Change of Guard at Office of the President

As with all change, the recent hand over of power from Khama to Masisi has been and still is heralded as a great thing for Botswana, Batswana, Africa and the world at large. As with all change, it can either be good or bad. Having survived Khama’s reign as both Vice President and President (20-years), I am indeed excited. No! Excited is an understatement, I am euphoric. I am over the moon. However, I am quite sure my euphoria, my excitement, my being over the moon, might just be short lived.
So, what really has changed? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. But, let me hasten to say the new President is inheriting a very wonderful “PEOPLE”. You are inheriting a “PEOPLE” that once won former President Mogae the Mo Ibrahim award, and can and will, win it for “YOU”, if you do the right things. That says a lot about Batswana. Their being nice is not a symptom of stupidity or timidity. It is a symptom of good nurturing. It is a symptom of a “PEOPLE” who trust their leaders to do the right thing for them and their country. So the new President should not take us for granted. I beg His Excellency! The fact that the “PEOPLE” do not pressurise their leaders in the time between general elections is a symptom of trust in the leadership (though it has not been like that during the past ten years). It is a symptom of respect.
Yes, the new President has promised a lot of reforms. The biggest advantage for the new President is that there is no need to compete with the former President as he did absolutely nothing for the country and its people, instead he almost single-handedly brought the country to its knees. In other words, the new President “o tile go akga maoto. Kana o tsaya mo mothong hela”. “Go akga maoto” to some may mean to relax, or “go itaola”. No! Far from that. I mean to be without competition since the former President has not left any legacy (if he has, then it is unenviable (if that can be the case). There is none to talk about, so to say. Now the current President must move fast to rectify all, if not most, of his predecessor’s reckless undermining of our democracy, the people and the country. This is a tall order President Masisi. I have to appreciate that the new President cannot do all in the seventeen or so months he is left with before the general elections, but he can give it a try, as witnessed by his inaugural address.
Some might ask, as is the norm; “What do you want or expect the President to do?” Respect me, respect Batswana, respect the Presidency, respect the country; that is my answer, for if he approaches his job like that, then nothing can go wrong. RESPECT. RESPECT. RESPECT. Only three little words, with a big potential impact. Spice the RESPECT with an abundance of INTEGRITY and he is destined to win.
Leading a “PEOPLE” with RESPECT and INTEGRITY does not mean the President must not crack the whip. He should start at the top, as he seems to be doing. But first, the new President must hunt “OUR” money. A lot of money has been lost due to unaccountability and/or thievery. There is money that is not accounted for lying around or having been eaten at a lot of places where the country invests. There is still a lot of money somewhere within the National Petroleum Fund’s coffers. The President must get this money and let it circulate.
But! Before anything tangible can happen, the new President has to take a closer look at the Public Service with a view to revamp service delivery to Batswana. It is the people employed in this Service who can turn the fortunes of Batswana and Botswana around. It is these people who are a true reflection of the political party in Government. Their poor or good performance reflects the performance of the political party in Government. Without the public service there is no how the Government can reach the people. In revamping the public service, the President must take cognizance of the fact that people have changed. Like Tswaipe, then of the Trainers and Allied Workers Union (TAWU), once said, “Employees now have far more options and choices than the subservient foot soldiers of yesterday. They demand partnerships and power-sharing and to be part of the decision making process. This requires that the “leaders of today” should have both “social and emotional intelligence”. Add a dose of what O.B.K. Dingake posits, in his book, Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law in Botswana; “people are more ready to accept decisions that go against them if they can, in principle, seek to influence them”, and the President is bound to win. You see, in the thinking of Peter Drucker, “Rank does not confer privilege nor give power. It imposes responsibility”. These are the ingredients that will make the President a darling in the eyes of Batswana; know that the people you lead have changed, they are independent thinkers and they know you have power, but want that power exercised with responsibility.
The reforms that the President needs to zero-in on will certainly require financial muscle. The country does not have money, so it is reported. I say no. The country does have money, lots of it. The President needs to find where this money is going, for, wherever the money is going, it is certainly not benefitting Batswana. The money that is being used for luxury should be redirected to improving the welfare of Batswana and creating employment. It certainly flies in the face of logic for a country to face such alarming under and/or un-employment, and poverty, when Cabinet Ministers are chauffeured in super luxurious BMWs.
As if this is not enough, I hear Judges also want such, and before long MPs will want the same, for if the Executive and Judiciary are entitled, then they also are (it’s a simple fact). We need a balance, Mr. President. It is one thing for me to call on you to create jobs (and I know creation of jobs require money) and not “remind” you where you can get the money. During these trying times we need frugality. We need to be financially prudent. Anyone who thinks the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature need to be chauffeured in super luxury cars, in these trying times, does not have the interests of Batswana and Botswana at heart. There will come a time when we, as Batswana, will call on the Government to take “super better” care of our leaders, NOT NOW!
Maxwell Mothapelaruri Moathudi writes from Selebi-Phikwe