What will be Botswana’s “New Deal” after September 30?
“Throughout the nation men and women, forgotten in the political philosophy of the government of the last years, look to us here for guidance and for more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth… I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people. This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms. Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win in the crusade to restore America to its own people”- Franklin D. Roosevelt: The New Deal, July 2 1932.
One tragedy resulting from the recent bickering between ordinary citizens- on whether or not Botswana’s 50th Independence should be celebrated- is that no leader, not least within the BDP, seized the opportunity to pitch a basic new vision for our country the promise of which we can be sure will remain in the tips of our people’s tongues after September 30.
Like with all previous independence celebrations, we are almost being asked to extol our past to the point that the future itself is projected as a concern for another day, and yet there can never be a better juncture for a country to put its head on the block and make itself a bold “new deal” than on the occasion of its half century of self rule.
In his acceptance speech as the Democratic Party presidential nomination on 2 July 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt pledged “a new deal to the American people”, which represented a break from the norms of the ineffective Republican Party leadership which had failed to provide economic solutions during the Great Depression. When he won the presidency overwhelmingly in November that year, FDR did not only win a political battle, but through revolutionary economic proposition in industry, agriculture, finance, waterpower, labour, and housing- gave Americans hope for employment and improved lives in the following years.
In 2011, when responding to The State Of The Nation Address (SONA) the then Leader of Opposition, Botsalo Ntuane, gave a reverting bold speech on how the country could establish the Second Republic “because the period following the ascendancy to power of the 1st April 2008 administration was fraught with clear and present threats to our founding values as a democratic nation.” As a result, Ntuane envisioned that Botswana would be reborn when the opposition wins the 2014 and that in their government Batswana will enjoy great social justice, rule of law and economic prosperity.
While Ntuane’s credibility was later shredded when he retraced his steps back to his old party, the BDP, he represented a desire often heard among many ambitious futurists of this country who say they are tired of hearing about the story of the Three Chiefs, Seretse’s love story with a white woman and the few kilometres of tarred road that used to exist in this country.
While it is often admitted that the ruling party achieved a lot of things for Botswana, there is a feeling that our country, for the proportion of the natural resources it has, should have aimed to unshackle itself from its third world status and pursued an aggressive and futuristic development agenda akin to that pursued in Scandinavian and Asian countries. Many people have argued that many opportunities were lost due to shear short-sightedness, and the paternalism that would later engulf government which is often pointed to as the source of the corruption and impunity rife in the country.
Vision 2036 which every Motswana should be pegging his/her hope is generally viewed as a carpet under which is buried the failures of Vision 2016: which still leaves the feeling that the future of our country should be spoken to, to propagate a belief among our people that the next 50 years are worth looking forward to.
The rate of unemployment, failure to diversify the economy and the inability of the country to produce food and the acute lack of industries still demonstrates that had it not been for diamonds, our country would be a sad basket case.
While one would like to pre-empt the president’s Independence Day message, it’s obvious that he will tout achievements of his party, and as an outgoing president, it is unlikely that he will inspire the country or outline any bold new vision, even from his own party. So, there will still remain this gulf, this compliance to celebrate the last 50 years and nothing concrete about the next 50 years, even ahead of the hard economic times that await the country in the next half century.