The people’s dreams, hopes and aspirations of a better and prosperous future under President Mokgweetsi Masisi have been either deferred or shattered. All trust is gone.
And more promises are still flowing. The latest made is the urgent creation of more millionaires to beef up the numbers of tenderpreneurs who allegedly benefited from lucrative and mouth-watering COVID-19 business. Curiously, now the recreation of millionaires as if it is the biggest challenge facing the country is a deficit/drought of millionaires has become a top priority.
Under the watch of President Masisi, the country is facing the worst and unprecedented economic afflictions. External reserves built through belt tightening and sacrifices of our forefathers have been wiped off within three years, inflation and various tariffs have gone up, the people’s purchasing power has been eroded and some of those who were in employment in 2019 have joined and swelled the ranks of the army of the unemployed. In the absence of inspiring leadership, our ability as a nation to manage ourselves out of a crisis appears doubtful.
The country is skating on thin ice as it continues to make headlines here and abroad for all the wrong reasons. Corruption is stubbornly refusing to go away as the war that government promised to wage against it has been exposed for what it really is - a phoney war. Our people continue to die like flies because our health care system, which ironically is supposed to give care to the sick, is itself in the intensive care. Obviously, these monumental failures are an indictment on the present crop of the ruling political leadership.
The State President as the captain of the ship must take responsibility for the missteps or he could do himself a favour by identifying and dealing with the Biblical Jonahs in his government who could be held responsible for the storm rocking the ship. Otherwise, he cannot escape the flak. But did our present predicament come as a surprise? No, it did not.
We saw it coming and the signs were as clear as the sky right from the beginning but we chose to look away. Masisi made his intention clear in 2019. He ran a campaign based on self-promotion and building of a cult of personality.
The Wikipedia says a cult of personality, or cult of the leader, arises when a country's regime uses the techniques of mass media, propaganda, the big lie, spectacle, the arts, patriotism, government organised demonstrations and rallies to create an idealised and heroic image of a leader, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. A cult of personality is similar to apotheosis, except that it is established by modern social engineering techniques, usually by the State or the party in one-party states and dominant-party states. It is often seen in totalitarian or authoritarian countries. The BDP presented Masisi as the new Messiah.
The nation is too familiar with the slogan which turned into a song, “Masisi o a re bitsa,” which translates into Masisi is calling us. And the response to his call was an emphatic and unequivocal yes. The campaign revolved around his name and effectively it was his campaign. He raised a lot of expectations of the revival of our nation. America’s former president Ronald Reagan said Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign was anchored on “TRUST ME” and less on America’s purpose and a community of shared values. It can be said that Masisi’s 2019 campaign was equally based on TRUST ME. Indeed the people chose to place their loyalty and trust in him and subsequently overwhelmingly put the fate of the country in his hands. Few people if any at the time did not ask serious questions about the content and character of his campaign. Few people if any asked what package was in store for the country. This was a fashionable name and it was like a new girl in town had arrived.
Now even some of those who were in the forefront of selling Masisi brand are disappointed.
The people should equally receive a fair share of the blame for the failure to subject Masisi’s political agenda to a thorough scrutiny. Due to the fact that everything was all about him it was not much of a surprise when his party gave him unfettered power to govern singlehandedly for almost 12 months under the State of Public Emergency. But in the process, the people grew weary of SOE but conveniently forgot that they were paying the price for apathy and indifference. Still on self-promotion drive, the nation watched as the President announced his intention to exploit his personal connections with prominent businessmen such as Strive Masiyiwa and Steve Harvey to prop up his transformative agenda. This initiative is yet to yield any results. The nation ululated and never advised that this is not the way to develop a country.
The goal of leaders as Simon Sinek observed, “is to give direction and intent and allow others to figure out what to do and how to get there.” Having laid the roadmap, Masisi should have left the details to line ministries.
Now the failure of his friends to create even one single job has turned him into a laughing stock. The culture of blind following took the better of us and we failed to ask the President what he meant when he said, “my government would deliver Botswana’s novel electric powered car.” There was no evidence about the readiness of our local engineers to undertake a project of that magnitude.
There has not been any known investment in building capacity or developing the technology enabling Botswana to embark on a car manufacturing industry. It was never asked whether he meant importing Chinese labour or technology to come and assemble the car on home soil. With all the odds against this project, the nation chose to play along because the news of the coming of an electric car was music to the ears.
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that the President was merely politicking and telling us what we wanted to hear and not what we needed to hear. When he sought office, the governed did not tell him that leaders eat last. In Simon Sinek’s book Leaders eat last, Lt. General, George J. Flynn of the US.
Marines, said: "When you are with the marines gathering to eat, you will notice that the most juniors are served first and the most seniors are served last. Marine leaders are expected to eat last because the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own.” Today, there is an outcry that the government is self-serving. When the President went into a land acquisition spree, acquiring farms the nation cried foul. Integrity matters, further says Sinek. Integrity is the bedrock of our foundation.
According to Merium–Webster ‘s Collegiate Dictionary, “integrity means a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” And this means that operating with integrity is sometimes a higher standard than operating within the confines of the law. When confronted about issues of transparency regarding state acquisition of Tautona Lodge, the government reportedly hides behind the law and Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) Act. One of the many things people rarely tell their leaders is that leadership is about character.
Elected leaders are no saints and they don’t enjoy some Papal infallibility. In another development, the Hollywood style arrest of the deposed Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Isaac Kgosi on charges of tax evasion appears to have been a mistake motivated by political expediency. His arrest gave the impression that corruption-busting agents were on top of their game but this was not to be.
The Welhelmina Maswabi popularly codenamed ‘Butterfly’ case has been dismissed by the High Court on grounds that the evidence brought before the court had been fabricated. The nation is still hoping for delivery of 2019 promises. The COVID-19 by divine grace might disappear sooner than expected. And government will no longer have any excuse.