FRANCISTOWN: The interests of politicians and voters are inextricably linked. Hence, it is not surprising that some politicians throw caution to the wind instead of erring on the side of caution as a measure to safeguard their votes and appeal to potential voters for elections ahead.
The parceling out of food and other essentials during the coronavirus (COIVD-19) era to some members of the public who were gravelly affected by the stay-at-home protocol has rekindled this situation.
From observing how politicians reacted to the issue even in Parliament when the debate to ease some lockdown restrictions was in full swing, it was clear that most Members of Parliament (MPs), if not all, were on the side of their voters.
The majority of MPs held the view that many people who qualified for the food baskets in their constituencies did not get them.
Although their sentiment was correct in some instances, an investigation carried out by The Monitor later discovered that some voters used the influence of their political representatives (MPs and councillors) to get food even though they did not qualify for the food parcels.
The common modus operandi used by some households (in this case families) to get food from social workers was to feign that they were not sharing food even though they were blood or close relatives and resided in the same place.
In instances where social workers would not swallow their word, hook, line and sinker, the families enlisted the help of their councillors and or MPs to get to push their agenda.
The politicians would then push that agenda even though they were very much aware that what was said by some of their constituents was entirely false.
The involvement of politicians to get food, however, was a toss up. Some councillors canvassed by this publication attested to that. They admitted that the situation placed them at the mercy of their voters.
One councillor even likened the situation to a businessperson who is held at gunpoint by thieves and is instructed to show them where the keys of the money safe are kept.
“It is a very difficult situation that cannot simply be shrugged off. Although it is a situation that we cannot do under normal circumstances, for us it was a matter of political survival since voters determine the longevity of our positions. I wish that no politicians get to endure what we experienced again. Our voters made us lie, but there was nothing we could do,” a councillor told this publication on condition of anonymity.
A political science lecturer at the University of Botswana (UB), Dr Kebapetse Lotshwao, is of the opinion that politicians side with voters for purely selfish reasons even in situations whereby they are very much aware that the voters are not telling the truth.
“They want to endear themselves to voters as they know they will need their support in future elections. The problem with situations like this one is that this leads to wastage of public resources that could be channelled to good use elsewhere. As public leaders entrusted amongst others with guarding public resources, politicians must desist from some of these practices,” a worried Lotshwao opined.
Another UB politics expert, Leornard Sesa, echoed Lotshwao’s words.
Sesa said first and foremost, the COVID-19 food situation has clearly shown that majorities of people like to depend on government for many things.
“This dependency syndrome is now showing up.
The intention of the government was to help people who genuinely deserved to be helped because of the lockdown. But as it turned out, it looks like Batswana want to rely on the government too much. In the same breath, politicians are only concerned with votes for future elections.
They will do whatever it takes to satisfy the needs of their voters even if the voters are wrong… Some people who did not qualify ended up giving false representations to social workers in order to get the food because they have the mentality that the food is provided by government,” Sesa said.
He added that the relationship between politicians and voters is what one may refer to as “you scratch my back and I scratch yours”.
He continued: “In the first place, it is wrong for politicians to behave like that. Our elected political leaders make policies that govern our lives.
It is a fallacy for them to now turn around and do what is not good while they expect people to always do what is in the best interest of the country. These types of politicians are doing so to solely endear themselves with voters for future elections.”