If one is not connected to social media, you may have missed the cry of the past weeks, were many Batswana are becoming impatient with the promises of the Masisi administration.
What is trending beyond social media is that Batswana are increasingly asking themselves what is the vision that the Masisi administration has for Botswana. What is their business plan amidst the country facing the triple threat of stagnating economic growth, rising unemployment and high inequality? Elections have come and gone, so have the election petitions. State of the Nation (SONA) came. So did the Budget Speech. Still no plan exists. The line of a 1,000 plus job seekers for 12 advertised posts kwaga Ngwaketse this week calls for a national dialogue and demand that we put our government into terms on jobs now.
One would have thought that Masisi would have used the State of the Nation address as a platform to share his new vision for the country, to demonstrate that he is in touch, that he is the know and that he has a pack of cards of policy interventions to put in place structural reforms that can reverse the downward trend in Botswana’s growth potential and competitiveness.
One would have expected the budget by his government economic mind Dr Matsheka to give us the details of the so-called economic transformation and building a knowledge-based economy. None was forthcoming. Instead economic lyrical was used to try confuse us using the different economic terms that mean literally the same thing. There was repetition of the same things that we have heard before. Like I said last week, no line by line explanation of how he is going to create jobs, how he is going to safe our parastatals and how is going to grow the economy.
I have come to conclude that President Masisi has three main related challenges, which by virtue extends to the rest of his administration.
The first is a personal challenge: He lacks charisma and a fear factor. What makes it worse he inherited big shoes. His predecessor with all the wrongs he may have had, had presence, charisma and a do attitude. Charm offensive is needed in leadership to rally the troops and get things done. Fear factor is needed in getting Cabinet to be cohesive, and to perform knowing if they don’t, they will be fired.
The second challenge is that of competency: Masisi must prove that he has the commercial acumen to run a government competently. Economic transformation is not going to come out of speaking good English alone, but by technically being competent to devise strategies and policy interventions to lead the country out of the current mess it finds itself under. Economic transformation to be delivered needs
The third challenge is credibility: Our President is a habitual promise breaker. You haven’t heard it from me, but anyone who has come into contact with my dear President speaks of broken promises. How many people did he fool that there were going to be his Vice President? Not so long ago, the President told the desperate Batswana that it is going to be easy with him and he’s going to create many jobs. After the World Economic Forum in Davos meeting, the President made a sudden about turn, and said it was not his responsibility to create jobs. This about turn habit brings into concern the genuineness of our government’s commitment to some of the proposals they have brought forward via the SONA and Budget Speech. Are they seriously going to deliver on them?
History has taught us that our previous Presidents tried in different humble ways in building our country. Sir Seretse Khama as the founding President put in the necessary architecture of the constitution, the operations of government and so forth. President Ketumile Masire was the infrastructure President. He built schools, clinics, roads, water and services to the rural areas. President Festus Mogae fought and won the HIV/AIDS scourge by rolling out ARVs. Mogae was also a technocrat whose other major achievements among others was the diamond beneficiation. President Ian Khama attempted with the 5Ds though later he got derailed with his obsession of the DIS and his blue-eyed boy Isaac Kgosi. But it is indisputable that he brought Botswana out of a terrible Global Recession and made some strides in anti-poaching, tourism and conservation.
I will be first to admit that it is too early to make a definitive judgement on Masisi’s presidency. April marks two years of him being in power, although it feels like a whole full term.
But many problems we face now of repent unemployment, low salaries, failing parastatals, a stagnant economy and an education crisis require that we now start demanding for his performance now. Botswana has no time to wait. History teaches us that the challenges of moment make or break leaders – depending on responses.
Masisi and BDP told us that it was going to be easy with him. Quite the opposite, it’s not been an easy two (2) years and instead the situation is getting worse. The current economic crisis was an unique opportunity for Masisi to show how it was going to be easy with him.