His critics may disagree over his achievements thus far, but President Mokgweetsi Masisi has unquestionably been able to re-ignite hope and the belief that better things are coming for Batswana.
Beyond the message of rebirth in the ruling party that propelled the Botswana Democratic Party (BD) to electoral victory, Masisi has been able to reach most corners of Botswana with a message of a new beginning for the country and refocused national priorities.
After 10 years of a Khama regime criticised as increasingly repressive, Masisi from last April, went about ticking all the right boxes in terms of what the majority of Batswana wanted to be corrected. Khama’s attempted return to active politics apparently only galvanised the majority of Batswana (approximately 53% according to the popular vote) to rally behind and defend the revival crusade led by Masisi.
Even his new Cabinet, laid before the nation this week, is congruent with Masisi’s messaging around the national re-ignition of hope. Only three ministers from the pre-election Cabinet feature in the post-election line-up, a fact that alone speaks to some form of spring-cleaning having taken place.
Across the board, the new faces, at least on paper, appear well qualified, experienced and in some cases, formidable indeed. Masisi is on record having said he is focussing on a transformational agenda under which he plans to make major changes in “policy, institutions and mindset to transform Botswana”.
As optimistic as Batswana are, there lies within the general citizenry a stubborn cynicism or foreboding around the new beginning. Many are experiencing a sense of déjà vu due to the cycles of broken promises and hopes they
Politicians have over-promised and under-delivered far too many a times and many Batswana have psychologically retreated into a “wait-and-see” mode to protect themselves from jarring disappointments.
Masisi is making all the right-sounding noises. His Cabinet has all the right-looking faces. Parliament has the right mix of age, educational qualification and experience.
But for many, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
Besides the inherent cynicism borne out of historic disappointment, Batswana will also consider the fact that for all the goodwill and noble intentions of Masisi and his Cabinet, they ultimately operate bound by established structures.
Take for instance the upcoming 2020/21 budget, whose development is currently underway. Try as he may to force through some immediate implementation of campaign or manifesto promises, Masisi will have to operate within the restrictions of fiscal rules, NDP 11 as well as competing commitments and priorities, amongst others.
Bulldozing the Finance Ministry for political expedience will not only scupper fiscal prudence, set a horrible precedent for his tenure, frighten investors, ratings agencies and others, but also ultimately be self-harming for the President.
In this light, it would probably be prudent for the President to use his upcoming State of the Nation Address to reset national expectations and detail what is possible and what is not immediately possible in the national re-ignition.
“It’s a good place when all you have is hope and not expectations”
– Danny Boyle