Psychiatrists had long warned us that an era of lockdown would leave behind a trail of broken hearts chief of which would be serious psychological and mental illnesses. And indeed lockdowns have taken their toll on people. Social emotions and the stresses and strains of the economy, joblessness and added to that financial woes and indebtedness have been pretty unbearable.We often want to underestimate the extent to which the corona pandemic has robbed people the means against which they have always subsisted. As is so often the case, an easy way out of these troubles is denial. Bliss we often thin, provides the best comfort. And solace too!
During the lockdown when alcohol was banned, many people resorted to drugs. Substance abuse reached its peak. And police have now said women and child abuse also reached peak levels. And the impacts are only just beginning to be apparent.It will be a long time before we fully grasp the extent of damage to our societal ecosystem. Repairing that damage might never be achieved. Already we see is a rush to conveniently romanticise the pandemic and talk of silver linings. Real people who are not cushioned by government jobs and government tenders do not see that. All they see is a dark and think cloud over them that goes as far as the eyes can see. Botswana does not have a strong policy on treating people for psychological.
In fact the illness is still frowned upon and thus stigmatised.And worse, Batswana still make reference to mental illness in demeaning terms.Some families go as far as to even try to hide and keep away from public sight family members who are mentally sick. We pamper and gloss over this sickness without offering help to people who need it. The popular musician ATI has of late been a source of national conversation. ATI has honed his message and of empowering Batswana and it resonates with Batswana. But long before this latest campaign, the media was awash with stories of the demons that ATI was struggling against. He had to go for rehab in South Africa. Nobody is saying if he came back well or if there is a relapse or whatever. ATI is a national asset. He is immensely talented. And Batswana especially the youth like him and look up to him as their hero.The trouble is they only get to see the public side of him.It is his family who bear the biggest emotional pain because they see everything about ATI.
To his family ATI is not a marketing tool. He is not a political tool. To them he is not even a musician, but only a child, a son whose vulnerabilities they fully grasp and fully understand. To them he is a young human-being collapsing under the weight of an unkind and unforgiving world. The family has no interest in milking ATI’s popularity and celebrity status for any ends.All they want is happiness for ATI. And good health too.
ATI’s family should take full responsibility of ATI’s well-being.They should see to it that he becomes a hero to the nation that has been unable to resolve its own conditions, while he is a wreck behind the walls at home. ATI needs help, not ululations.His message is robust, firm and honest. It underscores his innate talent.Politicians too have jumped onto this dangerous bandwagon of trying to capitalize on ATI.
Opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change has been the most unbridled.The trouble though is that by attaching political coattails to it, the UDC is now contaminating the ATI message they want for themselves.But this opportunism says a lot about UDC at multiple levels.At face value it stinks of hypocrisy.At a higher level it is now clear that UDC does not want to work hard for anything of its own.Anything that comes along blaming the government they are happy to attach their name to it. Clearly the party has chosen to be tactical and not strategic.They have set their eyes on the short term and less on long term.They do not want to work hard for the long term. This UDC short-termism has led to sacrificing of strategic long-term goals for easy public attention.The advantages for this behavior are not clear. They are content with keeping appearances than laying down principles and sticking with them for the long haul.They look at returns in the now rather than in future. And that is dangerous, politically speaking.In fact it is this look at the world that cost the UDC an election they were supposed to win last year after they opted to go into elections with Ian Khama rather than on their own.
Just as we were busy here following events around ATI, something big concerning Botswana was also playing out in Johannesburg, South Africa. Afriforum hosted a press conference to announce that they will be representing Botswana Government to obtain Mutual Legal Assistance from South African Government. Afriforum is a tenacious and unapologetically pro-Afrikaner Non-Governmental Organisation.This has caused a backlash among some quarters that how can a black government sleep with an enemy. Apparently in the minds of the elite in South Africa and also in Botswana white Afrikaner speaking people remain enemies. This is exactly the double speak that will not take anybody far.I have talked to a few cabinet ministers here who have also privately said they are uncomfortable with Afriforum.
My South African contacts – all of them black and many of them in the media have however been more discerning in their response. Their view is that Bridget Radebe is exceedingly well connected in South Africa especially in government, in business and in the ANC and that getting information on her would require Botswana government to forcefully go out of these circles.For these people no organization is best suited to do that than Afriforum. The decision by Botswana, looked at its own merit has been a cracker, they say.“Botswana government decision has shaken the elite and their establishment here [in Sa]. They feel very vulnerable for they know what the Afriforum is capable of. It is not an issue of racism but just class loyalty,” one SA national editor told me privately on Thursday. He also added that Bridget Radebe controls the media in South Africa and routinely manipulates them.“I have been observing her, she is now at wits-end. She knows she is on her own and not even SA government can rescue her,” the same editor said.That has not stopped Botswana Patriotic Front, UDC and a few lawyers here from attacking Botswana Government decision to choose Afriforum.
Clearly Botswana Government has to contend with backlash from within too, including from cabinet ministers who think the decision would alienate South Africa. But if the truth is what they want, then they have to weather the storm. Otherwise this case will never be resolved and the same people will tomorrow be blaming the Director of Public Prosecutions for ineptitude.Yet again the opposition has been most vocal against a decision to appoint Afriforum. As in the case of ATI, the whole UDC behavior stinks of hypocrisy. They are struggling to remain relevant, inside the country and abroad. Moeti Mohwasa has been especially spirited in his condemnation. It is not a coincidence.
Mohwasa has always cherished the ANC link. The link offers him an imaginary assuage of his nostalgic pretense that Botswana National Front is a liberation heavyweight still touted across reginal capitals.That nostalgia means a lot to him not least because it provides a much-needed cover to his ideological and liberation pretensions.Against liberation ideology Mohwasa is totally helpless.He has been unable to outgrow his liberation euphoria inside which he had been entrapped long before South Africa achieved independence.The trouble though is that at one point these pretenses become utterly unsustainable. And Mohwasa and his Botswana National Front are at that point. He sees everything wrong with appointing Afriforum and nothing wrong with his party collaborating with Paul O’Sullivan to discredit Botswana’s electoral systems. That looks like fake patriotism, fake pan-Africanism and even fake nationalism.
UDC is frantically searching for a scalp.They have been observing the Masisi government, which has admittedly been blunder-strewn. They want to create political capital from unfolding events. And they crave a moral high ground. UDC no longer makes any effort to create waves, the party just wants to ride on the crest of those waves created by other people. There is a whiff of opportunism in the way UDC has approached the ATI matter and also the Afriforum one. In all these the most hopeless has been Ms Bridget Motsepe. She can’t even control herself.
In a most bizarre way, she keeps lying to the South Africa media which she controls that her father and sir Seretse Khama were friends at Fort Hare university. Nobody in the South African media is making follow up questions for her to back up this blatant lie – including when and how she really met Ian Khama.