The demeanour, calmness, clear voice and energy that he exuded as he presented his speech last Sunday, spoke volumes about Botswana’s fifth President Mokgweetsi Masisi's composure.
In particular, Masisi read his speech with clarity for the benefit of his audience. Icing on the cake was probably the posture of a family man that he presented. On his immediate left was Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo, Masisi’s daughter Atsile, his wife Neo ‘Mma-Atsile’ and former president Ian Khama tucked in a corner. Masisi would later indicate that he was the only President who took oath of office with a surviving mother.
After his relatively short speech compared with his predecessors, Masisi took a few steps and faced northwards where he met the wife whom he gently kissed. This was before he passionately hugged his predecessor, Khama as they clung to each other’s breast for a while, in what became known as a presidential hug. It was the end of Khama’s era and now the nation has high hopes pinned on Masisi’s era as it started last Sunday until the next general elections billed for 2019.
As the Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe had explained that taking the event into the National Assembly was just Plan-B as mitigation against the heavy downpours on the day. The National Assembly Plan B seemingly worked against Masisi. It seems Masisi had rehearsed to present his speech outside and the change of plans for him to present indoors denied him the clout of using a proper podium that suited his stature.
In the National Assembly, it seemed the arrangement strained the President a bit as he had to incessantly bow his head a lot to read his speech from a lowly placed podium. To the uninitiated, the President struggled to remove his eyes from the speech.
It was apparent that from the position where Masisi read, that he was a bit tall for the podium, forcing him to stoop for his first ever speech with his eyes cast downward, evidently denying him closer eye contact with his audience.
This was, however, understandable, as it did not even suggest that he was hit by stage fright.
Speechwriter, Tshwarelo Hosia thinks that President Masisi acquitted himself well in terms of providing a fair coverage of issues of national concern.
He argues that those who say ‘same old issues’ must know that the issues will always remain the same and the President cannot be expected to invent issues. “How you dress the issues matters. The speechwriters should always understand the necessity of dressing the same old issues in the language and garb inspiring confidence and hope,” he says.
Hosia holds the notion that when analysing speeches, people must make a distinction between the work and performance of rhetoricians and plain speakers.
Rhetoricians are gifted orators who have a notorious distinction of promising the world only
“A good number of the current crop of politicians is plain speakers and whether this is a blessing or a curse is not for me to tell,” he says, noting that Masisi is a bit of both plain and rhetoric speaker. University of Botswana (UB) political science lecturer, Leonard Sesa finds Masisi’s inaugural speech as an ordinary one lacking the killer punch.
“His speech is lacking. There is nothing in the mould of former president Ian Khama that the nation could remember the Masisi inaugural speech with, says Sesa arguing that the speech dwells much on just ordinary issues.
He is particularly, worried that there is no particular roadmap to focus on as his predecessor came up with the Four Ds and later came up with an additional D.
Sesa does not see any difference between the budget speech and the Masisi inaugural speech.
In his view, the speechwriters should have composed high breed ideas for Masisi to be remembered for. “He should have come up with something new as his roadmap to keep people debating rather than the same old issues.” The political scientist is worried by the speech content, which does not detail his proper roadmap and rather promises to improve all the way, saying it is punctuated with simple rhetoric.
“I think he was just excited and did not give himself sufficient time to come up with a solid speech,” analyses Sesa, noting that Masisi has an educated First Lady who could have helped him do better.
Another UB political scientist, Dr Kebapetse Lotshwao declares: “I may sound negative as I don’t think there was anything new that Masisi offered in his speech, rather it was business as usual”.
Lotshwao is adamant that Masisi chose to continue the status quo instead of offering the nation something new.
He, however, commended the new President for implementing something that has been on the shelves over a decade, Declaration of Assets and Liabilities.
“There must be action against those who are corrupt in State bureaucracy and other sectors of the economy to contain corruption.”
The UB don feels Masisi has omitted some of the issues that are very important under good governance as even corruption he just mentioned it in passing when the nation is struggling with so many incidents of corruption and economic crime.
“For instance, the World Bank has recently ranked Botswana number three in the world on issues of economic or income inequality. This issue has been there for many years and nobody wants to talk about it,” Lotshwao declared worriedly.