Politics and Government

How To Win An Election in 2019 Botswana

To win elections in Botswana you must have no regard for policy issues, my dear. You must run a “campaign” solely reliant on attacks and trivialities. For example, you should be ready to shame young people for being unemployable. Mock their resultant mental illnesses, even. But don’t once mention that the youth’s unemployability is also due to a still-colonized curriculum taught in Botswana schools. Sensible issues like the decolonization of the curriculum will not get you votes so avoid them completely.

Besides, keeping the youth unemployed keeps them so desperate for free t-shirts, caps and inconsequential pep talks by foreign celebrities that you can manipulate how they vote. Whether you are a man, woman or other, you must blame women for not participating in politics and never acknowledge the hostile sexist space that is the Botswana political landscape. You must equally repeatedly ignore children’s rights in a country where children live at high risk of danger even in their homes. Instead, blame children for being and acting their age. We do it for they are our future, right? Who cares if they are being taught a colonial curriculum in 2019? Who cares if we maintain dangerous and colonial learning environments for Batswana children? As long as your own children can access the prohibitively expensive private schools here, all is well.

When you speak to electorates at a rally you must always scream, my dear. Especially if you have been given multiple microphones to speak into. Scream! It makes you look like you care about the people. In return, they will respond enthusiastically because there is just something reassuring about an incoherent loud reverberating voice in a freedom square. In fact, the voters might cry, dance or even lay hands on you in prayer. That is all really wonderful. Because once you have them in that terrain of sentimentality, you can push their faith in you even harder. Fall to the ground and convulse. Wash statues. Dress statues. Do whatever theatrics you need to do to let the voters know that they are NOT deserving of your serious engagement and they will love you. They must know that your composed and more sensible self is reserved for foreign audiences for when you shall engage with CNN, BBC, SABC or Al Jazeera after your win.

Don’t talk about how you will address the challenges of Botswana’s worrisome gini co-eficient because you really see nothing wrong with increasing inequality. Also, you absolutely don’t know what a gini co-efficient is, and that is excellent in this political landscape where we reward ignorance mediocrity. Keep it that way, and keep saying that teaching the dying so-called minority Botswana languages would fuel tribalism. Use the same logic to speak against the advent of community radio stations that use local indigenous languages. In this way, you are effectively dismissing the fact that language bars too many non-Setswana-speaking Batswana from participating in the economy and thereby exacerbating inequality along tribal lines. My dear, if you are to win you must save that kind of talk for speeches abroad when you shall quote UN Reports on how Botswana is a beacon of peace, hope and stability. Who cares that the increasing inequality makes Botswana unsafe? Not you because you are the one that must win an election.

To win an election, you must gaslight the heck out of the entire nation. Tell them that you, aristocrat, are just one of them. Change political parties. Address the voters in Setswana (after you win you will address us in English only). Act like it is okay for a democracy not to change its ruling party for more than half a century. Basically do whatever you need to do to make sure that the nation begins to doubt their own grasp on reality. At rallies for example, you should approach the podium leading an emotional hymn about love and compassion. And then you must proceed to casually spew misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, religious intolerance and tribalism at the podium. And then we, the voters, will begin to wonder if the hate is coming from the same lips that sing such a sweet melody of love and compassion. That is the goal; confuse us all.

You must threaten to reveal a political secret. Do it even if it means you have to say on record that you know who someone defiled a minor but you will not say unless your campaign gets further endangered (by your former political friends). You must tell us that a divorced woman is divorced and reveal it like a secret meant to reduce her dignity particularly as a woman living in this patriarchal country. Tell us that you know secrets about who looted the National Petroleum Fund (and led to an increase in prices of petrol) and also tell us that you will not disclose the name of this person until you decide to do so. In all scenarios, you must never reveal the open secret that – despite Botswana’s strong currency, positive GDP growth rate and high global ratings of good governance – Botswana stopped developing long ago. If you are to win an election here my dear, you must act as though new malls are economic growth; you must act as though university allowance is a reward and not a contractual obligation on the part of any government. Lastly, you must threaten to reveal a political secret about forensic reports.

Donate inconsequential and un-transformative things. Give potential voters things that do not build the voters’ capacity to do anything for themselves. Do it publicly. How is giving them a snack going to help them feed themselves? Don’t worry about such trivialities. How is giving them a t-shirt (to brand them like a cow) help them have the capacity to buy Christmas clothes for their children? Don’t worry about such questions, my dear. These are simple people. They must always depend on you. They need you and they must prove that they will always need you: they must compose songs about you, they must put your face in fabric and wear it, they must watch you dance clumsily at rallies and dutifully clap. That is how you know that donating snacks that you yourself wouldn’t eat is a sure way to political office in Botswana.

Give a “party stance” in response to questions, especially in situations where sharing your personal view as a politician might reduce violence on transwomen, put a face to gender-based violence or start a conversation about how our traditional cultural practices enable human trafficking in Botswana. Continue to give a “party stance” on whether “men are trash.” Yes, give a “party stance” when asked whether you, as a woman, have the right to choose what happens to your body. Give a “party stance” when asked whether you, as a man, can be raped. Remember that the “party stance” must always be as problematic as possible so that you appeal to the so-called masses.

That is the Botswana that is going to the polls on Wednesday October 23, 2019 – the Botswana that has lived beyond its time and is due for a renaissance. Whether SADC or any other observers capture that reality, we don’t care to raise our expectations of that organization anymore. What more can we expect from observers who ogle our always-questionable election process from the lush Grand Palm hotel? Their black caps and jackets don’t make them neutral because there are voters like myself who know that once again we are experiencing violence leading up to elections but in the end, SADC will report that it witnessed “free and fair elections” despite copious evidence to the contrary. Any observer who comes here and sees our misery and goes off to write about observing peace in Botswana has blood on their hands – that’s it. Beyond the lovely diplomacy of it all, it is between you and your Higher Power.

In conlusion, my dear political candidate, be warned. The likes of you are becoming obsolete and there is a silent majority that desires a Botswana where our shining reputation as a country abroad and our hellish lived experience in Botswana do not contrast so sharply. Happy voting!

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Donald Molosi
Donald Molosi is President of the Upright African Movement.

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