We are back to Citizen Economic Empowerment.
By the way, corruption, is one of the biggest hindrances to citizen economic empowerment. Forget what they taught you; corruption simply means the selling of economic opportunities belonging to the people, by those in power, to the highest bidder. In most cases the highest bidders, are those who have immediate access to capital. Corruption is the disempowerment of the lower and middle classes and the retention of wealth in the hands of the privileged elite. The corrupt generally don’t reinvest in the economy. They stash loot in the Cayman Island, buy expensive toys, and beachfront houses. The most they contribute to the job market is underpaid house maids, grounds-men and chauffeurs. The result is growing income disparity, socio-economic despondency, unemployment and the stagnation of the economy. In all these, it is the poor that suffer. Defeating corruption should be a specific national objective. Regrettably, the very people who are supposed to be leading the effort, invariably turn out to be the corrupt. That alone, explains why the DCEC remains under the Office of the President. It is simply to keep the entity on a short leash. There is no other explanation.
One of the most underdeveloped sectors in our economy, is dam tourism. I raised this subject with friends the other day. We have good dams in Botswana, from Dikgathong, Ntimbale, Shashe down to Letsibogo. Away from the rich Okavango, now alienated to politically connected white people, the pleasure and leisure sectors beckon around the nation’s magnificent dams. Whole rural economies could be uplifted if this sector was to be given the attention it deserves. I discussed with friends, the other day, that the relatively small Mogobane Dam, which is really an oversized swimming pool, could change the fortunes of the village. Same with Bokaa, Gaborone, and Nnywane Dams. But all these are underexploited while communities wallow in poverty and unemployment.
Government decided at some point, that this is a sector that required some attention in its economic diversification and employment creation efforts. It was a good decision, except that it was a bare-faced lie. So, what happened? Government began a process of expropriating land around dams from indigenous farmers and communities. This was the first stage of citizen economic disempowerment in a grand scheme of corruption. It was an exercise not unlike the relocation of the Basarwa from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
It all happened with amazing stealth. False pretexts were given for the expropriations and people got paid peanuts for giving away pricey chunks of invaluable land. Batswana were not told about dam tourism, nor were they told that they were in fact being pushed out for the elite. They were simply told that
Batswana, ever so acquiescent, obliged and gave their farms and fields away. Meanwhile, a dam tourism strategy was being hatched, the ultimate objective of which was to ensure that the elite got all the prime land around dams, so they could enjoy power boating and sundowners, away from the indigenous natives of the dam areas. Politicians were already feverishly lining up for the land grab and imagining beautiful sunsets. Fortunately, government has been unable, so far, to take the evil design to its logical conclusion. By the way, I have been involved with this subject in my professional capacity, so I do know what I am talking about.
The Dam tourism strategy, has stagnated because of corruption, but it need not be. Dams must be developed for the upliftment of local communities, mostly indigenous citizens. We cannot afford to lose the Okavango, and then lose Dam sites to briefcase non-indigenous merchants. Government must never be allowed to auction our dams to the foreigner and to the elite and their friends to enjoy powerboating. For once, the indigenous people and local communities must be given preference to benefit from local resources. The areas upon which the dams are built are their birthright.
The dam tourism strategy must be built around the empowerment of local communities and the retention of land in the hands of Batswana. What we need are strategic policies and business models to help them harness dam tourism potential and not further dispossession of the indigenous people. Government must publish its strategy on dam tourism for debate. The public should not only hear from the Daily News that applications are invited from the business community for available dam tourism sites by which time the sites would have already been allocated. Government must put Batswana first.
It is imperative that any future economic policy drawn must be drawn with specific focus on the indigenous citizen. This is not only in the interest of the economy but also in the interest of national security. The talk of Batswana Ba Sekei that the President hyped in the run up to the 2019 elections, should not just be vain rhetoric. As Batswana grow increasingly despondent and appreciate the extent to which our leaders have sold out, inter racial tensions would rise. This must be avoided at all costs. It can only be avoided when they are assured that their leaders are on their side. We can start with Dam Tourism, whilst we work on recovering the Okavango.