T.F. Hodge said “The first law of nature is self-preservation. Cut off that which may harm you….” Douglas Mackinnon, who served as a White House and Pentagon official in the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, asked in December 2009: “Do you know why your government is not only failing you miserably, but putting your and the future of your children and grandchildren in great peril? Simple. Those who govern us don’t care … As this self-serving conduct thunders on unchecked, the world we all inhabit is becoming more unstable, more unpredictable and more dangerous by the day”. When self-preservation is put in the context of political leadership, unfolding events in this country attest to that. The starting point is in Parliament where we have a legitimate expectation that the business of the house is people centred. This is not the case. It has been reported that the ruling party deliberately collapsed the house quorum when Hon Mmolotsi was about to table a motion calling on Parliament to debate a motion on plots allocated to parents after their death. His argument was that these plots should be passed on to their children in that event. Because this motion was from an opposition MP, the ruling party MPs played cheap politics to frustrate it at the expense of citizens. In any event, the ruling party has made it clear that anything good from the opposition will steal its thunder, suggesting that such should be shot down at the earliest opportunity.
Immediately after the 2014 General Election, the ruling party petitioned the High Court at a high and unnecessary cost to the nation, that the election of the Vice President, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker be through the show of hands as opposed to the widely acceptable process of a secret ballot. This was and still is bizarre to say the least. Everybody has a right to approach the courts but was this not a frivolous and vexatious matter as the court room language goes? For me it was. The party was fighting its own internal battles and mistrusts when the swearing in of MPs and the elections of the above-mentioned was suspended. Laws, which have so far passed through Parliament, are bad laws which the ruling party is using for self-preservation: the Trade Disputes Act 2016 ‘red flag’ is the declaration of almost, if not all, public servants as essential employees under the pretext of saving the economy. The brutal truth is that the ruling party has since the 2011 public servants strike stooped so low to fight trade unions to a point where Parliament makes spurious laws to fight them. The Presidents Pension and Retirement Bill, and the Electoral Amendment Act are pieces of legislation better serving the ruling party as opposed to the nation. What’s wrong with current retirement package enjoyed by the former Presidents and what could have significantly necessitated its improvement given the current economic bottlenecks affecting everybody? The consultation and engagement of elections stakeholders held just before the Electoral Act was signed was just academic – the greater society should have been involved given the importance of elections as was the case in 1987 and 1997.
Botswana is on a free fall because issues of national importance are not a priority to the ruling party because it is busy with itself. The laissez faire attitude displayed by our political leaders in dealing with the BCL mine liquidation for example tells it all. How could the Vice President and the Minister responsible for mines reportedly coming from the same cabinet meeting give conflicting statements on salaries of mine workers? The Minister had mentioned 12 to 18 months salaries while the Vice President said it would be only one month. Not only that, the general handling of other attendant issues affecting mine workers have been handled with the same laissez faire attitude. What we get from political leadership are mere public relations stunts in line with Douglas Mackinnon’s “Those who govern us don’t care” because they have taken their eyes off the ball. Their eyes and ears are concentrated on the bigger picture elsewhere – self-preservation. “As this self-serving conduct thunders on unchecked, the world we all inhabit is becoming more unstable, more unpredictable and more dangerous by the day” because “The first law of nature is self-preservation. Cut off that which may harm you.” What has been cut off are the 5 Ds, the Rule of Law, accountability, transparency and good governance because without these virtues, fertile ground to grow self-preservation is well and truly cultivated. We are at this point because of self-preservation and I would still say the same if any other party was in power. Compliments of the New Year and God Bless Botswana and all those who live in it!