I write this article a very sad man. Before on dwelling on the subject matter for today, I thought I should pay my last respect to our fallen national icon, Gomolemo Motswaledi. Like many Batswana, the past two weeks have proved a difficult and challenging moment for me. The sudden passing of Gomolemo Motswaledi gripped the whole nation and I was not an exception. Although he is gone, his short stay with us was a memorable one. I came to know him personally late in his life. We worked together in UB and, when he had time, he would have lunch with us at the Revolutionary Table in our staff lounge. He brought vibrancy to our debates.
He also touched on my life, as was the case with many others, in different ways – a friend, a mentor, and a brother. He wanted to see a Botswana in which all could live side by side, where everyone could have an opportunity to become the best they could. Above all, Motswaledi loved peace.
That we are a divided nation cannot be disputed. We have degenerated into a sad story as a country. And the lowest point to demonstrate this precarious state of affairs, sadly, relates to events around the passing on of Gomolemo Motswaledi. While many expected him to bring us together – even in death, the opposite has since manifested itself in various ways. And this has turned out ugly particularly in the political arena. To say that our politics have changed is an understatement. We are currently experiencing seismic waves – in the process releasing sudden energy which manifests by shacking established political culture of tolerance (ntwa kgolo keya molomo).
Indeed, we have prided ourselves for being different to many others in the continent, especially in the way we engage in politics. And rightly so because ours have been a unique case of political culture that obtained not as a mere chance but a result of the type of political leadership we have had since we gained independence in the 1960s. I need to emphasise that we had progressive leadership on both sides of the isle. The ruling class viewed those in the opposition as key in national development. Equally, those on the opposition appreciated the work done by those in charge of our country in nation building. Our celebrated democracy and development can, therefore, be explained, to a large extend, by the quality of political leadership we had.
Fast forward to where we are at the moment. This is a different Botswana: A toxic nation spiralling out of control. Literally, for our country the wheels are coming off at a faster rate than expected. It is a changed Botswana that can no longer pride itself as a unique case in an otherwise hopeless continent. We have overnight become an intolerant people. But this was always going to turn out as is now, given the attitude of those in charge of the republic. The current crop of our leaders does not place much emphasis on nation building. Rather, their interpretation of what politics is about ÔÇô a winner takes it all mentality ÔÇô explains the predicament we currently endure as a nation. They are consumed by hatred of political opponents. And that reality has come to the surface over the past couple of years. The past two weeks, however, marked the tipping point of this hatred. I never imagined we could be this bad as a people.
Many events over the past two weeks highlighted the plight of our nation, but none could match the events that transpired at the memorial service of Gomolemo Motswaledi at UB stadium. The fault lines were visible to all in attendance. UDC supporters, understandably so, interrupted BDP representative while giving his speech. But the leadership of the UDC brought the situation under control, calling on the youth to respect our departed hero while also excusing BDP and BCP representatives from giving their speeches. A friend of mine would call on Thursday wanting to know if I watched BTV news, something that I did not do. He told me that BTV aired a clip from the memorial service that depicted UDC in a bad light. Technically they were presented as hooligans hell-bent in destroying the peace that Batswana have come to enjoy. Nothing was shown of Ndaba Gaolathe’s exemplary leadership calling for calm heads on his party supporters and subsequent normalcy that followed.
The same pattern would also emerge at the funeral of our dear comrade. The BCP leader, Dumelang Shaleshando, would bolt out of the session claiming, later through facebook, that he feared for his life. Of the many political leaders in attendance, including those from the ruling party, he was the only one feeling unsafe. That development did not go unnoticed by our political leaders.
BTV news last night would air something interesting: President Khama apologising to Dumelang Shaleshando for the mistreatment he suffered in Serowe. The president tells us he had to do so as the paramount chief of Bamangwato. Interesting apology directed to the leader of BCP by the leader of BDP.
Ironically, the passing on of Motswaledi has not brought us together as Batswana. We have since moved far apart from each other. And the tension rises with each passing day. This experience has taught me that we are not any different from our brothers and sisters elsewhere in the continent. The peace we enjoyed, as I indicated above, was partly explained by the kind of political leadership we had. A leadership that would rise in times of crisis to assure the public that everything would be fine. The kind of leadership that served its people: rather, than its sectional interests. They cared about the future of this country because they had nowhere else to go should they allow the country to burn. They shunned corruption and emphasised establishment of strong institutions to guide of our interaction. They were, above all, servants of the people. Sadly, we lost that kind of that leader in Gomolemo Motswaledi. May his soul rest in eternal peace.