Dear winning candidate, well done!
The campaign has been difficult, intense and at times disheartening. Emotions have run raw, tempers have flared and patience has been worn thin. Characters have been tested.
You came out on top. Good for you. But now the work begins. The 2019 general election will be remembered as one of the most abrasive in history, with the greatest stakes at play. As the antes were upped, candidates made increasingly bold commitments and pledges to the electorate.
Disappointed in the past by broken electoral promises and mistrustful or even cynical as they are about political pledges, Batswana have rewarded you with renewed faith and confidence to deliver their collective aspirations over the next five years.
The country has shared challenges and aspirations, which are well known to all and hardly need repeating. Job creation, improved health, education and social services, better policing and security, broader economic opportunities and more incisive and responsible utilisation of taxpayer funds.
We need to see candidates immediately begin to walk the talk, even as they celebrate their victories. We need the pre-election rhetoric and grandstanding to give way to dirt-under the nails work.
The country stands at a precipice, with its youth increasingly frustrated by lack of gainful and meaningful employment and other economic opportunities, while grand-scale corruption and the apparent impunity of suspects rob them of their future and diminishes their inherent sense of justice.
Diamonds, the economic mainstay since Independence, are on the decline and will peter out in the next two decades and alternative economic pillars are yet to rise to the level of replacing the precious stones.
While at GDP level, greater economic diversification seems to be taking place, the fact is that the non-mining sectors such as services are actually supported indirectly by the same diamond mining.
Climate change, an issue most candidates failed to address, is emerging as the greatest existential threat to the country since the HIV/AIDS epidemic and yet the long-awaited policy, which should spearhead national interventions, continues to be in the wind.
The danger of climate change for Botswana is in collapsing the rural economy and throwing hundreds of thousands of livelihoods onto an already overburdened social security system, a development that then weighs on other national priorities in an ultimately unsustainable manner.
The pre-election pledges and promises will of necessity give way to the cold hard truths that include the fact that public spending at current levels is simply unsustainable.
The public service will have to face the inevitability of either job cuts, recruitment freezes or wage cuts, while Batswana in general will have to be asked to shoulder greater cost recovery of traditionally ‘free’ public services such as education and health.
Victory is sweet and all the candidates have earned the right to raise their champagne glasses.
As soon as they reset them on the table, however, this is what they have to content with and this is what Batswana, who put them in power expect them to focus on immediately.
“With great power comes great responsibility.”