Throughout this week the mainstream media has been abuzz with articles that ministers will henceforth be demanded to declare their assets to the President.
A kind of agreement has been reached, says the media.
Anybody who knows anything about the Presidency in Botswana would tell you that since time immemorial ministers have been required to declare their interests to the President.
It is part of the covenant between the President and his ministers.
It has always been.
Is it any wonder that a growing number of people are accusing the media of political and economic illiteracy?
It’s obvious somebody, with very clear but still to be declared interests is peddling this storyline.
The intention, I suspect, is to divert attention away from the issue at hand, which is a public declaration of assets by all and sundry, from the president down to the most junior of the MPs, if there is such a thing.
We should not be derailed.
The call for declaration of interests by our political leaders is not a sign that we hate anyone.
If anything, it is a sign that we love them. We want to protect them against public suspicions and innuendoes.
Declaring their assets will make it difficult for our leaders to receive bribes that are laced as gifts.
At the moment, our politicians are receiving too many such gifts.
The intention is to influence them in favour of the “givers.” Which is why the declaration should be public.
By the way, this is how it is done in other countries: MPs list their interests and assets in a public register, often kept by Speaker of Parliament. The register is accessible to anyone who asks for it. As per the code of conduct an MP who is found to have cheated is pulled on hot coals.
Unfortunately in Botswana, we do not even have a Code of Conduct for our elected officers.
What we have, instead, is a blank cheque.
The problem with ministers declaring their interests only to the President is simple.
As Mmegi headline so succinctly put it, it does not go far enough.
Because such a declaration is not open to public scrutiny, in the ultimate analysis it also does not inspire confidence. What is, however, wrong is to pretend there is anything new about it. Ask any former minister and they will tell you they have always declared their interests to the President.
By the way, this is not time for politics. Having had twelve months of often acrimonious and as ever disingenuous politics, this is the time to reflect and remember what we have been through.
As is often the case, Christmas is the time to reminisce, look at how far we have traveled and count our fortunes.
Crucially, it is that time of the year when we look back to remember those of our people who did not make it this far, but whose contribution to our success as a nation has allowed us to get this far.
It is that time of the year when we should look ahead with hope and humility.
As a nation, we should thank the Lord that, compared to other countries and nations, things have continued to turn all right for us.
It was a year of elections, but despite our clear political differences, we did not stoop so low as to start killing or maiming those who did not agree with us.
We should pray for our security forces whose collective name has throughout the year taken a battering for the senseless killings that have continued to dominate the news.
Like those killed, security agents are our brothers and sisters. A way has to be found to get to the root causes that lead them to kill unarmed and often harmless citizens.
The rising number of extra judicial killings performed by our security agents brings home the stark difficult hurdles that lie ahead as we traverse route to enrich our democracy.
Personally, I get misty-eyed when I look back to reflect on how a certain John Kalafatis, a man I never met during his life, was killed in a shower of bullets from our security agents.
Whether we like it or not, Kalafatis’ way of dying has transformed this country. It has had an indelible impact on the future of this country.
The legendary South African revolutionary, Steve Biko, could have been talking about Kalafatis when he said “the manner of your dying can be a politicising thing.”
For all our difficulties, let’s live in the hope that tomorrow’s Botswana will be much better than today’s. May we all toast to that hope.
This is the last edition of The Sunday Standard this year.
Our next edition will be on January 10, 2010.
Enjoy. Don’t indulge.