The BDP has released its 2019 manifesto. A mixed bag of blowing hot and cold in a season of errors. Everything about the BDP at the moment - the manifesto included - reflects the sleepless battle for control of the party and a masterstroke in appeasing its leadership, rather than any serious engagement with voters.
The one question that more than half of Batswana ask is whether this is a plausible manifesto, and whether there is sustained appetite by the BDP to remain in government.
Five years ago the BDP produced a red pledge card with five promises to create jobs; eradicate poverty; increase education funding; eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS and fight corruption in all its manifestations. This time around the manifesto is nothing but a pictorial magazine lacking in anchorage. It’s as if the BDP is an arrivalist – a new party with no bearing of governance. A talking point from the drivel is the statement of power, the arrogance of power to be precise. In the process, good promises are not articulated succinctly and lost.
The magazine is about one man, around whom the BDP is trying to promote an unprecedented personality cult and hero worship. Forty pictures of President Mokgweetsi Masisi dominate 18 of 56 pages. Thirty seven pages or 66% of the magazine are pictorial in nature. The theme of Advancing Together Towards a More Inclusive Economy is overshadowed by the sloganeering of ‘Masisi o a re bitsa, re a ya’.
The BDP doesn’t think it should first give an account the government’s performance over the last five years. Manifestos are a way in which political parties communicate interpretations of the current state of the country and the accompanying policy prescriptions to improve. It is rather surprising that scant attention has been devoted to measurable objectives with timelines. The life cycle of a manifesto constitutes production, enactment and the public uptake and perception of the manifesto and ceases at the next elections where focus shifts to a new manifesto, partly recycling ideas contained in the previous one.
In its foreword, the BDP claims to have consulted extensively in developing the four pillars of economic transformation; social transformation; governance, rule of law and security; and international relations. Judging by the padded content and repetition owing to lack of content, inference can be drawn that President Masisi’s kgotla engagements represent the extensive consultations. While there is no wrong in that, there however is no linkage with the kgotla, leaving the manifesto somewhat a representation of the Party leader’s wish list.
Only those whose hearts and brains have hardened irrevocably against every marker of a party in government for the common good could fail to appreciate this. The manifesto’s ideas even when wrong, ought to be more central to the political debate. The crucial questions are not whether its aims are desirable – some of them are, others are not. The real questions is whether these aims are attainable, effective, affordable and politically sustainable and above all, whether they are the most pressing priorities.
Credit must be given the authors of the Social Transformation pillar in the 2019 manifesto. The BDP promises for the period of 2019 to 2024 to build more integrated schools and reduce teacher to student ratio at acceptable limits. The BDP also pledges to improve conditions of service and make education accessible to children living with disabilities and requiring learning and special needs. While the introduction of teaching in various indigenous languages seems far-fetched, it is something that opposition parties have touted.
The main problem in the health sector in Botswana is not the absence of the service. The problem is rising treatment expectations of a growing population, and rising costs. Throwing billions more at health provision is popular, but it’s the
The authors create doubt to be taken seriously in Economic Transformation – but not to be brushed aside. There is silence on policy review and of interest to cattle farmers surrounding the BMC. New thinking about the role of the state is stressed in the agribusiness sector and developing a clear roadmap for the entertainment industry. Honest thinking and practicalities could have driven points effectively. Clearly, these absence of milestones is just a clever way of shifting the goalposts and avoiding any accountability.
Then there are the fudges that ought to have been omitted altogether. Two of them are suicidal. The first is the desire to ‘develop an automotive industry to support Botswana’s first car’. Whilst industrialisation at such magnitude is desirable it is pie in the sky. When speaking to the electric car, the priorities of the BDP run antagonistic to sourcing of the raw material to build the car. The manifesto promises a sellout of BCL assets, where the natural resource that is nickel is based. Continued closure of BCL mine contradicts this promise.
The second is ‘bringing construction work on underground transport system’. Introducing bus, taxi and cycling lanes in the absence of major infrastructural development is paralysis and makes this a meaningless section in the manifesto. In any case, the two are projections of vanity, some slippery waffle inconsistent with the salient pledges that address the aspirations of society. The manifesto does contain some good things and some bad, some interesting ideas and some lazy ones. What it lacks perhaps is a sustained visualization into a reality of soundly constructed credibility.
If the BDP fails to win the 2019 elections, which for all its problems looks a likelihood – it will be from a long series of terrible self-inflicted wounds by the leadership and failure to treat them. The irrational decision to suspend and expel MPs Prince Maele and Samson Guma Moyo respectively on the eve of launching the manifesto derailed focus. This continued assault on differing opinions adds Lerala-Maunatlala and Tati East to constituencies likely to be lost due to poor decision making.
Should the BDP lose elections, it risks disappearing into oblivion like the United National Independence Party of Kenneth Kaunda. In the absence of political party funding and a hybrid of proportional representation, it will be difficult to maintain the national infrastructure that the BDP has, seeing the BDP suffer for failing to legislate even for its survival outside power.
Perhaps scarier is projecting to Mobuto Sese Seko. The evening news on Zairean television preceded with an image of Mobuto appearing though clouds like a god descending from heaven. Portraits of Mobuto adorned all public spaces and government officials wore lapels bearing his portrait. Renowned Kwasa Kwasa king pin Franco Makiadi even composed an extraordinary propaganda masterpiece in the name of Candidat Na Biso Mobuto.
Lyrics of the 19 minute long repeated a simple message, fused in a beat produced by an ensemble gifted in Lingala music. “Who can look after the country, if not Mobuto who else, Mobuto Sese Seko”. The parliamentary and council candidates of the BDP were denied limelight, as is tradition at the Manifesto launch, with the stage set for the President, Chairman and Secretary General.
The BDP should not take Botswana to Africa.