Botswana operates under the economic system which can best be described as ‘Every man for himself…’ If you are stinking rich at this point in time or just fairly rich and barring any unforeseen situations, chances are that you will pretty much remain the same regardless of who wins this election. And if you are poor and in deep abject poverty, you will pretty much remain in this situation. Political parties are busy telling voters how desperately they require their votes in order to change their lives for the better. One such party is promising a living wage of P 3000 while the other is talking knowledge based economy whose flagship is building an electric car. But none of them is telling the voters whether or not they will change the model of the current economic system that could substantially close the huge socio-economic inequalities that exist between the rich and the poor. Whether you call it the capitalist or the free market economy, the end result is that the Botswana model like it obtains elsewhere, has created huge gaps of inequality everyone sees and which I am afraid, will be with us until Jesus comes.
Governments have, elsewhere, come and gone but the socio-economic inequalities still remain as clear as day light is. I have argued before which I still do that no politician in this day and age of institutionalised grand corruption will better your socio-economic circumstances. And this is because politics has incredibly become a highway to materialism and opulence which politicians are rarely prepared to genuinely share. If they ever attempt to share, such will be out of sheer pressure to curry favours from the gullible voters. I must re-emphasise that the system of economics versus politics under which Botswana operates is the foundation that has bred the ‘Every man for himself…’ syndrome. And because past, present and possibly future politicians have somewhat been inspired by this syndrome which they (future politicians) would predictably want to benefit from as well, our socio-economic inequalities have all but permanently been relegated to the back banner. Nothing suggests there will be a turn-around anytime soon. The ground is heavily polluted and toxic.
It should be stated that the socio-economic inequalities that exist in this country have in some instances been created through legitimate means coupled with hard work while others are through sheer greed and thievery occasioned by power relations in society. The latter is partly why the country is in this morass. Inequality through thievery is the sad reality found in the many and every facets of every compatriot’s daily struggle. The quality of education dispensed in public schools let alone the conditions and infrastructure under which it is so dispensed is jaw dropping to say the least; the quality and conditions of public health care makes one shed a tear. But when one looks at the same educational and healthcare provisions on the other side of the spectrum, they are top class in every respect imaginable. I am aware that this is an old song that comes decades ago which is not denied by anybody. But nobody has, apart from the usual rhetoric that it will be addressed, actually taken a bold and perhaps an unpopular decision to do so.
The socio-economic situations of many Batswana are supposed to be tackled to the bare minimum if I dare say so, by many of the would-be legislators who are at this point in time clamouring for our votes. These individuals would for one reason or the other, have graduated from the same socio-economic situations currently afflicting the greater population of this country. Most of them will tell you, and correctly so in some instances, that they know the agony and torture of accessing medical services from the Deborah Retief Memorial (DRM) hospital; the agony and torture of having accessed education from the Capital Continuation Classes (CCC) of the yester years. The analogue generation better remembers the era of CCC. With these experiences, one would expect that these graduates would be better placed to ensure that their fellow compatriots, now and in the future, do not experience the same agony and torture in accessing medical services from the very same DRM and the same CCC. But because they no longer go through the same agony and torture themselves, the same is left for you to sort out if you are so lucky to do so. That is, it is up to you from your desperate corner to see how you can retrieve yourself from those desperate situations. The economic system in place and that which is equivalent to ‘Every man for himself….’ enables your current socio-economic circumstances to deteriorate further down the line because the graduates of agony and torture are no longer with you.
Almost every individual currently campaigning for political office and those who came and went, tell us that they are our servants and we are their bosses. It would suggest that our socio-economic needs as bosses, would be genuinely uppermost in the to-do-lists once in position. But lo and behold! The situation on the ground fundamentally and profoundly suggests otherwise. The DRM and CCC situations are not for a minute improving but getting worse day in and day out. The quality of most of those aspiring to be MPs and Councillors across political parties as exposed by the current radio debates is depressing to say the least. One can tell from their debates that they are at best and with respect, Village Development Committee material than any material that could advance our socio-economic issues at the highest level. It is an undisputed fact that over the years, political office bearers across the political divide have significantly and firstly improved their own socio-economic circumstances. The desire to deal with our own circumstances is always further down the line if at all. This is the sad reality we should, much as it may be hard and unpleasant, come to terms with. The system has allowed it.
Just the other day, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime through its Director General told the nation that about P 5 billion of public funds have gone missing. For these funds to disappear, some public/private employees highly and likely with the concurrence of politicians would have set processes and procedures in motion to move them wherever they are. A lot of school boy excuses by those entrusted with the security of these funds I am afraid, are nothing but a face saving exercise. As it is, other public funds are required to retrieve the ‘stolen or missing’ public funds. In this era of technology, it should be easy to trace these funds. Admittedly, public funds thieves have become technology savvy hence the difficulty of tracing these funds. But which thief would make it easy to be caught? That said, imagine how much of a difference P 5 billion would have made to the betterment of DRM and other public institutions like schools and the accompanying infrastructure to ease your socio-economic predicament.
Because political parties, by and large, throw the aspirations in their manifestos out of the window once in power and pursue their self-centred agendas particularly to do with corruption as African political parties in government have become to be known and which distract attention to compatriots’ bread and butter issues, one would have thought civil societies in their composite were better placed to put pressure on governments of the day to vigorously attend to the poor man’s socio-economic issues. That is, to ensure that poor and the down trodden receive social justice. Do we even have civil societies to write home about one could justifiably ask? But civil societies are themselves caught in the ‘Every man for himself’ syndrome. For example, trade unions leaders whose trade unions command healthy bank balances lead opulent lifestyles equivalent to, if not surpassing, that of politicians and corporate executives. Some of them are perceived to be the proxies of politicians in one respect or the other. Consequently, they provide a steel buffer around them (politicians) from being pressurised to remember the poor souls. Again this scenario obtains because economic power relations allow it and unless it is changed, ordinary members of wealthy trade unions will continue to feed on crumbs of discounted mobile phones while their conditions of service remain deplorable.
What am I saying? I am saying that with ever growing levels of inequalities, P 3000 and the electric motor car will do very little if any, to close the current inequality gap further exacerbating the socio-economic situation in this country. And this can be achieved to some extent by fighting the ‘Every man for himself…’ syndrome. But the brutal truth is that those empowered to change the status quo (politicians) religiously benefit from it. If the next government, whether it is by retaining the ruling party or a new party taking over, and the syndrome is not changed, your socio-economic circumstances will move from bad to worse. That said, let us go to vote on 23 October as a matter of routine than as an exercise that could better our socio-economic circumstances. After the vote, those elected will take an oath of office only as a matter of routine because thereafter, such oath becomes meaningless and inconsequential because their conduct and actions are not commensurate with the value and sanctity of such oath of office. The present harrowing socio-economic circumstances afflicting this country is prove of the political oath of office having become meaningless and inconsequential. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise. Judge for Yourself!