Saturday, August 15, 2020

We should guard against erosion of our democratic heritage!

For many years, Botswana has been brandished about as Africa’s shining example of democracy, good governance and respect for law.

Those days are truly gone, and, if we are not careful as a country and as a people, they are likely to be gone for good.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the country was the bastion of sanity in a continent and sub-region wallowing in insane levels of racism, anarchy, civil strife, poverty and general plunder.

It was not by accident that the country was regarded as the best hope.

As former president Sir Ketumile Masire said recently, Botswana did not accomplish such a feat by fluke.

Rather, it was a result of targeted, well coordinated, calculated and deliberate efforts by the country’s founders to lay strong foundations for democracy.

But the truth is that there was a great gap between Botswana and other countries not so much because Botswana had progressed ahead but mainly because other countries had regressed behind.
Now with all of the sub-region having attained independence and all of the racist regimes toppled, all of a sudden we find that Botswana is, after all, an ordinary country that was lucky to have struck diamond wealth after independence and had some semblance of prudent leadership.

Beyond that there is not much.

New kids on the block are catching up with us. Others are not only catching up, they are actually overtaking us.

We are also fast learning that holding elections every five years is by itself not democracy.

There has to be respect for fundamental human rights as well as the upholding of the sanctity of other institutions of governance, like parliament and the judiciary.

It would appear like our present crop of leadership are not prepared to go all the way in as far as changing with times and acknowledging not just in words but also in deed that there is actually a thin line between dictatorship and democracy.

They don’t seem to have learnt much from the words of Botswana’s founding president that democracy is like a tree. It has to be nurtured and keenly taken care of as to be jealously protected or else it would perish.

Our leaders seem to have been taken over by illusions that international praise for the country will stay on forever regardless of how they behave.
It’s true our leaders have never been trained to handle international criticism, and when they were faced with a barrage of hostile publicity over how they handled Basarwa at the CKGR and the expulsion of Professor Kenneth Good, their natural instinct behaviour was to express outrage at perceived unfairness and potential jealousy by those countries envious of Botswana’s success and also to recoil into shells of denials instead of addressing the issue head on.

To cut a long story short, recent acts by the executive towards parliament are not enhancing Botswana’s international reputation which we must say is on the decline.

The situation is not helped by effective redlining of about 17 of Botswana’s international critics, amoung them journalists and academics.

The whole episode becomes hopeless when one gets to look at the fact that government has effectively and, by all intents and purposes, rejected the High Court judgment handed down last December without going to the Appeals Court, but by practically making it difficult for the intended beneficiaries of the judgment to implement.
There is also a lot of intolerance among cabinet ministers.

There is no hope for recourse given the way the president is stretching an imaginary battle with MPs.

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