Botswana – Afrykańska perła | TEN ŚWIAT JEST NASZ ODC. 04
Over a deserts, over the savannas, over diamonds and under an extremely starry sky on the black land we will find a country so unknown and at the same time so worth knowing that we must make up for these shortcomings as soon as possible. It’s time to change the perception of this region of the world. Diamonds, deserts and wild animals – the African pearl, or Botswana. Here we go! Wojciech Siryk presents „This world is ours” THIS WORLD IS OURS Episode 04 Botswana African pearl Africa. It will not be an exaggeration on my part if I say that this continent is hardly associated with wealth. Africa in the public opinion, equals poverty. And I will try to refute this association, because there is nothing to refute – the data is ruthless, it is the poorest continent on earth. In that case, the natural question arises – what am I doing here? Alright, let’s start with something big – Botswana in recent decades has been the fastest growing country in the world. That’s right, I didn’t get it wrong – the fastest growing country in the world. Faster than China. We do suffer from cognitive dissonance, don’t we? – our views collide with reality. We think that all of Africa is haunted by hunger and a deficit of drinking water. But in reality we see a super-rapid development in Botswana. We have to deal with this topic, so let’s start our African adventure. I will explain to you how is it possible that we can discuss big money and rapid development in a country that a few decades ago was one of the poorest in the world. Let’s start with what exactly Botswana is and where did it come from. Before Botswana was named Botswana, it was a British protectorate called Bechuanaland. It is a very interesting story. The end of the nineteenth century, and Africa is mostly in the hands of the French and the British. Small technical issue – territories that were captured by other states had different statuses. We often automatically call them colonies, but formally they could also be e.g. condominiums or protectorates. Colony means total political and economic subordination, a condominium is a territory managed jointly by at least two countries, while the protectorate has a certain internal political sovereignty, i.e. it governs itself, and the protector only protects its interests in this place and conducts, e.g. international policy of this place. The attention of Europeans in this part of the continent was focused primarily on the areas of today’s South Africa. The territory of today’s Republic of Botswana was not so tempting – in fact, the British thought that there was nothing here, but the aforementioned protectorate was finally established because they wanted to control this area anyway. The genesis of the British government’s influence here is extremely interesting. Well, the leaders of the local tribes personally went to Great Britain and asked Queen Victoria to establish a protectorate. A monument located in the capital of Botswana reminds of these events. The hat removed symbolizes respect for the British queen; the extended hand of the second leader is a metaphor referring to a modest population numbers, that is, they represent a community so small that it could fit in the hand; while the walking stick of the third leader is a symbol of seriousness and truthfulness. The leaders decided to make this request, among others, for fear of… the British South African Company, a company that subjugated subsequent regions in the south of this continent. To sum up – the leaders preferred a political protectorate and self-deciding rather than the total dominance of the trade company. This is undoubtedly an original story, but it is only a foretaste of what happened decades later. It was in the twentieth century that the whole world heard about Bechuanaland. Western media was excited about the love that rocked politics. Let the landscape of those events, i.e. the breathtaking Botswana nature, serve as a prelude to this topic! The genesis of the establishment of today’s Botswana, or the end of Beczuana and the beginning of the Republic of Botswana, is in short a story about love and independence. These two threads combine in one person. Seretse Khama was born into a royal family – this was in 1921. He was the son of Sekoma II – the leader of the Bamangwato tribe. Father Seretse died only a few years after his birth. During his childhood, the tribe is led by the regent – Czekedi Khama, and the minor heir to the throne is to acquire the best education possible during this time. Everything seemed fairly straightforward, until the situation got complicated when Seretse was studying in the UK, where he falls in love with a woman… In 1948, 27-year-old Seretse Khama married an Englishwoman, Ruth Williams. And so it began… The marriage of a black man with a white woman in the late 1940s was not the easiest thing to do, but in this case it was not only about “what-will-people-say”-like problems. The matter was much more serious because of a political turmoil – on an international scale. The marriage was criticized by Seretse’s uncle – Czekedi Khama, who was strongly against the white woman becoming the queen of the tribe. Political pressure from the south, and more specifically from the Union of South Africa, resulted in the British trying in every possible way to eliminate Seretse Khama from the political life of Bechuanaland. All this raises a natural question – why was anyone except Bechuanaland bothered by the marriage of the Bamangwato king in Bechuanaland? The answer was the socio-political climate of the time, especially in ZPA, which is today’s South Africa. There, the racial segregation policy was officially introduced, and here – that is, next to it, the black king of the tribe, aspiring to rule the country, marries a white woman. It did not fit it – hence these pressures. The heroes of our story, Seretshe and Ruth, did not have it easy. The relationship itself was controversial. Apparently the bishop of London said that the church wedding could take place, but only if the British government agrees. There was a civil marriage because there were no formal and legal issues that could prevent such a marriage. Ruth lost her job and her father fired her from home. The spouses flew to Bechuanaland, where the Englishwoman managed to convince the public, but the efforts proved futile. The British government buckled under the pressure of the Union of South Africa. Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams Khama were banished from the Bechuanaland protectorate. The British looked closely at the matter, i.e. they wanted to find a reasonable justification for what they were doing, because in the eyes of the public it looked extremely bad. They made life harder for a man just because he got “politically ill” married. Ultimately – they could not find any fault, but economic cooperation between Great Britain and the Union of South Africa proved to be the most important. The British did not change their minds – there was no place for Mr Khama in Bechuanaland’s politics. It took several more years for the married couple to be allowed to return to the protectorate, subject to the surrender of the throne. Seretse Khama has started a new chapter of his life. He became … an ordinary citizen. After all – he did not give up political activity. What’s more – all these problems, his stubbornness, exile, return, further activity – it all made him… more popular. In the early 1960s, he headed the Democratic Party he founded. The capital of Bechuanaland was Mafikeng – a very interesting case, because this city was not in Bechuanaland. Administratively, it was located at the northern end of the ZPA. So the state capital was an enclave in the neighboring state. By the way, this example can be used to illustrate how the British treated the Bechuanaland protectorate – neglectedly. All internal decisions related to Bechuanaland were made de facto outside Bechuanaland. In 1964, Great Britain agreed to democratic elections in the protectorate. The capital was moved to the city of Gaberones, which by the way a few years later changed its name to Gaborone, and originally in the local language we read it ‘Haborone’. But let’s leave the capitals for now, let’s get back to the elections. With a very high turnout (75%), Mr Khama’s party, the independence option, is definitely the winner. On September 30, 1966, the independent Republic of Botswana was officially established. The character of this country is very aptly described by the symbolism of the flag and the emblem. Blue symbolizes rain, which plays an important role in this community due to frequent droughts. Black and white symbolize racial diversity as well as harmony and cooperation between races. The emblem contains even more information. The call “pula” means “rain” and “happiness” and is at the same time a positive exclamation that accompanies lofty events. Two zebras refer to nature, and black and white stripes on their skin – as it is not difficult to guess – to equality of people of all races. The first zebra holds ivory, which is a reference to ivory trade in the past or according to another interpretation – to the wild life protection. The second zebra holds sorghum, which is important for the country’s grain. On the shield we can see three waves – this is again a reference to water and rain, to this gears denoting the mining industry and the head of a bull, or cattle breeding. There is a lot of stuff going on, but one glance is enough – and everything is clear! What is Mr. Khama praised for? What exactly did he do that made his name so pronounced in the history of the country? First of all – he resisted a certain temptation. History knows many scenarios where someone criticized the ruler, then he took over the power and… ruled even worse. In the case of former colonial countries, the role of “the bad guys” was most often played by newcomers from Europe, and later it turned out that the new local authority was worse and expropriated the people. Meanwhile, Mr. Khama found liberal British law order in place and simply did not touch it. He did not seek to restrain the economic system, i.e. he did not think only about himself and the elite close to him, but about the whole country. He used to say that low taxes prevent fraud. He did not seek to restrain the political system – at the beginning the rules of the parliamentary republic were established and he adhered to it. He did not seek to restrain, or rather hierarchize society according to a principle, which says that white people had ruled already, now only black people will be rule and white people will be marginalized. Anyway, it looks like it – after all, he created a mixed family himself. Quote from Mr. Khama – “we are going to show other countries that whites and blacks can live in harmony and work together for the interests of their country”. In addition, he traveled a lot, lectured about morality, ethics, criticized corruption. In short, in such fundamental matters it is really hard to accuse him of bad intentions or selfishness. He ruled for 14 years, so arguable politically speaking he certainly made some better and some worse decisions, had better and worse years. On the other hand, from a purely historical perspective – he gained enormous respect in the country. And speaking of freedom and tolerance – the topic of religion cannot be missed. The constitution guarantees religious freedom and at the same time no religion has been declared a state one. Christianity dominates – first of all Afro-Christian and Protestant churches. Catholics make up only seven percent of the population. In addition, there is a multitude of tribal religions. Everything coexists in a peaceful atmosphere – tensions between the followers of individual religions are virtually nonexistent. From our Polish perspective, it’s definitely worth looking inside the Catholic church, because the traditional Sunday mass looks a little different than in ours… As you can see and hear – where in Poland it is often monotonous, in Botswana smile and spontaneity dominate. Looking at such scenes, one can get the impression of joy filling the society: people are so happy, cheerful and full of enthusiasm. This is what Africa is, except that the inhabitants of Botswana have a reputation of being rather subdued and phlegmatic in the region, apparently they have a bit left after the British. Anyway – from our perspective there is really nothing to criticize. There are so many great things in this country – and there is very little awareness of it. Seretse Khama is undoubtedly a positive figure. Actually, Botswana is equals Seretse Khama. First of all – he is the father of independence, secondly – it was during his rule that the country began to develop. And there were virtually no scandals: only stable development. We have said almost everything on the topic, so allow me a little digression. How does it happen that when any ruler in the world is very bad, then everyone talks about him, everyone knows him, we are bombarded with the information on him. However, when any ruler in the world is benevolent, … nothing bad happens, the country develops, people get richer, there are no scandals, that is, from the media perspective, from the perspective of public debate – there is nothing to talk about. All in all it’s not puzzling – it’s just terrible. Therefore, let’s focus on what is good, on the best role models: it will be less controversial, but definitely better! It all sounds so great that you may want to pack your bags and look for happiness in your life in the southern part of the African continent. As you can see – there is no shortage of space. Unfortunately – it is not so simple – you have to look at this issue broadly and objectively. Hence, we are comparing not only Botswana with Botswana 40 years ago, or Botswana with other countries of the region, which for various reasons have been lagging behind, but now Botswana versus the rest of the world. Let’s discuss the record rate of economic growth. Everything is correct on the face of it. However, it should be remembered that Botswana started from an extremely low level of development. And that makes these first years go very smoothly, because it is enough to do anything and it almost automatically brings about development – because anything is more than nothing. Some economists call this convergence, or the catching up effect. So in Botswana, the pace of development is impressive, but we have to remember that it is still not a country with a high standard of living on a global scale. On a regional scale – yes. On a global scale – no, not yet. I talked a lot about history that shaped this society into an open one, able to take advantage of its chances and ambitiously looking ahead. I also emphasized that political stability and economic development are the elements for which we can praise this country. However, there are other factors that define the quality of life here. In other words – we, living in the so-called first world often forget that peace and money are not the only worries everywhere. Botswana has a serious problem. Along with South Africa, Lesotho and Eswatini are leading in the infamous HIV / AIDS epidemic ranking. These four countries constitute the very south of Africa and it is this region of the world that is most affected by this problem. In other countries of the continent the situation is also serious, but the more north the better. In Botswana, around 380,000 people have HIV or AIDS. That’s up to seventeen percent of the population. In such a situation, it is not only individual problems of individuals, but also a serious social challenge. Examples. This is decimating society. From a purely economic point of view, it is not just that these people are dying, but also at some stage of the disease they are not able to work or are simply not motivated to work. Further – the considerable expenditure on treatment is borne by both the public health service and the family in private. Money is also spent on prevention – for example, research or information campaigns. There are a lot of orphans and a lot of children without a father or mother – in the end, their parents die young. Thus, almost every aspect of life, more or less, is affected by the epidemic. It all points to a perspective unknown among first-world citizens. We all worry about the economy and the security, but there are other problems that can destroy society. Botswana is a country which, in a region full of racial conflicts, political tensions and economic crises, was distinguished by openness, calmness and progress. The nickname “pearl of Africa” is brought up from time to time, which is interesting, as, although the pearls look great indeed, you have to remember that they lose their shine over time. It seems appropriate to wish this ambitious society lots of luck in their fight against numerous challenges. May the next half century be equally successful!