Just imagine. There must have been many people there who had never previously attended a Presidential press conference. They would have had little idea what to expect. Older hands might have remembered 10 years back that they believed that a new dawn was breaking. It never did of course.
This time around they might have been more sceptical. That said, it did seem that those present were encouraged by what they heard.
The days of the selfie are over, as with approved irregularity and the bypassing of established systems. There is to be proper accounting, transparency, commitment; all the key words but the impression given was that they were genuinely meant. But then came the Salbany affair.
It was with a gut wrenching so- here- we- go- again feeling that I first heard that he had been made a prohibited immigrant and this after such a promising, hoped for beginning. How could it have happened? Non-citizens are guests and must behave like guests. Cross that invisible line and you are a gonner. The notion is not unreasonable.
The assumption has to be that whilst anyone may have stayed here for 10 or 20 years, they had better not try to be an involved member of the community by engaging in its more sensitive affairs. Non-citizens can start businesses, employ people, make money, join Rotary or the Lions and even keep goats but that’s all. So, there was Salbany, blissfully arriving at the Tlokweng border unaware that he wasn’t to be allowed to return here.
Where was he supposed to go? Possibly without enough petrol to make Zeerust, he would have to sleep somewhere in his car. And the next day, see what to do. And then the President admitted that there had been a mistake and that having been prohibited for 48 hours or so from entering the country, Salbany was now not prohibited after all.
Just like that, a mistake. How is Salbany or indeed the rest of us to understand what was such a sad, sorry blunder? Did those in the Office of the President mix up the names so that it was somebody entirely different who was supposed to be chopped? In which case, what had happened to that anonymous individual? Or was it discovered too late that the file on Salbany included information which was incorrect? But from where did this information come?
The supposition has to be that it was provided by the DIS – this after all being its job -and had been assembled in the pre-Magosi era and was already in the system before anyone realised. Speculation? Undoubtedly. But the DIS would certainly have viewed Salbany with more than dislike and would have been quick to label him.
It requires very little to portray a friend as an enemy and then, an enemy of the State, and a threat, therefore, to its security. Take another look at those who have been made prohibited immigrants since 1966.
No reason was given for the action taken against them, but we can reasonably put them into their categories of supposed offence - the Basarwa/San obviously, politics/community affairs and religion.
Few of those we know about were enemies of the State or a threat to its security.
Take the well-regarded John Simpson. Google describes him as the BBC’s overseas correspondent who had reported from 120 different countries. Could it be that the one and only country which refused to let him return was this one?
Or take the late Moruti Bram le Roux who did such marvellous work with the San. In 1993, he was given his marching orders.
As with Salbany, there was a re-think and he was told that he could stay as long as he didn’t do it again.
Tricky because the reason for taking action against him was confidential. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.
Only a DIS would know. In sum, the President’s decision, undoubtedly made as a result of the embarrassing Salbany affair, is to review all the cases involving the removal of unwanted people. This is a welcome step because the Salbany error has made it obvious that something is seriously wrong with the present system.
But let me now take a step back from today to yesterday, to Jeanette Nwako who died last week. Past generations were so very different and people grew up in situations which bore no relationship with those today.
Jeanette was one. She and others had no need of the feminist push of the 80s and 90s. They pushed themselves. Looking back, I still find it remarkable that in the Gaborone Town Council of the immediate post-Independence years, women were so involved.
In the 1965 election, Grace Dambe for the BDP was elected unopposed.
In the 1969 election, Eleanor Gabaake, Rosinah Mannaokoto, Jeanette and Grace Dambe held four of the eight seats on offer with Grace and Rosinah (twice) becoming Mayors and Jeanette a Deputy Mayor.
Bear in mind that in that era of male dominance there were husbands standing behind these ladies who were giving them encouragement and a push.
And in the wings were those other remarkable ladies, Gaositwe Chiepe, Victoria Namane and Friedah Matthews. Remarkable ladies. Remarkable days.