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Delusions Dis-Illusions

David Magang’s latest literary offering reprises his earlier Magic

Delusions of  Grandeur is David Magang’s second plunge into the literary collosseum. The first, his biographical sketch – titled The Magic of Perseverance – came off the presses in 2008.


The two works are uncannily similar, which in itself is not odd anyway  coming as they do from the pen  of  the same, punctilious  chronicler.  Both are meticulous and encyclopaedic in their vista. Both are eloquent and riveting. Both are frank and forthright. Both are rousing and provocative in a positive way.  


Both are classics no doubt. They are sui generis.
Delusions  of  Grandeur is venturesome. Through it, Magang, a lawyer by training, treads on not-so-familiar ground notwithstanding his relatively brief stint as  the 2iC at the Exchequer.  Indeed, he makes a point of  underlining from the very outset that he is not a Keith Jefferis, Roman Grynberg, or Brothers Malema.  He is simply a commentator.


Well, if he is a mere discussant, then he is of a special breed.  Ordinarily lay people do not engage a specialised subject and argue  with such a flourish.  If any faculty of economics anywhere  endorsed the book as standard text for a development economics course on Botswana, they would not be going beyond the pale.  


Magang is good at  a whole host of things but more so at laying insuperable markers. In  The Magic of Perseverance, he set a benchmark that is yet to be bettered, let alone equalled, on the domestic literary scene.   In Delusions of  Grandeur, he has scaled another height which is every bit non pareil. Economists must be scratching their heads and wracking their brains as to just how  the great Son of  Kgabo can be one-upped.


The Universe of Discourse
Essentially, Magang’s bone of contention is that for an economy of  its tantalising promise once upon a time, Botswana has grossly under-performed. In bolstering his argument, Magang points to the Asian Tigers, basically, as the archetype. 

Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea – none had a headstart  off  the  blocks: they began on practically the same economic footing as  Botswana. All were anonymous, backwater economies with absolutely nothing to write about. In terms of that popular but questionable economic performance indicator known  as GDP, Botswana did in fact pip the four to the post.

It outperformed them by two to three points for 30 straight years or thereabouts. But look at where the Tigers are today. They have long broken into the First World mould  whilst Botswana remains stuck in that vast dust bowl dismissively referred to as the Third World. In Delusions of  Grandeur, Magang ventures an explanation why, reasoning more from a a posteriori standpoint than a nonchalant a priori   posture.


Magang’s thesis is that Botswana would have made greater economic strides but for a malady its economic planners suffer from and which seems to have metastasised throughout the entire bureaucracy. This morbidity,  which informs the title of  his two-volume tome, he calls delusions of grandeur and fingers it as the cause, fundamentally,  of the economic stasis  which  presently ails  the country. 

Magang charges that deeply ingrained in the psyche of folk in government structures is an incorrigible and incurable superiority complex that makes them deaf to all common-sense entreaties. It seems to them that Botswana need not emulate best practice from elsewhere on the globe: it is self-contained and as an economy is impregnably fortified.  This insularity, this hubris, has the effect that its economic policies are way out of kilter and militate against the symbiosis characteristic of the global economic village that is the world today.


Magang wonders why the policies of various departments of government are scarcely synchronised or concerted, why they seem to work  at  cross-purposes with each other. For example, he says, one gets the impression that the mandate of  the department of  labour and migration is to ensure as many spanners as are conceivable are strewn in the way of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

What seems lost to the people in charge of these ministries, Magang regrets, is that when two such elephants collide, the grass, that is, the investors, suffer untold adversity and to the extent where those who are prospecting are made to think twice about setting up here. Ultimately, the collateral casualty are the citizenry, who are deprived of those potential, vital jobs FDI helps engender, and the Internal Revenue Service we call BURS.


Trading Punches with Fundis
Although Magang explicitly voices the disclaimer that he is no economist, that he does, apparently, with tongue in cheek. In his book, the  entrepreneurial colossus  does not shrink from lacing up the gloves to slug it out with aficionados in the discipline of economics.

Certainly,  cases bound in the book where Magang goes off at a tangent from  orthodox economic thought and yet argues so cogently and masterfully that one really has to strain to marshal a viable countervailing argument.  
Opining on GDP per capita, for example, Magang contends that as an indicator of the overall economic wellbeing of a nation, it falls far short of a veritable litmus test. 

“The implicit assumption of  GPD per capita is that the wealth generated by the economy is shared equally within the population when in real life income disparities are of Grand Canyon proportions,” Magang submits, citing a whole phalanx of countries that band about  stratospheric GDP per capita  numbers but whose people in the main continue to reel from abject and endemic poverty.


On the tread-of-the-mill question of economic diversification, Magang shares the truistical view that Botswana indeed has dismally failed to make a quantum leap on that  score. He cautions, however, that the accent on diversification should not be such that it dismisses mining as a spent, inconsequential force. That would be tantamount to throwing the baby together with the water,  for given our vast mineral resource endowment, mining will continue to be a significant plank in our economic platform for the foreseable future.

His take is that,  “Diversifying away from minerals does not mean relegating mining to the fringes. It simply means an engendering of a multifaceted economic base. We are what we are today thanks to mining anyway. What is fraught with peril is relying on only one industry that is sustained by a non-renewable resource or a set of such in perpetuity and not the industry itself per se.”


Magang does have a point there. Take Australia. It is mining that has underpinned the  country’s  economic dynamism and resilience for 150 years and it is mining that helped the country weather the ravages of the 2008/09 global economic meltdown literally unscathed. Australia is a reasonably diversified economy but it is not turning its back on mining yet. All this we learn from Magang’s painstakingly researched book and whose copious source notes attest to this rigour.


Curse Did Strike
Granted, Botswana did escape the Resource Curse that has been the bane of many a Third World Country. In other words, its surfeit of resource riches did not boomerang back at the country to turn it into the proverbial basket case. Magang, however,  is adamant  that Botswana by no means steered clear of the resource curse. It too did incur the resource curse only in its case, the curse took a subtler form – that of the Diamantine Curse.

Magang argues that because the rents emanating from diamond revenues were so prodigious, government became complacent. It became so besotted with its skyscraping cash chest that efforts at economic diversification  were not pursued with proportionate vigour.

It explains why when Magang relentlessly  belted solo ballads on diamond beneficiation, his colleagues in Cabinet just stopped  short of  dubbing him a psychopath.  Government was so flush with cash  mineral resource beneficiation was not deemed imperative.   


Years  back on the sidelines of  some function, Magang recalls, Central Bank Governor Linah Mohohlo angrily lashed out at him “headmaster-style” for passing what she regarded as snide comments  on the competence of the monetary authorities. To the consternation of onlookers,  the “Empress” wondered  aloud where Magang got the temerity to venture into territory of which he was a rank ignoramus.


Reading Delusions of Grandeur, one is apt to wonder whether the venerable custodian of the national fiscus will not be forced into a revised estimate of the man who she so apoplectically laid into. For Delusions of Grandeur is so resoundingly percipient there is no way its author would fit the stereotype of a no-nothing in the field of  even monetary economics.

Magang picks off so many illusions about our economy that by the time one  finishes reading the book, he or she cannot help marvel at how dis-illusioned they now are. The book is superfragilisticexpialidocious and that is an understatement!


DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR, 560 pages, is published by Print Media Consult and is available at Exclusive Books, Bala Books, and Books Botswana at P250 per copy.

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Woman swindled out of P62 000 by fake CID officers

17th June 2021
Motube

Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.

According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.

“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.

The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.

Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.

“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’

They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.

In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.

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BCP walks out of UDC meeting

15th June 2021
Boko and Saleshando

Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.

UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.

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Katlholo wins against DPP

15th June 2021
DCEC DIRECTOR: Tymon Katlholo

The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.

The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.

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