Delivering the keynote speech, Vice President PH Kedikilwe waxed lyrical: "The launch signals yet another landmark achievement within Botswana's growing yet vibrant good governance and track record. It also broadens opportunities to attract quality foreign investment. For Botswana this is a big day and achievement for Africa and the Commonwealth. I daresay it is even bigger and we intend to assure it stays that way."
All Batswana might join the VP in his sensation. We are a lucky people. Our land is endowed with natural resources and we enjoy abundant international goodwill. How do we employ this combined good-luck and goodwill? We escaped the devastation of civil strife that was the lot of our neighbours who as a result of the colonial and apartheid legacy continue to nurse slow-healing wounds and lingering mutual suspicion born of the past. We had a head start so to speak. But have we used this head start to stay ahead and ensure that we stay a model of experienced runners who know the advantage of staying in front if we mean to win the marathon human race? We co-founded the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) now the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and were honoured to host its headquarters in the capital city, Gaborone. Have we so far projected ourselves as the chosen of SADC? SADC has a number of protocols which are meant to enhance SADC's democratic image, the 'vibrant good governance' Vice President PHK is lyrical about? Why are we reluctant and hesitant to sign the women quota protocol? We are currently the hindmost in women representation in parliament. I know we are fond of parrying the empowerment of women politically, by pointing to the growing number of women in executive positions in the public service. People appreciate this tokenism of women empowerment. But we all know that it is just that, mere tokenism, for it isn't in the administration where power resides, but in the institutions that wield effective power: the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary! We don't seem to mind how we are squandering the opportunity SADC has bestowed upon us by failing to demonstrate quality leadership as its headquarters. Another prestigious organisation has recently graced our sandy shores, the Diamond Trading Company (DTC). How are we going to run this company to profit Batswana and the countries whose diamonds are aggregated here? Are we going to continue to rely ad infinitum on the same personnel of the multi-national corporations who ran the Central Selling Organisation (CSO) in London? Does the aggregation of diamonds, matter much where it is done or who does it and for whom? With the parlous state of education in Botswana at the moment and the BDP administrative machinery wobbly as I see it, the DTC might be as good as it was in London. Its relocation may be a way to placate the noisy opposition who have been insisting on the issue of beneficiation of diamonds as well as economic empowerment of Batswana. Botswana has been independent for over 46 years. It is worrisome that it is still without relevant skilled personnel and heavily dependent on expatriate workers not only in technical jobs but in mundane administrative chores like running the Botswana Meat Commission! Batswana are not dullards as the status quo might want us to believe. Did we in the course of our long colonial history allow our minds to be indoctrinated in our erstwhile status? Why do Batswana still talk more admirably of Sekgoa or Lekgowa? Anything or anybody attractive and likeable has to be foreign and white! This mental hangover is sickening! Batswana both at the top and at the bottom must quit the demeaning habit of self-denigration. I am not a fan of Robert Mugabe but I appreciate where he comes from.
Now here we have an opportunity to shine with the launch of the Commonwealth Anti-Corruption Centre. Are we going to be the beacon of light to disperse the darkness of corruption that envelopes the world, including our own country in spite of her ranking by Transparency International (TI) as the least corrupt African country? We must bear in mind that not even the overgenerous TI, exempts us from the filth of corruption. I quibble with TI about where we stand on the scale of corruption, not whether or not we are corrupt. As far as most keen observers are concerned, Botswana is as corrupt as corrupt can be; that we are the least corrupt in Africa ought not to be the source of self-backslapping! In fact it should make us grieve that if all the African countries are more corrupt than we, then we have a mammoth task before us to combat this corruption monster. Our only escape route may be in utilising the Centre as a launching pad to mobilise the joint Commonwealth armies using our perceived credentials bestowed by TI and the Commonwealth of Nations, to rout the common enemy. The perception should inspire us to lead by example. African Commonwealth colleagues may want to mimic the institutions, laws and methods we apply to 'fly high' on the anti-corruption scale.
We must be honest with them. We have the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC). I suggest we be candid enough to colleagues, that yes, we have this institution, but it could be improved with independence not only in its operations but in its appointment and to whom it reports, for checks and balances; next we must draw colleagues' attention to the DCEC Act. I am encouraged by VP PHK mention of amendment of the Act and the adding of more legislative pieces to introduce whistle-blowing, Freedom of Information Act and the law on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities, precisely what the opposition has been fighting for and being frustrated by the ruling party. PHK mentions improving of the DCEC personnel conditions of service and provision of the necessary resources to fight corruption. Amen!