What an extraordinary contrast it was between the two speeches – between the state of the nation address by the President as head of the majority party in Parliament and the speech of the new leader of the opposition, Duma Boko.
And what an extraordinary contrast between the reactions to those speeches, the one restrained and largely silent and the other marked by the stunned cessation of the usual shifting of sitting position and of the casual postures reflecting indifference and boredom, as reported by The Voice. And again, what an extraordinary difference of approach with the President affirming throughout his extremely long speech that the country is doing very nicely, thank you, whilst Boko ripped such claims apart denouncing the government for its corruption, indifference to massive waste, and sheer incompetence. Both speakers devoted substantial parts of their respective speeches to the needs of the 50% poor, with the President reporting that his government would continue to provide increased forms of social relief, including the Ipelegeng and blankets and radio programmes – whilst Boko insisted that only radical structural change is likely to achieve any real change, anything else being merely a palliative. There is a strange disconnect about these handsomely staged, occasions. Year by year, I read, or part listen to the august speeches which are supposed to enlighten, inform, guide and interest us - and for the most part, they are long, well fashioned, well organised, constrained, and some how disappointing.
I read through much of the President’s recent, as ever, well polished, almost problem free, State of the Nation address and wondered if, somehow, we are all living here in two different worlds? There is a reality and a non-reality, a gap between what is said and what is done with fervent pleas being made that everyone in the new Assembly, regardless of party, should work together for the good of the country. But almost the next day, Btv continues its partisan reporting and 119 BDP supporters, some having been rejected in the recent elections, are unashamedly, and brazenly, made nominated Councillors. It is all about power, of course, with goodwill being markedly absent. But that is because this country functions as if it is a registered, company. The BDP, having won the first election, became the automatic owner of all the shares and therefore routinely appoints the Directors. The annual reports are produced (the budget) and the income derived from diamonds is distributed amongst the shareholders
A reading of Duma Boko’s powerful statements last week, however, indicates his belief that the 50% poor have now stated their wishes that they too need to become, for the first time, share holders in the national company with the power to elect and reject company office holders and to question every aspect of company policy.
I suggest, part tongue in cheek, that unless Boko and his Umbrella party can come up quickly with something truly effective, this country should indeed register itself as a commercial company. The problem for it, however, is that the democratic system adopted at Independence has served to enrich a minority and to marginalise the majority. The current tendency is to blame the Westminster system for this development, not the leadership which engineered the outcome. In reality, there is no electoral system which will restrain a winning political party from effecting its chosen programmes. Small majorities may confine it but will not eliminate its ability to do what it wishes. Nor indeed should the Westminster system be blamed for the practice here of nominating people to Parliament and to District Councils. It was believed by those who drafted the constitution, naively, as it has turned out, that governments would indeed use this provision to give representation to marginalised groups, ethnic, or economic, women, or the handicapped. Unfortunately the provision gave the winning party an additional power tool which it has never been reluctant to use and the original intention was quietly shelved. For me, the decision of tribal leaders in 1968 to cede their mineral rights to the State has proved to be, without question, the foundation, the bed rock on which this country has developed. But today, I do ask myself if those same leaders did not make a mistake in failing to demand that, as a pre-condition of that acceptance, each of their tribal/national communities should be awarded shares on some sort of a proportional basis.