Mmegi Online :: Uninspiring President leads unhappy nation
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Last Updated
Friday 21 September 2018, 15:09 pm.
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Uninspiring President leads unhappy nation

Newly elected President Ian Khama, whose party won majority seats in parliament, but with a minority popular vote, missed a golden opportunity on Tuesday to inspire his unhappy nation. While it is a fact that he is going to deliver the State of the Nation Address in two weeks time, his acceptance speech was crucial - argues Staff Writer BAME PIET
By Bame Piet 2013-10-01 09:46:00 Fri 31 Oct 2014, 15:18 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Uninspiring President leads unhappy nation








The governments of Botswana and United States of America (USA) recently engaged in an exchange of angry words following the arrest of the editor of the Sunday Standard last September.

However, the two countries will never be at par on anything as evidenced by their economies, their population, democratic processes, and their leaders’ level of tolerance amongst others.

When he took office in April 2008, President Ian Khama inherited a happy and hopeful nation, tolerant of each other’s views, and living in a free world where everyone felt free to say anything about the government, or even the president.

Six years down the line, Batswana are the unhappiest nation since 2010. Botswana was in 2012, and 2013 ominously ranked among the top five unhappiest nations on earth, according to the New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index, which made a survey in 151 countries.

Tuesday was the opportune time for the president to assure his nation that everything was normal; that it is good to have opposing views in a democratic society; that he has a vision where everyone should dream of occupying the highest office in the land – the Office of the President.

He needed not rely on a speech written by technocrats, but say it from deep in his heart.

First, President Khama did not acknowledge the participation of the voters; his campaign team; his opponents; the spirit of Batswana as a vibrant and hopeful nation; that different views should not be interpreted as hatred; his experience as he toured the country day and night canvassing for votes; the importance of politics and difference of views/opinions and tolerance; and the role of international election observers.

The president took to the podium putting on a long face and did the usual salutations, as dictated by protocol, before going straight into his speech. One would have expected that the president would, after recognising all dignitaries, diplomats and others, take his time to commend his opponents especially after such a sterling performance by opposition parties and his new team.

He was not the usual President Khama who is known to throw in a gag here and there.

What is even more shocking is the fact that he did not acknowledge the role played by campaign teams – from across the political divide – that traversed the length and breadth of the country to strengthen our democracy while campaigning for their respective parties.

These are men and women who belong to different political parties, but there was not an incident, or a clash that led to spilling of blood. There was no exchange of blows.

This is important!

The president failed to highlight this and urge the parties to uphold this spirit, as it is a distinguishing factor that makes Botswana so special.

As the country goes into its seventh year of drought and shortage of water, it was also opportune time for His Excellency to hint on how his nation has surmounted the challenge and continued to survive, facing each day at it comes.

In her farewell speech, former German ambassador, Annett Gunther, had this to say about Batswana, despite the daily challenges they faced: “Batswana are loving a nation, ever smiling and willing to help even strangers.”

Far ahead of our president, compare the US president Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in 2012 with that of Khama’s after he (Obama) was re-elected.

”And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you have made me a better president, and with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more inspired than ever about the work that we need to do and the future that lies ahead.”

That’s what an inspired president would think of when he addresses the nation that has just voted him in for a second term.

However, Khama’s ice cold speech was, by and large, unintelligible and he must have forced himself to make it.

“Let me congratulate all those from across the country who were elected to Parliament and the local councils. But as we savour our respective victories, let us remain mindful of the fact that the real and urgent work now begins as we come together to move Botswana forward.

“As political leaders it is our responsibility to provide direction and to lead by example, by putting the nation’s interests first while re-committing ourselves to the values of tolerance, mutual respect and self-discipline.

This is what Obama had to say about tolerance, respect, and nation-building:

“The test of perfecting our union moves forward. It moves forward because of you.

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It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and repression. The spirit that has lifted this country from depths of despair to great heights of hope - we rise and fall together.”

He continued: “Whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard, and you made a difference.”

And a tired and lacklustre Khama continued in his Tuesday speech: “As for custodians of a mature democracy, we recognise that elections are the means to a greater end of forming a government capable of translating the popular will into public delivery.

“In a few days from now I shall be presenting before the newly elected parliament a detailed blueprint of how we as the newly elected government propose to continue along our path toward achieving our ideals for a better Botswana.

“Today I will therefore confine myself to confirming what shall be our governing priorities as we move Botswana forward. These priorities, which were set out in my party’s manifesto, shall stand as this administration’s collective performance agreement with the nation.

“They include job creation; food security, expanded land and housing ownership, access to quality education, economic empowerment and eradication of poverty.”

The president went ahead to cite his 5D roadmap of dignity, discipline, development, democracy, and discipline. The president failed to inspire the rural majority whom he had managed to meet in person since the beginning of his campaign four years ago.

He had addressed Kgotla meetings and political rallies where he had a penchant of leaving his audience in stitches with a joke or two.

This is what Obama had to say about his victory, job creation, poverty, and his government’s plans:

“To the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics, some were new this time around, and some of you have been at my side since the very beginning.  But all of you are family.

“No matter what you do or where you go from here, you will carry the memory of the history we made together. And you will have the life long appreciation of a grateful president. You lifted me up the whole way, I will always be grateful for what you have done.”

On his opponents, especially Conservative Party rival, Mitt Romney, and democracy, Obama declared: “We may battle fiercely, but it’s only that we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its’ future.

“Democracy can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each one of us has their deeply held beliefs. We differ when making big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, it stirs controversy and mixed emotions.

“It won’t change after tonight. That’s what politics can be. That’s why elections matter. It’s important. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty.”

President Khama referred to his 5D roadmap in an effort to assure his nation that the future looks good.

“In keeping with this pledge, we as government have all along appreciated the fact that the key to achieving sustainable diversified economic growth and social security lies in the development of our people.

“We shall therefore maintain our focus on the delivery of improved education and training along with the provision of expanded vocational opportunities through our Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) and citizen empowerment initiatives”.

Meanwhile in accepting his re-election, Obama had this to say in 2012:

“I believe we can build on the progress we have made. Despite all the hardships we have been through, I ask you to sustain that hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead, or the roadblocks that stand in our path,

“I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us, that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us, so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.”

However, Khama looked more of a troubled soul than a happy man who has been assured of a second term in office. In-fact, he behaved like a newly recruited employee who cannot show appreciation of his her offer in front of their employer.

Perhaps, the President’s condition will improve when the High Court decides in a week’s time the issue that has made him uncomfortable in-front of his employers – the voters – and he will make an effort to inspire them in due course.

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