This is the question that seems to be plaguing many minds of late, especially those of his detractors. The fear that this man could become the next President of the Republic of Botswana is beginning to dawn on them, now that the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has agreed to join the Umbrella for Democratic Change. Who is Duma Boko? Who is his father? Where does he originate from? What is his claim to fame? What has he done to deserve to be the next President of this Republic?
You see these questions are not just simple questions that carry no implications. They do in this society of ours. These are questions that are asked of many of us who are born without surnames of fathers who held positions of power in the country. They are questions that are made to marginalise individuals like Duma Boko, myself and you the less fortunate. These interrogations are made to segregate the have not and the have more. They are meant to say to you that you belong to a certain inferior class and that you have no business to want to ascend to a position higher than what you were born into. For Duma Boko it means denying him the opportunity to ascend to the highest office in the land, the presidency. You need to be a part of ‘us’ if you are to be accorded that privilege. Otherwise you destabilise the equilibrium that our society has come to know and accept.
They are intrusive questions that are devoid of any merit or logic. Their insinuations are that individuals are born to positions and merit alone cannot determine how high one can elevate him/herself to prominence in our society. Hard work and ambition alone cannot be the sole determinant to success in our country. These factors - hard work and merit - are irrelevant to them. They have never been so wrong. Yes, we may not know who Duma Boko’s father is. We may not know which ward he originates from.
But what we do know about Duma Boko is that his ambition has carried him to become one of the most successful lawyers that this country has ever produced. What we know of Duma Boko is that his grit and determination and not a famous surname has gotten him to study at one of the most prestigious universities in the world and not their free education. Otherwise they would have all studied at Harvard University. What we know of Duma Boko is that his visionary leadership has led a united opposition to secure a fifty three percent majority of the popular vote, ahead of the ruling party’s minority vote of forty seven percent.
You see, what young people see in Duma Boko is hope and a chance for this country to start afresh and renew its vigor. We see someone who can de-clutch this country from the bondage of a system that recognises people not by their abilities but rather by what surname they carry. We want this man to be president of this country because we see in him someone who has by his own mettle risen from obscurity to become a person of sound credentials who is worthy to lead our country. We see someone who has not degraded himself into the pit of sycophancy purely to secure positions of power and leadership.
Yes, the tasks that lie ahead of him will not be easy. There will be challenges that will test his ability to lead once he assumes the Presidency. But what leader has not faced such challenges when assuming the Presidency of a country for the first time? Barack Obama has had to face to these challenges and he has excelled. All leaders face this situation and they have no choice but to deal with it.
One thing though that we can rest assured of is that in Duma Boko, we will be handing our country to an individual who has the academic credentials to lead. We will be handing our country to an individual who is erudite, not lacking in confidence in the least bit. We will be handing our country to a man who can engage with world leaders at the highest intellectual level without doubting himself as to whether he belongs there or not. We will be handing our country to leader who has the energy to drive us forward. All the necessary qualities are there in this man to move us forward. What remains is for Duma Boko to be given an opportunity to lead. We are well aware of the risks we face, but so far this man has shown his worth, that he is a capable leader. It takes an exceptional somebody to unite the opposition parties in this country. Many have tried in the past and all failed to get this far. Only he and he alone managed to do so and the rulers are beginning to feel his threat.
What people now need to realise is that we cannot continue to recycle useless leaders. We must effect change if our country is to move forward again both economically and democratically. We are now seeing a regression in the gains that we made in the past. Parastatals are failing - Water Utilities Corporation, Botswana Power Corporation, Air Botswana, Botswana Meat Commission - they are all failing to deliver on their mandates. The time has come for change to happen. We are tired of words like, “O ngwana wa ga mang?”
What we now want is a leadership that is based primarily on merit and competence. We also want accountability from our leaders. We want delivery on mandates. We want those in power to now know that leadership is not a birth right but must be earned through hard work and merit. We will not live our lives in fear against speaking out, that if we speak out we will be disadvantaged by being deprived of economic opportunities that will cause our families hardship. Some of them like to say that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.
That we are better off with them in power even if things are going bad because things may get even worse when they are removed from power. That is how they want us to live, in fear. They say you have never travelled the African continent to see how other Africans live and that we must appreciate that we are in nirvana relative to other African countries. These are the baseless arguments from those who want to cling onto power at any cost. They rule by this fear, fear of the unknown. No. This argument must not sustain them any longer.
I come from a school of thought that informs me that this country can do much better than it is doing now. We are being led by a leadership that has been in power for far too long and has become lethargic over time. They are in denial of this truth. You know, to use an analogy of a footballer, when a player has been on the field of play for far too long, they will eventually invariably become lethargic over time, no matter how athletic and fit they might be built. Otherwise they are not human. Even Lionel Messi, the best football player ever according to me, sometimes experiences a dip in form and then has to come off the field of play and make way for other players to come onto the field and play. This is a natural progression that those in power must resign themselves to and accept. They are fatigued. Their bodies, minds, ideas are all fatigued.
Their time has come to pass on the power. Those who have led us have done so to the best of their abilities. But once fatigue has set in, they have no choice but to take to the bench and recuperate their energies. They cannot recuperate while they are still on the field of play. They must afford other players who are fitter and more energetic to take to the field and move this country forward. Otherwise their fatigue will cause irreparable damage to our economy. The tell tail signs of their fatigue setting in are abundantly clear for all to see. Never before have we experienced water and power challenges of this magnitude.
Issues such as these ought to have been planned for and mitigated against many years ago to avoid us being in this situation. Businesses are closing down and jobs are being lost as a result of this lack of proper planning. We now hear talk of the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) which they claim is to stimulate the economy. Economists have advised that what this economy needs is transformation and not stimulation. What they are attempting to stimulate is not the economy, they are seeking to stimulate themselves back into power because they see power slowly slipping away from their hands. Because they know that fatigue has set in.
They remind me of an athlete who can no longer perform at his best and resigns himself to the use of performance enhancing drugs, knowing very well that those drugs are a danger to his body, are not permitted in sport but nevertheless uses those drugs to their own detriment and those around them. Those will be the effects of the so called Economic Stimulus package on us. They have become so reckless in their behavior and in their desire to remain in power they are making decisions that are not informed by sound economic principles. They are desperate and this desperation is leading them to make decisions that are not well thought out.
Now though, they must do themselves a favour, they must quickly and quietly retreat to the comfort of their homes. They have amassed enough wealth and comfort to last them beyond 2029 when they can come back to try to win back power. Fifty years has been a very long stay in power. They deserve the rest. They have worked hard but are now experiencing depreciating marginal returns on their efforts. They must now stand aside and give the new kids on the block Duma Boko and Ndaba Gaolathe the opportunity to lead and to take this country into the next era of our Democracy.
Tswelelo Mere (Gaborone)