Mmegi Blogs :: BDP, where do they go from here?
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BDP, where do they go from here?

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) suffers a double tragedy. First is the mere fact that you tend to get hated for staying I power for half a century with no alternation. Second is that you become so absorbed in your ways - ‘the if not broken why fix’ it thinking - that you do not see a burning need to change course: even if you were to see need for change, usually it is mere tinkering and not wholesome for your people are just not revolutionaries.
By Lawrence Ookeditse Mon 01 Dec 2014, 11:05 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: BDP, where do they go from here?








Sometimes you are lucky to get a Tony Blair or Deng Xiaoping who’d just turn the whole thing upside down and reform it. A lot of the times you do more of the same and descend further into oblivion like a good number of ancient parties. The BDP is at this crossroad.

There seems an inherent fatigue to the BDP rule in some quarters. Yes, there has been an element of complacency and sometimes arrogant from some that may turn people off but the real reason for the declining fortunes appear to be the natural state of being tired over a period of time of having no change- fatigue. This then says that the next five years may as well see a rise in jobs and other economic indicators but still have the BDP not perform as well as it’d like to.

But it is not all about natural feelings here is it? The political opposition is consolidating. In the event that the UDC sustains its impressive outing, and the BCP recovers- in terms of seats in parliament- from its relative low numbers, the BDP would be in trouble. The same scenario would obtain in the event of a union of the two opposition movements. But look, even without that union, the BDP has an uphill battle to demonstrate relevance to younger generations of voters, and the middle class- largely urban.

Business as usual is not an option, unless the party does not mind losing an election.  And any party would mind. So then, the BDP is today at a point where it must significantly reform or lose. The big question then is this: what do you reform?

First, the party itself needs to find a way to rebrand. There is a dire need for a new image - one that defies the narrative of ‘complacent, arrogant, overstayed, old, corrupt’ and other such words as sometimes used. A fresh fell about the BDP is needed. A fresh feel you gain by overhauling the entire institution. It suffices then to say the first element that needs reform is the BDP constitution. It needs to alter the current structure of leadership, it needs to change the rules of the game and membership, and it needs to make the organization leaner and capable to function efficiently. And obviously this party needs to find a better way to run its primary elections. Perhaps second most important is that the BDP needs to find a way to link party and government. Yes, it is the ruling party but the BDP as a party is not really governing. I will write on this separately some day, it needs a whole treatise on its own.

But then, the institution also needs personnel changes. The election of Hon. Mokgweetsi Masisi as Vice President may be a good start- depending on how it is handled. President Khama will be gone in the next three or so years. That on its own creates a massive headache: President Khama is a strongly willed individual, over his presidency he has done things the

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way he felt they had to be done. He was an ace that revitalized the BDP as much as he got the BDP not to be liked by some. A contradiction? Yes but that is how it is. He remains the most popular figure in the country and the BDP no doubt has benefited from that popularity, but at the same time he is quite opposed by some. Interesting dynamic.

This dynamic extends into the future. Without the goodwill President Khama got the BDP, part of its support will wane. But also, his departure will improve the bond of some with the BDP- and that is within the BDP’s control. In order to cash in on any of those, the BDP will need to present to the voters a genuinely different program, and feel. Vice President Masisi will need to over the next three years significantly reach out and prove that he is a man worthy to the younger generation of voters. I do not see him struggling to do this: well spoken and in touch with the ‘new world’ and being the charmer that he is, means he must be able to do this with ease.

Vice President Masisi’s biggest challenge will be proving to be a friend of youth and civil society. Every little statement he makes will be watched and he needs to be as conciliatory as he will be relevant to youth and the middle class. But that is not it all, he needs to be the guy who inspires a whole generation; give young people hope. Yes, maybe not be able to give them land and jobs but be able to give them hope. We are in times where things such as jobs are important but sometimes the guy who gives people hope, makes them feel better about themselves is more likable to the guy with a plan to get them into jobs but who cannot make people dream. Fine, have a great plan for bread and butter issues but inspire something positive in people.  

He needs to make people dream, reach for the stars even if they may never catch them. He needs to be a redeemer of the proportions of Deng and Tony Blair. Anything short of that will not see him resurrect the party, and he will then quickly suffer the wrath of the theory of belatedness- a leader who comes after one who was strong and who touched all sects of society (both positive and negative) tends to labour in the shadow of the predecessor and never really gets a grip on things.

But again, he belongs to the party doesn’t he? The party then must also behave. There is no wrong for going into the next election divided given that the margins of victory are narrowing. We will be watching this coming July to see if the party is ready to behave but it needs to. Overall, these are changing times and they call for a New BDP. Nothing short of it will save this party. 

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