There is an enduring wisdom in the decision of the founding president Sir Seretse Khama to separate royalty from politics.
Politics by its nature is a game of contestation open to all and sundry but royalty is a platform of exclusive privilege reserved for a very select few. Batswana are naturally a conservative people who
defer to their traditional leadership. But with the advent of politics, they have had to learn a new culture; a new and untested type of leadership. Some 53 years later into our republican constitution, this remains a work in progress! It’s amazing that our founding leaders were men and women blessed not with education, but wisdom. They were able to see beyond the obvious and tried to sidestep some of the pitfalls that littered their path. One of those was the ability to understand the concept of separation of powers! They realised that traditional leadership posed a serious threat to republicanism and in their wisdom established a separate structure known as House of Chiefs as an advisory body of the Legislature (Parliament).
It was thus self-evident that one could not serve in the Executive or Legislature whilst maintaining one’s status and position as Kgosi. This also speaks to our Patriachs’ understanding of the concept of good governance. That is what Seretse Khama a legitimate Kgosi of the BaNgwato tribe did when he decided with his compatriots, to form the Botswana Democratic Party. The same was true for the legitimate Kgosi of BaNgwaketse, Kgosi Bathoen II, who abdicated his throne in favour of his son, Kgosi Seepapitso III, when he joined the opposition Botswana National Front.
Dikgosi of other tribes seemed not so much interested in politics then in any case they had already been involved in the Legislative Council in the lead-up to independence. It was clear at the time as it should be clearer now, that the sanctity of Bogosi a cusodian of a people’s culture and history ought not to be defiled by politics a free for all leadership contest. But over time we have seen politics relegating Bogosi to irrelevance. Ntlo Ya Dikgosi today remains just a hollow institution with absolutely no powers! It cannot even adjudicate on Bogosi disputes let alone craft or articulate
any policies that will determine our cultural identity as a nation and as individual tribal groupings. It’s a dead institution, because that was always the intention from the beginning! The initiated may as well see the wisdom in the late Dr. Kenneth Koma’s thesis ‘Chieftainship in Crisis’ and subsequent calls for a House of Representatives! This explains why dikgosi are currently showing lots of
defiance towards political leadership.
But we know it is an exercise in futility Politics is our current reality, we must live with it! And this means respecting the rules of its game, however oppressive, we must try to adapt. You see Kgosi Tawana Moremi of BaTawana or Kgosi Lotlamoreng II of BaRolong have been forced into politics against their will, but what have they achieved for their respective tribes? Tawana now an independent Member of Parliament is still fighting tooth and nail against the government of his former party to reclaim for his tribe Moremi Game Reserve, but it looks like a losing battle! On the other hand Lotlamoreng has been very quiet about the BaRolong Farms, which used to consitute the food basket of this country! Only Lt. Gen. Ian Khama has been the exception to the rule. He was thrust into leadeship from an early age the youngest Army Brigadier in the world; Sovereign of BaNgwato; rose to be Commander of Botswana Defense Force and ultimately sat at the pinnacle of state power, as President! As former president, he’s been thrown into a completely new territory, an alien place where he cannot operate to the best of his abilities.
If he cannot be president of the BDP then he must find an alternative party. The Umbrella for Democratic Change seemed like a perfect vehicle, but the problem is it is led by Duma Boko, a native of Mahalapye in the Central District! In any case, the UDC rank and file would be incensed at the thought of Khama leading them. The only option left for Khama – which we expect him to announce
this coming Saturday at the Serowe Kgotla in clear violation of those noble values that seek to preserve the sanctity of our Bogosi is to form his own party. There are quite a number of disgruntled BDP members, some of whom are bitter with the outcome of Bulela Ditswe or the party’s primary elections and want out of the BDP if only to get a chance to stand for the October general elections. Others are sworn foes of the sitting president Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi for various reasons and would be too happy to join forces with Khama in his new party to unseat him or split the votes
in favour of the opposition! There is a good chance that even some of the fence-sitting and prevaricating ministers and MPs would be emboldened by Khama’s decision if he were to defy all advice and convention to form a new party if only to spite his father’s legacy!
Whatever transpires, we must thank Khama for shaping and deepening this country’s democracy. He will be remembered among the Movers and Shakers of BDP, who nudged a nation out of its slumber and dared it to take its destiny in its own hands! Just like the towering person of Dr. Kenneth Koma, who could not accept that someone else could assume the reins of leadership of the BNF and decided to form the now defucnt National Democratic Front you can be sure that Khama is also destined to repeat this history on the BDP flipside. Perhaps he should name the party, Botswana National Democratic Party (BNDP).
Bureaucracy impedes youth empowerment – Tshekedi
Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama said government’s bureaucracy hinders youth participation in economic development.
Speaking during the Youth Awards on Saturday, Khama explained that the society has adopted the word bureaucracy and they live with it. “This word has contradicting terms with the way the youth think, this confirms the space between the youth and how we deliver. The honour is on us to deliver an enabling environment, we talk so much, we have had discussions in pitsos,”
He pointed out that, financial institutions have difficult regulations that hinder youth to access funding for their respective businesses. “When a youth approaches a financial institution, the first question would be where is your pay slip?, secondly, what security do you have? And they will say it’s bank regulations. We live in the bureaucracies of these regulations and it has become our DNA,” said Khama.
Over the years, government has introduced programmes that promote youth entrepreneurship, which include financing, capacity building, market access and marketing an outreach. Currently, the ministry is reviewing the Youth Development Fund to improve training of beneficiaries and encourage consortia and cooperatives.
Recently, when presenting the budget for the Ministry, Khama highlighted that the youth cohort constitutes the majority of the population and this is supposed to present the country with an opportunity to harness the demographic dividend. “Their energy, educational level and technology skills should be exploited to propel our country forward,” he said.
He also indicated that the youth is faced with socio-economic challenges including unemployment, poverty, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS. “Therefore we must intervene to give them the best possible opportunities to achieve their dreams and help our country realize the ideals of vision 2036.”
Meanwhile, government disburses P120 million yearly as funding to youth enterprises and about 919 businesses have been funded in the last financial year. The youth have raised a lot of challenges in doing business, including high rentals for operating space, low market access owing to tight competition and limited production capacities.
Have a clear succession plan for peaceful transition
How have we as a people treated succession? Though in our society succession has always been determined along patriarchal lineage, traditional leadership succession has not always been smooth.
There are known stories where families broke up in a battle for succession. Immediately in my mind comes the last split of the Ba-ga-Malete in 1892. The succession was based on the bravery and not on the strength being the first born child. Throughout Botswana many merafe have a history of succession that didn’t follow the rigidity of patriarchy.
Batswana as a people believe that talk is far better than war. Ntwakgolo ke ya molomo. We are a people who would spend a whole lot of time openly discussing a matter before a decision could be reached. Discussions on any matter put before a gathering of family, clan and morafe was never finalised without thorough discussion. All present regardless of their economic strength participated fully without hindrance. Decisions thereat were reached through consensus. Traditional leaders would skilfully announce the collective decision arrived at.
The good thing about this method of allowing all to participate – Mafoko a kgotla mantle otlhe and the Mmualebe bua gore monalentle a tswe lagwe – was basically premised on the principle of what our current crop of men and women who have read big books would call “participatory democracy.” Democracy therefore has never been an imported phenomenon amongst Batswana. Democracy has always been in our DNA. Regarding succession therefore it has always been based on the consensus of the majority.
The leader though selected among the royal family, his character also played an important role in determining his suitability. As we embraced western type democracy we have in our different political homes defined our succession plans. As a nation we have defined our processes of succession. In the age and era where, unlike in our tradition, we have written these, we do not therefore rely on memories. Our forebears relied on memories and nothing was ever in black and white.
However, our forebears knew succession if not properly handled could bring strife and instability amongst morafe. We were then not part of a collective of nations and therefore what transpired in our little morafe did not necessarily impact our relations with other merafe that much. If not handled well it could create a loophole for other merafe to wage a war against the morafe .
If any such person who had been overlooked for whatever reason felt strongly about such decision, he would either remain part of the morafe as a junior leader or migrate with his supporters. Peace would prevail. Even those who had held fort for their younger siblings would want to hand over a united morafe to his successor.
In modern society, a predecessor takes pride in the performance of his choice of successor. Travelling through history one envies the succession of Kgosi Ketshwerebothata Ikaneng and Mokgosi III and that of Kgosi Mmusi and Linchwe II. Such were Batswana leaders who worked together for the better interest of the merafe they led. What now and whither peace and love for the downtrodden?
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