BOT50 is us but…
Events of the last few months culminated in rapturous celebrations across the country for Botswana’s 50th Independence, a wonderful thing for a nation to revel in.
Granted, this country is deeply polarised by the political standpoints which differ at every turn. But the allure of the blue black and white national colours have over the years been the only thing that citizens of Botswana agree on, be it world class feats in the international arena such as Nigel Amos’ silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics or just a good evening at the Francistown Sports Complex when the Zebras send far more prolific opponents back to the drawing board. But this year’s Independence mood was not only highly infectious, it was not subdued by any means as in the other years. BOT50 captured the euphoria of Botswana’s 20th Anniversary celebrations of 1986.
In the year 1960, as many as 17 African countries kicked off the 60’s decade by shedding the colony tag, gaining Independence from the colonial masters. It was a time of strife and war, a time of transition which brought with it numerous ramifications as countries and their people decided to go it alone. For Botswana, the picture that is often painted is that of a peaceful smooth hand over. It must be noted that it was a struggle nonetheless, for the coloniser is never in a hurry to relinquish control on the colony’s terms. In 1966, Botswana alongside Lesotho, joined the Independent league.
There are too many reasons to be joyful as a Motswana, for as long as the novelty of BOT50 remains with us. Many visitors to the country in the last week were mesmerised by the way Batswana took to the national colours with pride and a sense of belonging.
The country’s good performance in human development, good governance, democracy and economic progress are synonymous with the country’s story. Besides Diamonds, this country is also reknown for its spirited response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, in the 1990s, which threatened to wipe out all the country’s gains made. There are too many noteworthy things to mention about this country.
But it is important that both sides of the coin are seen and appreciated for what they are. Botswana’s Shining Example tag has come under scrutiny in the last few years, and this can only become more evident. The next 50 years will present new challenges and new yardsticks to measure progress. Riding on a wave of glory, Botswana stands a real chance of falling from the crest, if complacency creeps in. Just like news papers of old such as “Molekoli ua Becuana”, which appeared in 1856, followed by “Mokaeri oa Becwana le Muleri oa Makuku”, in 1857 as per historian Dr Jeff Ramsay’s versions, our shining light could become a thing of the past.
While still outperforming many other African countries in its overall score of governance as measured by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Botswana is reported to be on a negative governance trajectory. The country has also become inert in the areas of technology use. Democracy needs to be watched closely as people become more discerning and look to a more participatory form, suggesting that other groups, particularly minorities, need to be considered. The Constitution as well needs to be brought up to speed with the lives of the citizenry.
This country needs to give its people the impetus to be patriotic without being reminded how important it is. Botswana must therefore reflect and repeal archaic laws such as those of sedition and embrace changes. Lastly, other African countries have raised up their hands to be counted as outstanding in various ways, stealing some of the shine and reflecting just how competitive the world has become. Botswana must therefore harness all its potential to move with optimal vigour into the next half century and become a world beater.