The backward one

The backward one

IN moments of desperation we are all vulnerable to manipulation. Rocked by troubles Muckraker found herself imbibing the words of a loud-mouthed Pentecostal zealot who promised miracles.

The man, with an unhealthy penchant for shiny suites and funny haircuts, claimed to have a hotline to the Maker.
He gloated about revelations he said the Maker had dispatched his way. On Sundays he spoke as if he was having a meal with the Maker the previous night.

Like zombies, the followers gobbled every word he uttered with vim. Soon morons, who seemed to take off their thinking caps at the synagogue entrance, were calling him ‘Papa’.

Then one winter morning he changed his title from pastor to ‘Prophet’. Muckraker was disgusted by the demagoguery and the brown nosing aiding it.
Yet it would take her three more months to dump the congregation, her Damascene moment coming during one of the never-ending all-night prayers.
In his piercing voice, the “Prophet” was berating congregants for being tight-fisted. The church has to buy a new sound system, vehicles and rent better premises.

Listening to him you could feel hellish for being stingy.  The word having knocked on the heart, Muckraker wrote a M3000 cheque and reluctantly placed it into the offering basket. Money seemed to be following from all corners of the packed hall.
After the service Muckraker asked the treasurer after he announced that only M1000 had been raised. Flabbergasted Muckraker accosted the treasurer after the service.

“Yes, only M1 000 today. People are very stingy my sister,” said the treasurer who claimed the “prophet” was his spiritual father [such tosh is not anywhere in the Book, by the way.

When asked if his arithmetic skills had failed him, the treasurer swore by his spiritual father that he didn’t see the M3000 cheque.
So Muckraker on her own had given M3000 but the church had raised M1000. An act of thievery had happened and Muckraker was not going to stand for it.

She wrote to the “prophet” asking questions but the response was shuddering. Instead of an explanation the prophet made Muckraker the subject of his sermon.  “Single women are single because they are bothersome,” he said.
“In this church we have a single woman who thinks a Prophet should report to her on money matters.”
“Touch not the anointed.”

“Amen,” bellowed the treasurer with one eye glaring at an unfazed Muckraker.  There was no going back: after church Muckraker asked the prophet for a refund.  “And while paying back the money please remember to make some time to grow up,” she told the surprised crook.
The relationship has come to an acrimonious end. Friends later whispered to Muckraker that she was the subject of two bile laced sermons after she left. She doesn’t give a rat’s behind about bandits in cloaks.

The relevance of this tale will be revealed in the next few sentences. But first let’s tell another one which is equally central to the subject at hand.
To the hypnotic sounds of Sanko, Muckraker crosses into the land of Batswana.  They call it Botswana and it is not Muckraker’s business to question the authenticity of the title deeds brandished by those who inhabit it now.

There is no profit in that autopsy and there might never be, the rightful owners forcefully assimilated into a new society or shoved to the peripheries of what was once their home.  Sanko here is no shortcut for Sankomota, the legendary band once fronted by our own Tsepo Tsola.
Yes Tsepo, the man who has blessed us with such beautiful melodies but remains without much to show for his musical talent, thanks to the long fingers of recording companies.

The sound booming in Muckraker’s dotcom as she enters Gaborone belongs to Sanko, the famo maestro whose life was stolen at Orange Farm many eons ago by some lunatics high on illiterateness.  It is sheer coincidence that it is Sanko’s song that has ushered this daughter of Mafube into Botswana.

Yet there is something breathtakingly symbolic about it.  Years ago, before Muckraker had barely learned to wear her undies without leaning against a wall, it was Sanko’s song that greeted her into this land.  Sanko was shrieking from the broken speakers of a battered chicken bus hired by a headmaster who ran the primary school like his keyhole garden.

By hook or crook her mother had cobbled enough coins to pay for her school trip. We crossed the Ramatlabama Border to find a country in the throes of poverty and so backward that you would think its owners were on a mission to make it as such.  Then Botswana was a place “untainted” by even any semblance of development.

It was a pristine place depressingly stuck in the 1920s.  Donkeys were chiefs and goats were having crazy parties on what looked like roads. The people were having beer for water.  When sober, a rarity that called for a national shindig, they kicked themselves for being way behind Lesotho in everything despite the apparent similarities between the two countries.

There were three musketeers: Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana. Lesotho was leading the pack, not spectacularly so but still enough to be the envy of the other members of the clan.  Even a class of under performers has its own genius. There is always a standard bearer and Lesotho was carrying the torch.

Now as she nurses her tin lizzie on a decent road chocked by cars, Muckraker is stunned by how Botswana has transformed in a few decades.
Her mind races back home to Maseru. Light years separate Gaborone from Maseru and Lesotho from Botswana.  It would seem that as Lesotho was crawling Botswana had been possessed by the spirit of Usain Bolt.

You wonder where Lesotho went wrong. For answers look no further than the little church story Muckraker told. Like the fake prophets festering in our villages our politicians have not learned to keep their hands out of the cookie jar.  They are thieves on steroids. Tenders have been rigged and procurement regulations molested to benefit a small cabal of party and government functionaries.

It’s not the politics that kills an economy but corruption. There is no evidence that dictatorship or fake democracy hampers economic growth.
To explain our economic woes and stagnation we point at history. The BNP government and the military junta have become easy scapegoats.
Yet even as the country has been relatively stable in the past two decades it has zilch to show for it, apart from two small malls and some few donated roads.

Infrastructure remains token and we still have the same big companies we had ten years ago.
There has not been any meaningful foreign direct investment in the past ten years, unless you think Taiwanese shipping in some sewing machines is worth gloating about.

Our major problem is that we have adamantly refused to learn from others. Our civil servants have travelled the world but instead of learning new things they ask for the nearest bar or cheap store.

We have sent thousands of our people to be educated in foreign lands but they come back as rural as they left.
No matter how long we stay out of this place we remained stuck in our blinkered local ways.
In 1966 Lesotho’s economy was way larger than that of Botswana.

Now Botswana has an economy almost six times larger than that of Lesotho. Keep your anger in check fellow countrymen for this is not some ranting.
Botswana and Lesotho had independence almost the same week. They have almost the same population.  Its leaders, like ours, most probably went to NUL. These were two countries that shared a history and a colonial master.  One has galloped forward while the other has regressed at shocking speed.

Today Botswana is one of the richest countries in Africa while Lesotho is one of the poorest.
Batswana are some of the richest people in Africa while Basotho are some of the poorest. Nothing shows the incongruence as the recent budget.
Minister Majoro had to scratch his heard to share M18.7 billion.

In February the finance Minister of Botswana was sharing four times more than that in a country with fewer people.
If that doesn’t rile you it may be the right time to know that the budget of Lesotho is only three times bigger than that of Wits University.

Previous Writing on development
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