Mmegi Blogs :: Contradictory Indicators
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Thursday 20 September 2018, 12:14 pm.
Contradictory Indicators

It is an extraordinary scenario and one with so many interlocking elements that it seems remarkable that it has prompted so little in the way of examination.
By Sandy Grant Mon 26 Mar 2018, 14:29 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Contradictory Indicators

There has been the index characterisation – the least corrupt and the least happy, together with Yemen, North Korea and Syria. If, for the sake of argument, we accept the first as being more or less correct, we are also obliged to accept the second as also being accurate.

It must be important to pin down which element of the population is so unhappy – the young, the old, the urban or rural dwellers, the frustrated employed or the frustrated unemployed? Are there pockets where unhappiness and discontent is most intense – maybe the North East or the inhabitants of the Kgalagadi and Okavango areas?  And what underlies this unhappiness – disillusionment with the education and health systems – with the prioritising of government expenditure which rates fighter jets as a more pressing national need than the printing of patient and laboratory forms let alone the most basic of medicines, with the unavailability of land and the failings of the Land Boards, perhaps with a continued inability to achieve redress, or perhaps with the stifling of democratic government as a result of the capture by the Executive of so many arms of government.

All this would, of course, amount to disillusionment with government? But all this runs counter to our regular evening BTV viewing where rapturous crowds laud the departing President and shower him with the wherewithal to help get him through another day.

The conclusion would have to be, therefore, either that those who are most unhappy have stayed away from these events or that those surveys have got it all wrong.

On the evidence of these evening shows, however, the country is positively sparkling with happiness lamenting perhaps the departure of a President who, presumably, has proved himself to most judges to be so much better than his three predecessors put together. But all this is, nevertheless, distinctly worrying.

Other countries insist that heads of government declare the gifts which they have received which are either handed over or, if retained, are taxed as per their value. That system appears not to operate here partly because, I believe, Presidents pay no tax and partly because each recipient is presumably free either to retain what has been given or to pass it on to, say a favoured cause or even to his own political party. Since party funding is still secret, an opposition member who had perhaps donated a beast as a gesture of goodwill would never know that this had been sold and the return placed in the BDP’s bank account!

Rather obviously the implications of


this protracted Presidential farewell have not been properly thought out nor sufficient attention paid to the personal assurances that have been repeatedly made about the future.

Thus, the tax payer is obliged to cover the cost of travel for all the civil servants, security people and BTV crews in order that one individual can say a few words and accept even the last chicken from one of the poorest of the poor! A worthy cause, it may be claimed. But there are so many precedents that have now been established – many with the approval of the National Assembly - which could cause havoc in the future. It may be that previous Presidents have also undertaken farewell tours – but it is the extraordinary extent of this one which means that President Masisi, when the day comes, will inevitably appear embarrassingly inadequate if he attempts to do the same but with little public response. Similar factors may also bedevil him.

If the current response is anything to go by, President Masisi would be wise to continue and extend the policies which have presumably gained the current President such extraordinary public adulation. Against that, however, he will also need to take account of those two diametrically opposite indicators, the unhappiness index rating and the decline in the BDP’s vote. But there are other problems.

The National Assembly conceded all the President’s retirement wishes for more and more and more. What will happen if President Masisi is unable to stop the visible, almost daily unravelling of what has been a democratic and accountable government - the last 10 years having seen the loss of so much that had been achieved since Independence.

Even if he loses his first election he will expect, as an ex-President, to receive the same, or even better benefits accorded to his predecessor. A bigger palace and an office that is perhaps larger than the one both individuals used when they were Presidents? But why would an ex-President need a huge office? But who knows? What does anyone get today for P17 million? Any hope that the new President can make the unhappy less unhappy will turn on his ability to create space for himself and perhaps undo or reverse previous policies.

From the assurances that have been made during the farewell tour, the indications, are however, that he will be allowed little space by his predecessor. But without the space needed to do his job, he could end up being be more of a Prime Minister than an Executive President.


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