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Politics is too important to be left to the politicians

SHARE   |   Monday, 23 March 2020   |   By Adam Phetlhe On Sunday
Members of Parliament Members of Parliament

Because politicians are such a spoilt breed that do not want to be held accountable for their actions, they always rush to tell their compatriots to desist from engaging in politics. Yet they invariably take decisions with far reaching consequences that affect the livelihoods of the very same compatriots which in most cases, are bad decisions. Yet again, they are the very people who bother the would-be voters at elections periods with so many promises which in the end, are mostly not fulfilled. As soon as a politician engages me to vote for him/her, they cannot legitimately expect me thereafter not to ask them hard political questions. The global economies of many countries are in tatters not because they are poor from lack of high value resources like minerals or natural resources but because they are not managed in the best interests of their compatriots. Put differently, such resources are badly mismanaged to accrue very little dividend to the ordinary man in the street while accruing maximally to the benefit of politicians and those in their inner circles. All these because compatriots have left politics to the politicians with resultantly, huge cost to the former. And this is why Charles de Gaulle said ‘I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians.’

I have said it before and I repeat it in this conversation to say, the value of my vote and yours begins and ends on the day we cast them. Thereafter, we are at the absolute mercy of the politicians who would have won the election. And such politicians know it very well that realistically speaking, voters can only remove them after five years. As it stands and in the case of Botswana, less than hundred people in the form of Members of Parliament and the Executive decide the fate of over two million people. In terms of the Constitution particularly with respect to the Electoral Act, this is how we should be governed following a general election. It is how the elected MPs and appointed members of the Executive conduct and manage us once in their positions. Government has continued to make it a top secret that Batswana do not know the commercial/mining agreement with the De Beers company.  What is in this agreement that is kept away?  And this is where I argue very strongly presumably in the company of the like-minded that politics is too important to be left to the politicians. Ordinarily, there shouldn’t be any reason to be overly concerned about leaving politics to the politicians because of the principle of separation of powers wherein the three arms of government being the legislature, the executive and the judiciary are expected to exercise oversight functions over each other. The indisputable fact though always heavily denied is that the executive ‘bullies’ the other two arms of government. I still recall vividly the unfortunate words uttered by the President of the Republic of Kenya Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta as soon as the Supreme Court of that country invalidated the presidential election in 2017 when he said the judges were ‘crooks’ and that he would deal with them.        

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Writing under the same heading as in this conversation in 2013, Charles Sam says ‘Politics is not a job. Politics is community service. Politics is a passion to improve the quality of life of a people, ultimately raising their living standards. Anyone who wants to make money out of a career in politics is in the wrong profession. The success of a politician is dependent on the poor guy on the street, his or her ability to lift that person to a better self-sustaining situation. Politics and politicians must adhere to the highest moral and ethical standards and value to give the call to fight nation wrecking corruption the legitimacy and seriousness it requires. If the trust of the citizenry is undermined, the citizenry will question the validity and motive of any goals the leadership states….’ I will for purposes of this conversation accept the foregoing as the definition of politics. That said, politics is no longer a passion to improve the quality of me and you but a gateway to all manner of malfeasance. Facts and figures attest to this assertion. 

So why has politics been left to the politicians and by extension politicians determining our destinies largely to our detriment? The answer is simple and therefore unambiguous. Members of political parties form steel walls around their errant leaders where there is palpable evidence that such leaders have goofed in one respect or the other. Members of political parties are too afraid or terrified to speak truth to power to the extent that their state of thinking is akin to being automated. Take the example of the former South African President Jacob Zuma who is facing a number of legal allegations in that country’s courts. The normal and expected thing is that Mr Zuma should appear in court like any other citizen where he is allowed legal representation to defend his cases. These representations are further complemented by the principles of audi alteram partem and natural justice. Conspiracy theories like charges been politically motivated are peddled around Zuma. In this respect, politicians are afforded undue protection by their supporters thereby reinforcing the view that politicians will always run away with murder.  

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On the home front, the well-known political stand-off between former President Ian Khama and the incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi is wreaking havoc in the country for it doesn’t have any beneficial value to the wider population. I for one benefits nothing from their stand-off and so should be other compatriots. But I would indirectly be affected by such stand-off if it negatively hampers service delivery of whatever nature, interventions with respect to addressing job creation, unemployment and so forth. Some members of the opposition Botswana National Front are complaining that their leader Advocate Duma Boko is running the party as if it were a personal fiefdom in which the executive committee of such party is said to be dysfunctional to the overall detriment of the party. By extension to these issues, it suggests that the politics of their leaders is the sole preserve of such leaders. In a way, those who shield their leaders have adopted the see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil narrative.

With the above in mind, I strongly argue that politics is too important to be left to the politicians. And there are many reasons I cannot exhaust in this conversation. It is an open secret that politicians use political office to nakedly steal public funds meant to alleviate the plight of the very same people they unashamedly pretend to take care of. In public fora, these politicians pretend unashamedly to be as innocent to any wrongdoing as a new-born baby is. It is also an open secret that the runaway and institutionalised corruption is formulated, perpetuated and implemented by holders of political office at various levels with the help of their accomplices. Mosibidu Mangena who is a politician in South Africa said on Wednesday on Newzroom Afrika television channel that politicians have perfected the ‘art of stealing.’ Rodger Chongwe, a Zambian constitutional lawyer is quoted by a Zambian newspaper on 18 March 2020 to have said that ‘government is run by thieves and people should not bury their heads in the sand about this fact.’ Would anybody who follows African politics refute these two views? I hope not.

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I will readily concede that politicians will always have it their way because of their supporters who, like I have said above, erect a steel wall around them such that they are insulated from being taken head on. They will throw unpalatable adjectives at you for calling out their unethical and corrupt leaders who abuse their political offices for self-aggrandisement and other related but undesirable conduct. Like the other sayings go, ‘War is too important to be left to the generals’ and ‘The economy is too important to be left to the economists.’ Whatever the impediments, politics is too important to be left to the politicians. The World Index Happiness 2019 says Batswana are an unhappy nation because out of 156 countries, Botswana is at position 148. This suggests we are unhappy because politicians, to a large measure, are not serving our basic and fundamental interests. The only thing we are left with under these circumstances is to be grumpy like a teenager who has been denied pocket money.  I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise as always. Judge for Yourself!

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