Mmegi Blogs :: Who needs the other the most- The leader or the led
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Friday 23 February 2018, 16:00 pm.
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Who needs the other the most- The leader or the led

It is, of course, awesome. But not merely awesome, it is also a phenomenon, mystifying, perplexing and fascinating.
By Sandy Grant Mon 05 Feb 2018, 13:23 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Who needs the other the most- The leader or the led








It is also great theatre as we are given the privilege of watching so regularly on Btv news. The President’s current farewell tour around the country is without precedent both in this country and I suspect, outside it. But is it a one off or due to be repeated? No constitutional monarch would see a need to make such a tour nor indeed would either self-appointed Life Presidents, elected Prime Ministers or other Executive Presidents. It is impossible to believe that the country’s three preceding Presidents, Seretse Khama, Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae would ever have considered undertaking such tours despite the fact that all three, in contrast with the current President, had secured for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) a majority percentage of the popular vote.

The only possible equivalent may be when a great sportsman bows out at the end of his/her career and does a lap of honour.

It would seem that this country has once again broken new ground and provided for the rest of the world an initiative that other national leaders might wish to emulate. On the other hand, they like ourselves, might first want to try and understand exactly what is happening and how and why it is happening? In its editorial, the Gazette (31.1.18) tried to answer the first question by suggesting that Batswana tend to revere their leaders and that this leads to a culture whereby those who lead are presented with multiple gifts of thanks by those who are led. I have a difficulty with this explanation because I believe that past leaders have always been respected even feared but certainly not revered. 

Just think of the three ex Presidents and then throw in the Dikgosi Bathoen, Seepapitso, Kgari, Tshekedi, Molefi and Linchwe. But really, what is happening here? The people up and down the country may be wanting to thank the President for ushering in a new Golden Age which they recognise and for which they are grateful. But is there any evidence that this is how they see matters? Is it for them, relevant whether the last 10 years have been hugely beneficial or a deeply discouraging slide downwards? In other words, there must be other factors at play.

But what could these factors be? Which is more important, the President’s need to be thanked/revered or his agreement that selflessly, he should give them that opportunity? So, he goes around the country during his term giving blankets to the poor and then at its end, they

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give back to him far more than they ever received. It is indeed bewildering.

But then, if no record was ever kept about the number and value of the blankets given out during those 10 years, it is improbable that there will be any record of what has been gifted to him in return. From the news report to date, it would seem that the latter must far exceed the former. But how does this relate to the tax system? All of us are required to provide information about income received, gifted or otherwise. 

But how could such information be provided if no record has ever been kept? But who should be keeping such a record and what precisely is the duty of that individual and to whom? Gifts of appreciation are being routinely showered on the President for doing no more than the job he undertook when he was sworn in. Nevertheless, the National Assembly has also gifted him, at his request, an extraordinarily generous retirement benefit. But still this is not enough! To be added will be the anticipated farewell gifts to be made by the BDP with the National Assembly, the BDF  and parastatals feeling that they too should chip in. The end of term total must be more than considerable.

How much does anyone want or need? But there still remains that question of how? The how is happening because the government has agreed somewhere along the line that such a tour is fully justified and that the taxpayer should cover the full costs of transport, security, accommodation and TV at an average of perhaps a quarter of a million per visit? Or is no approval needed? And then there is that awkward question about soliciting which is so central to this extraordinary scenario and which can, probably, never be resolved. Are the people soliciting him or is he soliciting them? Tricky. But then gifts given to him personally are taxable whereas gifts given to him in any other capacity should be declared and made the property of the State.

It seems unlikely that either will ever happen. In the end, we may all wonder about the end of term needs of the President and the end of term needs of the poor and the relationship between the one and the other? How can it possibly happen that the President should end so much better off than the poor he sought to advance? It is all so much more than extraordinary.

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Etcetera II
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