This disposition does not seek to refute nor condone the perception or reality of the existence of witchcraft.
For those who hasten to rebut, the gist of this treatise is to expose the danger in blaming witchcraft and witches or occults instead of blaming the political system for failing the people.
The argument is that the witchcraft scapegoat is likely to exonerate politicians or the government from blame.
As Dirk Kohnert argues, we are likely to resort to “psycho-social reaction to African crisis instead of questioning decision-making processes and promoting equal access to resources and opportunities”.
Blaming witchcraft for the people’s misfortune and lack of opportunities is likely to create a witchcraft scapegoat for the failure of government policies and rendering public scrutiny and accountability an illusion.
Speaking as a Botswana Congress Party (BCP) political activist, one Lotty Manyepetsa makes an interesting analogous parable of an unemployed youth who was told by a witchdoctor that he is not bewitched by anyone but by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, his own government and Ian Khama.
This is not foreign to a lot of Batswana, who are told by traditional doctors that they are unemployed or in poverty because they are bewitched by their parents, siblings, neighbours, relatives and friends.
It is common knowledge that they are never told the truth that they are unemployed because of the failure of government policies.
Manyepetsa’s parable speaks volumes and it questions government policies and lack of political will as a main contributor to chronic poverty and unemployment.
Furthermore, there are hidden social conflicts occurring as a result of the witchcraft scapegoat. While Botswana has won accolades as a peace beacon, it is however unfortunate that families and communities fight everyday and neighbours always accusing others of witchcraft for their misfortunes instead of blaming the structural and systematic functions.
The State is aware of the conflicts more especially in rural areas that continue to perpetuate unabated due to witchcraft accusations.
This has left families and communities in loose ties. Instead of cleaning the system or holding the ruler accountable, the ruled are likely to fight against each other in many instances. Beyond the family setting, the scapegoat is also a tribal or ethnic issue.
It is common knowledge that Children in Botswana grew up being told not to marry from certain ethnic groups. Most evidently, there is a song that goes; ‘ga ke batle go nyala kwa ga Ngwaketse, Bangwaketse ba loya ka segabone’, which confirms tribal bigotry due to witchcraft accusations.
This was more detrimental to women than men and has the potential to frustrate government’s affirmative action or positive discrimination policy if there is any. One of the factors that left the brutal 1994 Rwadan genocide unabated was the witchcraft issue.
Hutus killed Tutsis calling them ‘cockroaches’ and labelled them witches. The political elites benefited from such a scapegoat to profit from ignorance and chaos.
While the government of Botswana has been deeply concerned by the proliferation of prosperity or fire churches and labour scams, the solution is far-fetched.
One would argue that it is not the problem of the Church that people find refuge at Church, but it is a result of deprivation and structural failure. Traditional doctors and prophets are visited everyday by those who want to turn their misfortunes of unemployment into employment fortunes.
By virtue of the failure of government policies and actions, the people resort to seeking help elsewhere. In a popular prophesy referred to as ‘Pamela Why’, a prophet in South Africa shocked many, as he told a woman that she was being bewitched by her friend who was next to her at the time of the prophesy. This is not foreign to South Africa and is very rampant in Botswana where the social fibre is increasingly becoming less vibrant.
When the government fails to emancipate people from lack, then the people are likely to find help from prophets and fortunetellers than to rely on a government that has promised nothing but just empty humpty dumpty.
What happened to the social construct? The ruler promises to deliver and the ruled (voters) vote the ruler into power in anticipation of delivery not excuses.
When people hasten to blame witches and occult powers, then the role of government is reduced to nothing but an observer who is even of lesser significance when compared to a pawn in the game of chess.
Deprivation and lack of opportunities in a well-resourced country like Botswana is a sign of weak or poorly aligned policies or poor decision-making processes not witchcraft. If the witchcraft scapegoat persists unwarrantedly, then the government stratagem and polity will continually disintegrate. As an economy transitioning from a factor driven to knowledge economy, creativity is key. However, the creativity or innovation culture is likely to suffer a defeat at the hands of the witchcraft scapegoat.
People will no longer work together in harmonious creative spaces because they are likely to argue that ‘witches will kill me for an idea that is destined to change the plight both of mine and my country’.
With or without the existence of witchcraft, government is the supreme accounting authority and as such cannot be exonerated from guilt when the people are subjected to deprivation, unemployment and poverty.
It is not witchcraft but the trade of the leadership’s craft that is to be wholly and unreservedly blamed for failing to advance the interests and aspirations of the people.
*Kgosidialwa is a contributor to Mmegi