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Fri Oct 31 07:40:39 SAST 2014

Malema puts Botswana's descent on the agenda

Mondli Makhanya | 14 August, 2011 03:39
Mondli Makhanya
Image by: Sunday Times

Seeing Julius Malema clad in Orlando Pirates attire a few weeks ago made me marginally alter my view of him.

There was some hope for the young man after all. In that head there lives a brain capable of discerning quality. I remember thinking that perhaps there may be a chance of making him see reason on other issues.

You see, the thing with Orlando Pirates is that it appeals to those with higher ability to reason, see logic and interrogate issues.

Pirates also happens to be the only team in the world that has ever had a Jesus Christ playing for it.

If you do not buy that, it would be worth casting your memory back to the 1980s, a time when stadiums used reverberate to the chant "Jeeeeesus Christ" whenever the longhaired defender touched the ball.

Jesus Christ eventually left the country and now works in the construction industry in the Emirates. So when the ANC says it will rule "until Jesus returns", I wonder if they realise that this day could be quite soon.

But I digress ever so slightly.

The point here is that in our polarised discourse we tend to throw the baby out with the bath water (I asked this before but did not get a satisfactory answer: is there a recorded case where somebody actually did this?).

In our rejection of anything Malemarish, we overlook the times when he makes some sense - his love of Orlando Pirates being a case in point.

So when Malema stood up and castigated the regime of Ian Khama, there was outrage. The ANC head honchos, who had hitherto been wimps in dealing with him, suddenly found blood rushing to their biceps.

Malema had lashed out at Botswana's sham democracy and criticised that government's closeness to Western powers ("imperialists" in his language). He also spoke of a "detailed" plan to bolster the Botswana opposition with the aim of removing the Khama government from power.

"The ANC Youth League will also establish a Botswana command team, which will work towards uniting all oppositional forces in Botswana to oppose the puppet regime of Botswana led by the Botswana Democratic Party," Malema said.

He kept stressing that the opposition and removal of the government would be "in a democratic manner" and not through military means.

"There is no army involved here, there is nobody who is going to be trained and overthrown through a coup," he said.

Why this should get the ANC dancing around about like a geriatric with ants up his pants beats me.

First of all, the direction which Botswana has taken under Khama should be cause for worry for all us in Southern Africa. Although Botswana pretends to be a democracy, power and access to power is very rigidly controlled by the Botswana Democratic Party, which has run the country since independence in 1966. Succession has also been very tightly managed, ensuring that a clique close to the family of Khama's father, Sir Seretse, are guaranteed a rise to the top.

State resources and tactics are liberally used to quash opposition, so much so that election results are a foregone conclusion long before the polls open.

But the Botswana government has always managed to do good PR, earning itself a poster-boy image of being one of the continent's most enduring democracies.

Beneath the surface, however, massive discontent has been brewing.

Under Khama, the quashing has become more obvious. The soldier has militarised the society and empowered the security services. Like many dictatorial regimes, the government has informally spread the belief that the Directorate on Intelligence and Security is everywhere, creating a climate of suspicion and fear. His crushing of a public service strike earlier this year was cold and brutal.

Human rights organisations are now keeping a record of extra-judicial killings in the country.

What has also outraged the Batswana is the decision by Khama - an unreconstructed teetotaller - to impose draconian liquor laws on the country and place massive taxes on alcoholic products.

Because nothing exciting ever happens in Botswana, except for the mooing of the cattle and the hanging of convicted criminals, the creeping dictatorship has evaded the media spotlight. We in the media have ignored a development which may become a source of instability in our region.

It is early days yet but, as Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi warned during the worst years of the short man with the pipe, dictatorships do not herald their coming - no dictatorship, he said, "like drum majorettes, beats drums and parades down the street to announce it has arrived".

That is exactly what the people of Botswana are experiencing. Dictator-ship is sneaking up on them very quickly and it is high time the rest of us in the region realised this.

So hats off to the young man in the Pirates jacket for putting the matter on the agenda.

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