Botswana has lost its shine

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Under the headline “Under the surface it is not all glitter”, last week’s edition of the renowned international Economist magazine gives the former President Ian Khama faint praise for his 10 years at the helm of Botswana.
While acknowledging financial and economic stability under Khama, the magazine calls him out for depending on advice from a “too narrow circle of friends”, and his “fondness for the armed forces has led him to buy an unnecessary arsenal of fighter jets, tanks and armed vehicles.”
However, the Economist’s most damning observation is reserved for what the magazine describes as a “corruption (which has) spread on his watch, and the bullying Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services, run by his confidant Issac Kgosi, which has become too big for its boots.”
The magazine – with a global readership of over three million is behind the local private media’s call for Kgosi’s firing which it says would be an “early signal of good intent” by the incoming President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
However, in addition to taking the Economist’s advice, new President Masisi may also like to recall the days when his late father was in the cabinet of Botswana’s founding President, Sir Seretse Khama. The late Edison Masisi would have heard Sir Seretse speak many times in both private and public. He would have listened to Sir Seretse as he developed, and then promoted an integrated set of national values – Democracy, Development, Unity and Self Reliance.
President Masisi (we will have to get used to this) must have heard his late father address Kgotla and Freedom Square meetings, when he was in short trousers, calling on Batswana to heed the words of Sir Seretse when he said “democracy, like a little plant does not grow or develop on its own. It must be nursed and nurtured if it is to grow and flourish. It must be believed in and practiced if it is to be appreciated.”
The opposition could well learn from Sir Seretse’s words. The current childish squabbling does nothing to promote democracy and instead of fighting among themselves, they would do well to heed Sir Seretse’s advice and “nurse and nurture” the democratic process if they wish to ever take power.
Batswana should also take note of Sir Seretse’s words of wisdom on Self Reliance. Linking the concept with democracy he said “it is not enough to vote every five years and leave everything to politicians an civil servants in between … It is essential that people, including the workers, should at all times be able and ready, not only to put their views to Government, but to make an active and constructive contribution to building our nation.”
Addressing the youth, he said “we have imbued the nation with the spirit of Self Reliance and in the final analysis we have enabled our various tribes and ethnic groups to seek and find each other with the objective of molding a united nation which we Batswana have undoubtedly become.”
Sir Seretse summed up his personal and political philosophy under the concept of Kagisano – the notion of pride in building and shaping the nation together.
We never knew what the outgoing President’s personal and political philosophy apart from an abortive attempt to introduce Discipline as one of Botswana’s core values. We never really knew what former President Mogae, or even the late President Masire were thinking in terms of an holistic political and moral philosophy to guide the country.
Without such a compass, a nation, and a country, becomes lost to itself; as we wander through the wilderness of a society seemingly bent on self-destruction through corruption and the disappearance of “botho”.
As President Masisi (it is starting to roll off the tongue) starts work, in addition to remembering the words he heard as a child, could do well to tell us what he thinks; what is his political and moral philosophy?