Presidential personality cults - Africa's curse

We are a week away from the national elections. There has been so much song and dance about party leaders you'd think they are soldiers returning from battle.  Just too much adulation.

Oh dear Africa; when will you learn? Rock star presidents are a threat to our democracy. Botsalo Ntuane warned about this before. Yes; the “Dear Leader” mentality. Former SA President Thabo Mbeki did too, warn of the noxious phenomenon of creating “anointed personalities”.

He warned of creating little gods that are not answerable to anyone. The “Dear Leader” mentality of which Ntuane alluded to, is the biggest threat to our democracy and to national development.

What nonsense is; “E seng mo go Kgosi Kgolo” and “Masisi o a re bitsa”. I don’t say we should be copycats but fancy this; across the Atlantic, Obama said; “Yes We Can”. Even crazy Trump said, “Make America Great Again”. What stupid party runs under “Boko for President”

when there is no direct election of the President. What does that have to do with the price of salt? A group of dimwits even calls itself the Boko Defence Force. No; not UDC Defence Force. That’s where we are.

Legend has it that Thabo Mbeki wrote a letter to President Zuma upon being instructed to be part of the ANC campaign without having been consulted.

In the letter, Mbeki warned of a rise in political personality cults. He cautioned the man who took over from him as President, that the post liberation party vanguard were breaking away from the sacred traditions of the ANC. Zuma was being adulated to levels unprecedented in the ANC.

And boy, he was loving it.  He reminded him of at least 20 great African political stalwarts, including our very own Seretse Khama who shunned being turned into cult figures.  He was referring to the “Kill for Zuma” slogans being chanted at the time. 

Everything was about saving Zuma. The national interest had been relegated backstage. Mbeki refused to be part of an ANC that was built on a “Zuma campaign train”. He reasoned that the hero-worshipping was alien to the ANC.  He said that both Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu shunned “Demi God” status, however tempting it may have been.

Back home, the BDP is determined to build its image around President Masisi.  There is a “Sisiboy” craze. The BPF swear on Kgosikgolo. I never heard them say, “Eseng mo go Butale”.

The UDC rhyme and chant Boko for Botswana. How about “Botswana For Batswana”? How about putting the people first? Across all parties, songs have been composed rallying the rank and file to heed to the calling of the leaders.  No wonder African presidents get so obsessed with titles. CNN say, Donald Trump.

BBC say, Boris Johnson. The South Africans say President Cyril Ramaphosa. Here, in this desert state it's, “His Excellency, The President of the Republic of Botswana, The Honourable, Dr. You Know Who?”

This must stop. Saying “President Masisi”, is enough respect. Same for any other who might assume the seat. Who needs, “The Lord of the birds of the Air and the Fishes of the Oceans”.

It is that kind of sycophantic adulation that has brought us here. “Mong wame” is a feudal salutation traditionally reserved for royals, not political leaders. Let us keep it there. Politicians are servants. They must address the Public as “Beng bame”.  We have got our priorities wrong.

I have a quarrel with this trend of making rock stars out of political leaders and going orgasmic whenever we see their images on television. The cult worship dulls people’s senses.

They virtually surrender their brains and rob democracy of the collective intellect and critical thinking necessary for national development and for keeping leaders in check. The nation went into jubilation upon Masisi assuming the reigns of power because according to many, the former president was authoritarian.

Already, the same cult worship that led to the numerous blunders of the bygone regime, is being nurtured again. There is really no hope because the opposition, UDC, have caught the bug too. Say something about Duma Boko and you be lucky if UDC members don’t tell you that your mother plies the red light district. 

 I was on radio the other day contending that Section 41 of the Constitution of our country should go. The Provision says that a President can’t be prosecuted whilst in office.  It is part of the problem.

I contended, and still do, that the fight against corruption begins with putting the Presidency on a short leash. There is no reason why a stealing President cannot be prosecuted whilst in office.

There is no reason why oversight institutions cannot be appropriately resourced and put by the constitution beyond the predatory and thieving hands of politicians. We have enshrined unaccountability and impunity in our laws. Barrack Obama famously said that Africa does not need strong leaders but strong institutions. 

Even as he did, our African brethren north of the Ramokgwebana river were busy printing “Chitenges” with faces of former President Mugabe. At the same time, some Batswana were busy comparing former president, Ian Khama to Jesus Christ.

Someone even said that he wished God could subtract from his years of life and use same to extend Khama’s life. Elsewhere, that would have been blasphemy. But this is Botswana and Botswana is an African country.

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