On the electric car

The first time I heard about the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s plans to build an electric car I dismissed it off hand. I wondered, why an electric car, of all things we could possibly spend money on as a nation?

We are yet to produce bicycles. It sounded more like trying to climb the tree from the branches. Would we finally be getting the children off the donkey carts? Why not just build a car with a combustion engine? Or, is it about going green?

Still, I don’t know why precisely the electric car was chosen as a measure of our technological capacities. But then I remembered that it is not really difficult to build a car. Bush mechanics do that every day and they have never been to school. Just see the kind of cars on the roads. In some cases, only rust holds them together. 

I had a fear of a more substantial type. We just came out of Fengyue, whatever the name. How a premier Botswana project ended up with a Chinese name remains a mystery to me. By the way, I have no issue with the Chinese. I am just concerned how decadent of pride we can be. Fengyue was that crazy project into which a quarter of a billion Pula was spent and not a single window shrapnel was produced.

The Chinese simply pocketed the money and left and all the President could tell us was, “re jelwe”, a coinage which in Setswana has unpleasant coetal undertones. I am only being polite because I am writing for a family newspaper. Sometimes I think that that is where our road with the Chinese went into the woods.

That, we befriended the Dalai Lama just to fix the Chinese government for what their citizen economic hitmen did. But then I know I would be very wrong. Of course no one was apprehended and the DCEC were kept securely at their barracks which is what happens when politicians and the elite brazenly steal. I mean three quarter of a billion gone and no one is ever suspected or apprehended. Fengyue was not about glass any more than it was bout an electric car. It was just an excuse for capital outlay; a scheme to rape the fiscus. We absorbed the loss in silence. Then we sold the miserable looking factory shell for the price of a fat cake.

You see, my problem is not that we could not build an electric car. Frankly, I think we can. Look how many engineers we have produced over the years. Many of them are soya bean suppliers. In between government tenders, they drink beer because they have nothing else to do.

If we pooled together their energies and talents, we could surely come up with something to boast about. And there are so many other Batswana who are just excellent in other work. These are really intelligent people and the interplay between the different skills necessary for pulling the project off would be spectacular. It would put us well on our way towards technological breakthroughs we never even envisaged. Who cares if we fail? We might just make the electric car, and if we fail, I am certain that we will, at least, achieve something as functional as a parliamentarian. Something honourable, expensive to maintain, loved, but of no practical utility and consequence.

 And yes, we have another university in Palapye that is supposed to be producing more engineers who are going to need jobs. My fear is that we might just end up with another black hole into which public money would go never to be seen again.

We may suffer exploitation yet again at the hands of heartless foreign hitmen who go around the world selling and stealing dreams. That it would be just another excuse for grand theft and criminal impunity. I would be naïve to hope that we have learnt from our mistakes because our so called failures were not, in fact, mistakes. They were masked acts of economic rapine.

But then I still support the dream of an electric car. I support it because we have not had any meaningful technological program in our national life. I support it because it would unlock opportunities in other sectors of the economy necessary for job creation. I support it because it will, as John F. Kennedy said of the moon effort; “measure the best of our energies and skills”.

I am not concerned whether the vehicle will sell. I am quite certain government and parastatals will buy it. We cannot achieve anything on pessimism. Sometimes we must take a leap of faith and dare to dream.

I must confess that the idea that a strategic partner could be roped in to assist in the effort does not sit well with me. It begs the question whether we will simply be a European assembly plant and whether we can properly claim it as a national project. If we cannot do it without the better fraction of the human capital coming from our own children, then let us not do it altogether. Let us focus our energies on other technological pursuits we can surmount on own effort. They same shame on you if you fool me once, and shame on me if you fool me twice. True, Re jelwe.

I second the motion. Let us build the electric car.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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