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The Masisi euphoria should not become a nightmare!

Publishing Date : 28 January, 2019

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

No doubt, the ascendance of His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Keabetswe Eric Masisi, to the high office of President brought euphoria to many of our people.

In my view, such elation was expected, especially following the ten years of former President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s tenure which many describe as the worst in Botswana’s political history. But, it ought to be remembered that when Dr. Khama himself assumed the presidency Batswana were excited. Many saw him as the Messiah who was going to solve all their problems.

Then, you could not dare criticise him. He was regarded as Rraetsho who was almost infallible. Put simply, he was a demi-God; the best thing that had happened to Batswana, at least since the passing of his father, the founding president of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama. Of course Dr. Khama’s predecessor, Festus Mogae, was no dictator, but he was largely regarded as a dispassionate leader who ruled according to the book. He lacked charisma. He was a black letter president, if you like.  

In neighbouring South Africa, the ascendance of Cyril Ramaphosa to the Presidency, in 2018, brought about what has come to be known as Ramaphoria. This followed the about nine years of former President Jacob Zuma’s reign which many, including those who served in his cabinet, describe as the darkest age of South Africa’s political history post-1994. But, it also ought to be remembered that when Zuma assumed the presidency South Africans were excited. Many saw him as the Messiah who was going to solve all their problems. He pacified the people through liberations songs.

This followed the reign of Thabo Mbeki who, just like Mogae, was regarded as dispassionate and detached from the common man. On the contrary, Zuma, just like Dr. Khama, was a populist. In neighbouring Zimbabwe, there were scenes of jubilation when long-time dictator former President, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, was disposed by the military and replaced by Emerson Mnangagwa whom he had fired as his deputy.

Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s liberation hero, had himself risen to a demi-God status not only in his country, Zimbabwe, but also in Africa and Latin America mainly because of his land redistribution policy and resistance to white domination.  Though Mnangagwa’s ascendance to the presidency did not give rise to the same euphoria that Mugabe, Masisi and Ramaphosa brought it nonetheless brought a glimmer of hope that living conditions would change for the better.

But before even three months could lapse the spirits of Zimbabweans have been dampened. First, was the brutal treatment of civilians by members of the security forces which resulted in loss of lives following the post-election protests waged by supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who believed that their leader, Nelson Chamisa, had been robbed of electoral victory.

Second, was the careless manner in which the Zimbabwean government responded to the strike by junior medical doctors, the result of which were sympathy strikes by senior doctors and teachers. Third, is the brutal treatment of civilians by members of the security forces which has also resulted in loss of lives following the protests motivated by the unprecedented increase, of about 150%, in fuel prices by president Mnangagwa.

It is common knowledge that the Mugabephoria turned into a nightmare when he, over the years, turned on his own people during the Gukurahondo massacre, operation Mrambatswina, and the failed land redistribution programme which brought untold suffering to his people.
The Zumaphoria also turned into a nightmare when he abused his people’s admiration and got involved in acts of corruption which saw the near collapse of state institutions, especially in the security cluster.

It was during Zuma’s tenure that the South African state suffered the capture of its institutions, mainly by the Gupta brothers, the result being a debilitating decline of its economy and general degradation of its polity. One hopes that Dr. Masisi uses the euphoria surrounding his presidency for the betterment of our people’s lives and not to create a personality cult of himself. My greatest fear is that just like during Dr. Khama’s euphoria years our nation is becoming polarised.

Even more troubling is the fact that he is fact turning into a personality cult. There are those who would die for Dr. Masisi and those who would rather die than support Dr. Masisi. This should not be the case for one of the cardinal duties of a president is to unify his people, not around himself as a person, but around the country’s ideals and values and in pursuit of the country’s vision.

Just recently, I came across a Face Book post through which the author made a claim that Dr. Masisi has been appointed by God to be our president. Expectedly, the post elicited a heated debate, with his detractors arguing that it is heresy to make such a supposition since Dr. Masisi was appointed by a man, Dr. Khama, and not God.

Naturally, when one is still new in office many people want to align with him, not necessarily because they like or believe in him, but because they want to benefit from his patronage and favour. This is the most dangerous stage in every leader’s life cycle for he or she is likely to serve certain interests and agendas and forget to serve the nation. It is during this time that such people or interests present only themselves as virtuous and the rest as villains.

It is during such a time that some people can take advantage of the president’s favour and use state institutions to settle personal scores or to gain socio-economic and political mileage. Now that the dust is beginning to settle, H.E Dr. Masisi has to, for instance, look at the saga surrounding the recent arrest of the former Director General of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), Colonel Isaac Kgosi.

He has to ask questions. Was the arrest in the public interest or it was a way of settling personal scores? Is the DISS truly a reformed institution or it is the same old institution that had become a menace to our people? He has to introspect on the impact the race for the presidency of his party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), is likely to have on national unity. He has to be careful not to be used by some for political expediency at the expense of nation building.

After all, when all is said and done it is him who has the responsibility to unite us as a nation. Such responsibility does not lie with his party’s functionaries nor does it lie with his campaign team. It rests with him and him alone. It is him who, as state president, has the responsibility to bring finality to the stand-off between him and Dr. Khama, lest others, who masquerade as his cheer leaders, exploit the stand-off for their own self-preservation and advancement.

Were most of these cheer leaders not Dr. Khama’s cheer leaders when he was still in office? Have they not abandoned him? Won’t they abandon Dr. Masisi after he ceases to be state president because he will no longer be useful to them? It is inarguable that Dr. Masisi has, during the short time that he has been president, done many things that give hope to our people. But, he ought to be careful that the euphoria that came with his presidency does not end up as a nightmare as it happened with Dr. Khama, Jacob Zuma and Robert Mugabe.



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