Mmegi Blogs :: How Far Can He Go? How Far Can He Not Go?
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Thursday 16 August 2018, 17:52 pm.
How Far Can He Go? How Far Can He Not Go?

First came the Presidential helicopter, so we were told, then the beginnings of new relationships with the press, the unions and the Chinese. Then came the volcanic eruption – the firing of Col. Kgosi - the recall of Mr Roy Blackbeard from London, the one after a 10-year tenure and the other, 20, and the appointment of Unity Dow to take his place; Judge, Minister and now High Commissioner.
By Sandy Grant Mon 07 May 2018, 14:03 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: How Far Can He Go? How Far Can He Not Go?

Quite a career. What next? Perhaps we shouldn’t speculate. Perhaps we should not be too hopeful. But inevitably we will wait, with much eagerness to see what next transpires.

The now ex-Director of the DIS has come to epitomise so much of the last 10 years – its divisiveness, its greed, its corruption, its erosion of democracy and the economy and its unabashed centralisation of power in one’s person’s hands. There will be many who never knew Botswana when it was such a beautiful country. 

Indeed, it only needs a state of the nation assessment as at 2008 and a similar exercise today to recognise the extraordinary extent of change that has occurred in those 10 years.

Not all of those changes will, necessarily, have been bad. The better ones should be perpetuated and developed, the worst ones rolled back. In some cases, change can be quickly achieved. In others it may take years. But there is an urgent need for the new President to somehow regain the public’s confidence in its own government, a precious heritage from the past which was wasted and lost.

This will take time. It was intriguing that one of the first initiatives of the new President was to take his Ministers off with him for a three-day retreat. To me this was a very smart move.

It would seem that whilst the transitions from Seretse to Masire, from Masire to Mogae and from Mogae to Khama had all been seamless and smooth, the transition from Khama to Masisi would either be disastrously smooth or achieved with great difficulty. How much would have depended on those 27 Ministers. Many, perhaps most, had profited during those last 10 years. What did some of those individuals owe and for what? And with an entirely new situation found themselves trapped in a corner from which there was no obvious way out. How many were ready to accept new leadership and change and how many held back finding themselves on the defensive and under threat? What common factor might have held them together? Or were they much like Theresa May’s British Cabinet split right down the middle? But Mrs May is a Prime Minister and not an Executive President and is therefore dependent on reaching a consensus within her Cabinet.

President Masisi has no need of such a consensus. In theory he can fire the lot,


appoint new Minsters and make a clean start. Of course, it is not that simple because the new President is seriously constrained by being able to draw his Ministers from such a very small pool.

Until the next election brings in new blood he can shuffle his cards, but will be unable to make really significant changes. For the BDP therefore the next election becomes a more significant process than merely winning or losing. It has somehow to bring in reformist MPs who are not entrapped by their past, and somehow ensure the electoral removal, probably via Bulela Dutswe, of now unwelcome candidates.

But if that doesn’t work out, the new President may be seriously constrained. Reasonably, we can now assume that this meeting spelt out the problems facing the new President with Kgosi and Blackbeard being placed at the top of the list.

Was Blackbeard really a problem? If he had done 20  years as High Commissioner in London why couldn’t he do another, say, 10? But if extended tenure of this kind is unusual it doesn’t necessarily point to anything amiss. This will not, however, stop questions from being asked. Why have other High Commissioners and Ambassadors not been given such extended contracts? Why London and not, say, Tokyo or Washington? Is something hiding behind the arras? Maybe, but maybe not. But the intriguing long lasting relationship of the Khama and Blackbeard families and its intrusion onto public life was bound to prompt questions.

It may well be that the Ministers, encouraged to speak their minds honestly and without fear, possibly for the first time, agreed that for the BDP to continue on the same road would possibly/probably ensure its defeat at the next election. Coming up with a starting list of needs would have been an obvious first step in order to give itself a chance of achieving a decent electoral win.

Removing the Rasputin-like figure from the DIS has, at one go, extracted a major card from the opposition’s bundle of goodies. It’s a major step but one which still leaves, out of control, the very frightening rogue DIS itself which somehow has to be brought under sensible control so that everyone comes to understand that it really does meet the nation’s needs. At the moment, there can be very few who believe that this is indeed the case.

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