Friday, July 23, 2010

Batswana Writers Speak out on National Issues

This morning with tea I was reading this week's Botswana Gazette and I was very happy. Of course Unity Dow and Andrew Sesinyi are many things, not just novelists, but they are novelists and are speaking out on two very important issues facing Botswana right now: the new liquor legislation and the declaration of assets by elected officials.

Our president, President Ian Khama, pushed through drastic tax increases on alcohol in an attempt to deal with the alcohol problem in the country. He has a personal hatred of alcohol that unfortunately he wants to impose on the country. In an interview in the Gazette Andrew Sesinyi points out that the not well thought out legislation has done nothing to curb alcoholism except put more economic pressure on already struggling families. He points out that the way to attack alcoholism is through rehabilitation and addiction programmes such as Alcoholics Anonymous. He criticises Khama's simplistic attack on the problem as a paternalistic, "bana ga ba utlwe"(the children are naughty) method, a position the President takes on many issues. A position that fails with adults who find it, rightly so, insulting.

In Unity Dow's new column, "A View from Left Field", in The Gazette, she tackles the sticky issue of the declaration of assets by elected officials. She says that Batswana by nature are a modest people. A cattle farmer with thousands of head of cattle will speak about going to check his small calf instead of boasting about his massive herd. She thinks this may lie behind politicians reluctance to pass this important piece of legislation. But as she points out 1) it will curtail abuse of office and conflict of interest when it comes to the politicians business interests and 2) No one forced these people to run for office; if they want a public life they must make their assets public, if they don't- then don't run for office.

In another country far away, another writer has stepped up to the political plate. Wole Soyinka has started his own political party. One wonders, would the world be a better place if writers ran it? Hmmm....

1 comment:

Lemang said...

Unity Dow made some good points, except that some of the point Joyce Phumaphi made a while ago, the new one is the historical origin or cultural tradition of modesty. But the flaw of her argument is assuming that the elected leaders have something to declare, maybe some have nothing to declare or everything is debt, and they are embarrassed we will see that they have nothing.