As Batswana were gathered at Gaborone Stadium celebrating their 51st independence anniversary today 30 September, it was so refreshing and encouraging to witness how there were no speeches delivered.
This was a day strictly set aside to celebrate Botswana’s nationhood, and unite all people behind the blue, white and black flag, without spoiling it with speeches.
Yesterday, the country’s President conferred various honors on several Batswana and foreigners for their invaluable service to the country – and they were aptly described as heroes.
All this got me thinking as to whether Zimbabwe could learn a lesson or two from Botswana.
Firstly, it has become more than an embarassment to the country that such occasions as our independence anniversaries – which are meant to be celebratory and unifying – are sadly turned into vitriol-infested, derogatory-driven, and highly divisive events.
At the end of such days, the nation is left feeling angry and hateful – and wondering if that is what is supposed to happen after celebrating one’s birthday.
Why does our leadership believe that an occasion to unite and celebrate should be where we ought to hate and fight each other?
Is that the place to call each other names, and make others feel less welcome…and lower citizens than others?
The fact that this division and hatefulness is based on partisan politics further demeans and betrays the whole purpose of a country’s independence anniversary celebrations.
Should such celebrations not transcend petty political party lines, and bring everyone behind the Zimbabwean flag?
Why should a paranoic and deminishing leadership – which sees political ghosts and conspiracies everywhere – be allowed to turn a national celebratory event into a witch-hunting ritual?
They remind me of those type of people who always cause a brawl every time they are invited to a party or wedding.
In spite of a nation’s political differences – which is a part of every healthy democracy – a national event is a time for all to stand together…forgetting all differences, albeit only for a day or two.
Nonetheless, our paranoic leadership – haunted by its own incompetence and mismanagement – can not even be civilised, be it for only a day.
This parania tragically goes a step further in that they would never dare declare a living person a hero, except perhaps, President Mugabe.
This is in stark contrast to what Botswana President Khama did – and has been doing – on the eve of his country’s anniversary.
In our beloved Zimbabwe, it is unheard of that a living person can be declared a hero, as that will be viewed as a threat by the leadership.
One of the disturbing traits of this leadership is to brand anyone who challenges it as a traitor, and as such, definitely not a hero.
Thus, they see declaring someone a hero whilst they are still alive as giving them legitimacy, and making them more acceptable to the electorate on their own right.
What we currently have in Zimbabwe is where every member of the ruling ZANU PF owes the support they receive from the electorate to one individual – Mugabe.
He is the only living Zimbabwean whom they have effectively already declared a hero – lending him the legimacy to lead – whilst, everyone else follows.
Such is the unfortunate magnitude of the paraoia that has gripped Zimbabwe’s leadership.
This country needs a truly strong leadership.
It is easier to hate than to love.
It is easier to hold a grudge than to forgive.
It is easier to be stubborn than to ask for forgiveness.
It is easier to divide people than unite them.
It is easier to hold on to power than to allow someone else to take over and lead.
It is easier to be an oppressive dictator than be a democrat who does not feel insecure and threatened by every challenge to his leadership.
As such, it takes someone truly strong and brave to unite a nation, and promote genuine democracy.
A strong leader is not a dictator, as that is a sign of a coward and weakling – a typical bully.
Zimbabweans deserve better leadership than what we currently have.
Let us learn from the examplary leadership that Botswana has so wonderfully exhited to the rest of Africa, and beyond.
All those aspiring to lead this country should make it a habit to learn from, and even copy, democratic systems of such countries, as that is the only avenue available if ever the dream of a democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe is ever to be realised.
We can no longer afford to dice with our future, and that of our children, through divisive and destructive policies – which can only lead to doom and further untold misery.
* Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and author. He is available should anyone want to invite him to speak at any gathering. Please call +263782283975, or email [email protected]