Botswana’s outgoing President, Ian Khama has stepped down after ten years in power, leaving Botswana looking perky. Khama has been lavished with praise and countless farewell gifts as he made a series of farewell sorties around the country.
At a recent gathering of farmers, he was “gifted with 35 cattle, a bull, two sheep and goats, a horse, and shares worth 25,000 pula [$2,628] at Tlou Energy”, a coal-development company, according to the pro-government Daily News.
The statistics paint a pretty picture, too. In its annual report card on African governments, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation regularly ranks Botswana near the top. At independence in 1966 it was one of the world’s poorest places, with “only 7km of tarred road and a capital, Gaborone, that amounted to little more than a railway station,” wrote a historian. Now it boasts a GDP per head among the highest in Africa. This is largely because Botswana is the world’s second-biggest producer of diamonds, yet has only 2m people. Mineral wealth has ruined other countries. But Botswana has benefited from prudent economic policies, multiparty politics and fair elections.
Khama, 65, a former general and the son of the country’s founding president, Sir Seretse Khama, has much to be proud of. He has been down-to-earth, businesslike and courageous, decrying Robert Mugabe, the former president of his much beefier neighbour, Zimbabwe, when most leaders in Africa winked at his horrors. He refused to kowtow to China, inviting the Dalai Lama to visit (though in the end, he did not). More to the point, Khama balanced the books, even as diamond prices went up and down.
Yet all is not well in Botswana. Khama has become authoritarian and aloof, relying for advice on too narrow a circle of friends. His governments have failed to wean the economy off diamonds, which may run out within 30 or 40 years (nobody knows for sure) and are anyway becoming costlier to dig out. His fondness for the armed forces has led him to buy an unnecessary arsenal of fighter jets, tanks and armoured vehicles.
Taking over from Khama is Mokgweetsi Masisi, 55, a cerebral figure who once worked for UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s agency; a near lock to be endorsed by parliament as the new president. “He must step in fast to stop the rot and put the DIS back in its box,”says a prominent businessman in Gaborone.
An assistant minister from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has run the show without a break since independence, fears there will be trouble if corruption persists. The opposition and the country’s independent newspapers are calling for DIS chief, Isaac Kgosi to be sacked as an early signal of good intent. Masisi has a year and a half until the next election. Last time round, in 2014, opposition parties won more votes than the BDP for the first time, but lost because they were divided. If the two main groups can unite, most likely under Duma Boko, an articulate Harvard-educated human-rights lawyer, they would have the best chance yet of displacing the BDP.
“People are tired of 50 years of BDP rule,” says Boko.
If the BDP loses, it is assumed that it would graciously bow out. That is one democratic legacy for which Batswana could then thank the Khama family.
*This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the headline “Under the surface it’s not all glitter”
Khama’s Legacy – from the standpoint of the average man on the street
As Khama hands over the reigns of power to Mokgweetsi Masisi, many Batswana have expressed their displeasure at having to give up their beloved president. Equally, however, there are others who can’t wait to see the back of him. Below are some of the sentiments expressed by a Facebook page expressing bitter discontent at Khama’s regime over the years.
Corruption goes unpunished under his watch e.g. Fengyue Glass Project, Morupule B project. DIS (Directorate of Intelligence Services) boss found with millions he failed to account for.
Seretse & Khama names including his friends appearing in most of the top government official posts, some whose education and credibility is questionable.
Maladministration at the tourism ministry by his brother and he takes no action, the biggest financial scandal in the country and he is implicated but he keeps mum.
Under his watch, we witnessed the closure of more than 10 mines; including the BCL mine, which left 6 000 unemployed, leading to over 30 000 family members and other dependants directly affected.
The 2011 public service strike dubbed the mother of all strikes, “first of its kind”. Thousands of employees fired from service. As if this was not enough, he described those who participated in the lawful strike as unpatriotic and left them for the wolves.
BDP propaganda reaching new heights through state media abuse (BTV, RB1 & 2, Daily News) B.T.V serving Khama’s interests instead of the whole nation. Even after the Ombudsman’s condemnation, nothing changed.
Unemployment has skyrocketed while he spends over P25 billion buying fighter jets.
Education has deteriorated since he took over, with poor results in PSLE, JC and BGCSE.
The healthcare system also deteriorated; shortage of drugs in hospitals while he spends P250m on unnecessary military equipment for the DIS.
The collapse of Vision 2016, no report on its achievements and failures.
The government’s poor relationship with civil servants, leading to the collapse of the bargaining council.
Introduced ESP, which was mandated to stimulate the economy. Economic growth rates remain low and unemployment high.
Democracy and freedom of speech in general in Botswana deteriorated; under his rule, multiple journalists harassed, some arrested.
Botswana’s economy impaired; with over 85% of our imports coming from South Africa alone.
Increased ghost accounts in public services organisations.
Tertiary students allowance reduced and not been reviewed for years, students exposed to harsh living conditions.
Chinese construction companies, which are popular for dilapidated and sub-standard projects.
Government tenders being awarded to friends of the BDP, BDP members, their family members and associates. All the president’s family, friends and close colleagues are getting richer and richer, while ordinary Batswana are getting poorer and poorer.
Opposition representing 53% of popular vote, BDP ruling with an unpopular vote.
Thousands of youths unemployed, students going to school on donkey carts, acute shortage of books in schools, students overcrowded in classrooms, some learning under trees.
Congratulations, President Masisi and go well President Khama! What’s your stand on President Khama’s 10 years as Botswana president? What are you hoping for in President Masisi? Do you feel things could change for the better or worse? Either way, would you like to share your views with YourBotswana? Please do!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of YourBotswana.
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