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In defence of the Republic

MMEGI EDITOR
In the year that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has been in office, he has faced a trial by fire unheralded in previous presidential transitions.

And, in retrospect, the turmoil was somewhat inevitable. Its intensity was unexpected.

The inevitability stems from the constitutional automatic succession clause which, in essence, fosters a situation where the country’s presidency is removed from the direct influence of voters, to a competition for the good favour of the incumbent president.

In the lead up to the transition of power, toes are stepped on, behind-the-scenes horse trading takes place and sections of allies are sidelined, as the carpet is rolled out for the aspiring, incoming new leader of the Republic. In the past, the new leader continued within the confines of his predecessor’s policies, presumably as a nod to the good favours shown, or if he diverted from these, the old leader respectfully held his peace, at least in public anyways. The tensions within the party, the Cabinet, the legislature and Batswana in general during the 18-month transition period were well known and if not handled well, augured badly for the ruling party in particular and the country as a whole.

When Masisi’s predecessor, Ian Khama, entered his own transition period in April 2008, he shook the Republic with a series of initiatives such as the establishment of a sinister spy agency, a punitive alcohol levy and liquor regulations and others.

What would have been more disconcerting to his predecessor was Khama’s attitude to dissenting voices within his party, within the general political space and towards the labour movement.

His predecessor however upheld

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the tradition of holding his peace and Khama, even when his party split, enjoyed free reign to test the efficacy of his policies to the hilt, an experiment that ended with the ruling party’s dropping to its lowest popular vote ever in 2014. Masisi deserves no less respect and certainly no animosity for overturning his predecessor’s policy or for instituting new initiatives. Yet in the year that he has been in power for, the new president has faced a barrage of public and embarrassing opposition from his predecessor, who lately has taken his campaign of antagonism across borders into South Africa and Namibia.

As stated before, this was somewhat inevitable, given the innate flaws of automatic succession and the character of Masisi’s predecessor, but the intensity is what has surprised many.

The country’s international reputation is suffering harm and the region is beginning to describe the peaceful presidential transitions we often boast about as ‘veneers’. At party level, it is certainly with the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s constitutional purview that Masisi is challenged next month in Kang, but at national level and under the constitution, he remains the rightful president of this Republic. If his predecessor and others disagree with Masisi’s policies, the Constitution provides that they can exercise their disgruntlement in October at their nearest polling station.

 

Today’s thought

Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means. 

 - Ronald Reagan



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