This month, two years ago, we lost a true patriot and father in Sir Ketumile Masire. He will never be forgotten, especially by those of us who literally grew up under his rule. The country’s second and longest serving President was not without flaws.
In fact, they were many. He concealed a report into possible corruption by members of his cabinet, signed death warrants recklessly and the record would reflect that he was occasionally given to intemperate conduct.
Once, he did manhandle a journalist for what he considered inappropriate reporting and did receive De Beers money as an inducement out of the presidency. It would be impossible to find any political leader who ever was without flaws and RraGaone was not one.
In fact, to some flaws, he did tearfully confess. Through it all, one thing was certain. Few could doubt his love for country and perhaps that during the period of his administration, even at the most disagreeable times, the citizen’s happiness was the primary objective of government. We lived without fear, at a time of relative economic prosperity under a man who was not only a leader, but a father. Botswana felt like family. The nation owes an eternal debt of gratitude to this son of the soil.
Then came his successor, a technocrat and man with enviable western academic credentials. Schooled in nations far away, he indulged liberally in expensive spirits. He was a democrat through. He was often without empathy, failing to put a human face to law and government. It was under his rule that the yellow monster was most active and he often dealt ruthlessly with those in error.
Like his predecessor he signed death warrants like they were garbage disposal orders. He was conservative on matters of defence and liberal on matters of the economy. Some say that his worst mistake was in the choice of his successor and he seems to agree. Overall, he was a good man and a principled leader. He accepted the standard conditions of service of his office and was not demanding on the taxpayer.
If we exclude his farewell presents, including the donkey he rejected, it would be hard to say that Festus Mogae got more from the country than he gave. In fact, it is in my view true to say that the nation does, as with his predecessor, owe him immeasurable gratitude. Soon as his constitutional term was over, he retreated, by and large, to near political obscurity, and accepted the judgment history would give to his rule.
We have had two presidents since Festus Mogae; a soldier and a teacher. And boy, in the combined administrative periods of the duo, spanning a little over eleven years, we have been through hell and back and are possibly on our way back to hell again. Five words best describe the period since the Mogae
The economy has been put to the sword as corruption by politicians soared to astronomical heights none of us could ever have imagined. It was in biblical language Ichabod time; the nations glory departed altogether. Now men and women pretend to be lovers of the people while they are only lovers of themselves, the people’s votes and of the nation’s dwindling wealth. Now, the streets are rife with talk of political assassinations and last week, we are told by sources some consider not to be credible, that a President was hiding in a remote farm from the bullets of political or other adversaries.
It is an era of selective prosecutions and presidential dogfights. Focus has shifted from the people to the presidents. The past eleven and a half years have been about rockstar presidents and sycophantic citizens whose obsession with political idolatry has rendered them complicit in economic rapine and set the nation on course to economic and political doomsday. Never, in our country’s history have politicians been so self seeking; never have they cared so little about the people; ever has the political atmosphere been so toxic. Never has the future of our country been so uncertain.
The ruling party is divided, not on matters of approach to governance but along the desires of its leaders. It has already given birth to two offshoots, the latest being hardly a month old.
What more; foreign billionaires are all over the show, each with unclear and vile motives. The main opposition has not been spared. It is either weak or simply in no electable state, visibly mortgaged to unsanitary foreign capital in a reckless push for the state house. In this election, Batswana must choose between a government that has run out of ideas and a compromised opposition with a bag of false promises and lies on offer.
Regrettably, choices must be made and the choice not to vote is no choice at all. The current political climate does not honour Rra Gaone or his predecessor or the many who worked so hard to build this country out of almost nothing. We owe it to the true sons of this country fallen and living, to redirect our national destiny.
As we approach election time, we must carefully consider the destiny of this nation. Every vote cast must be cast in the national interest. It is not time to vote blindly for party. It is time to vote for good men and women, whichever party they may be coming from. It is the only way out.