challenge. At the end of one’s presidency, his overall rating is weighed against the success of his interventions in that area, which will invariably represent his legacy or the significance of his presidency. For instance, Mogae’s presidency sought to confront the HIV/AIDS pandemic and at the end of his two terms he receieved raving reviews for saving Botswana from total wipe out.

President Khama came up with a master plan weaved around the 5Ds. Nonetheless, he particularly adopted an aggressive policy posture in the fight against rural poverty leading to the conception of several programs aimed at eradicating poverty. Whereas measuring the success of these interventions will always be a subjective exercise, what has become a central feature of the programs is their short-termist nature which seems to give currency to conventional opinion that these interventions merely seek to position President Dr Khama for a place in the history of the republic particularly as the most adored and most caring people’s president who possessed special ability to connect with the ordinary citizen through his (in)famous fireside chats and drugging handshake. Unfortunately, this widespread adoration failed to translate into better standards of living. Yet, his was a powerful presidential vision that was unfortunately commandeered by a busy-but-doing-nothing operator, a tourist president if you like it.
The second dimension that we propose to use is Presidential Appointments. President Dr Khama has the prerogative to appoint personnel to key government positions that can build or destroy this nation. Over the years President Dr Khama’s appointments have a resembled a comprehensive scheme designed to honour loyalists rather than to get the best to do the job. Thus, his reputation has been contaminated by his special preference for inept and corrupt persons while overlooking highly skilled people. This has been interpreted as a preference for mediocrity and vindictiveness.

While he has sought to ensure that his appointments especially of Cabinet Ministers reflected the ethnic makeup of this society, this has been lampooned on account of the calibre of the appointees who rather than focusing on performing to their highest levels opted for excessive sycophancy to the extent that they became the president’s poets and seasoned delinquents. In the end it could be argued that President Dr Khama’s decision to appoint more people from minority groups was motivated by his love for power. He deliberately surrounded himself with time-honoured serfs who would be willing to march to the beat of his every decree. In this respect, the appointments were or are about him.

The third dimension we propose to evaluate the quality of Dr Khama’s presidency is policy direction. State presidents have to initiate policy,popular or unpopular. Some have opted for more agreeable and convenient policies to shore up their public approval ratings. On the domestic front, President Dr Khama never shy away from initiating unpopular policy that seeks to entrench presidential authority and showcase a more powerful, authoritarian government. This has tended to offend many people who opine that the government was macro-managing people and trampling on civil liberties. Regarding foreign policy, President Dr Khama is accused of adopting rooftop diplomacy characterized by a pushy and heavy-handed approach that is feared to compromise national security and lead to resentment and retaliation by warlords. With limited success from domestic policy interventions and no noteworthy foreign policy success, Botswana is on autopilot.

A state president is regarded as an economic leader, during good and bad times. President Khama likes to reason that his presidency has been made uniquely difficult by the global recession and droughts. This is a feebleexcuse fit for an intellectual dwarf who wished to ride on luck and historic record economic growth masterminded by his predecessors.

The greatness of a leader is measured against his handling of crippling challenges confronting the nation specifically the effectiveness of the measuresinitiated to stimulate the economy and restore hope. Crisis management skills separate greats from average folks. President Dr Khama’s government has become synonymous with crisis ranging from water, energy, youth unemployment and so forth to the point where the president personally owned up and publicly announced that dishonest foreigners were milking the economy. Notably, he opted to play victim of circumstances.

In an attempt to stimulate the economy, in 2015 President Dr Khama announced the commencement of the Economic Stimulus Program (ESP). This raised hopes that it was going to breathe new life into the economy. Unfortunately, its implementation is haphazard, erratic and politicized with more talk and little action.

Integrity is an important aspect of the executive arm of government especially in Botswana where the state president enjoys unlimited powers. There are occasions when President Dr Khama was adjudged to have misled the public and he has never apologized. His assurances on energy supply, water provision in the southern part of the country, the passenger train and so forth ultimately proved to have been grossly inaccurate as to be classified deliberate deception. While there is a high possibility that the president was misled by officials, he has done little to address this despicable culture of falsehood and has consistently fallen into the same trap in ways that point to his willingness to mislead the public.

That he has been at the centre of some tasteless scandals obviously contaminates his presidency and renders him a certified failure which is why his deputy couldn’t wait to distance himself from this embarrassing record, not that VP Masisi would be any better but rather than President Dr Khama’s failures are legendary. Fortunately for President Dr Khama, Batswana loves a failure and a good loser.


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