There is something interesting about the changes taking place in the political and civil society landscape. There exists some notable changes on the state of civil society and opposition discourse.
Civil society has been rattled by the peace overtures of a new president determined to distance himself from the legacy of his predecessor. Perhaps it is all about cautious optimism; a ceasefire of sorts. But civil society seems to have gone back to the barracks and only the nuisance fire of a fragmented opposition militia, fanned by the winds of BDP factional fights, can be heard in the political streets.
Meanwhile, focus on governance remains materially diverted by ruling party factional fights. A besieged president must rule, even as he faces a political prosecution for the unwritten offence of grand betrayal, the sanction of which is the political guillotine. In both media and political discourse, little is talked about of genuine national interest. It is all about Khama and Masisi. It is all about the grand betrayal. Political discourse is polluted by conjecture on the motives of the belligerents all determined to fight to the death. As the elephants fight and the grass suffers, civil society, the church inclusive, wait on the sidelines for the victor. When the battle has been won, they will emerge out of the hideouts to burn incense to the gods of the victor and to profess commitment to an abiding partnership in the quest for national progress. And they will present gifts.
Civil society is conspicuous by silence. It cannot be right. Traditionally combative labor unions, appeased by the overtures of the besieged leader, stand on the sidelines. The romance between them and the opposition has waned. When public coffers were opened to long-suffering and unsmiling union members and leaders the lure of better pay, the glue that held the comradery with the opposition together, became less adhesive. The charm offensive of the present president on civil society has put them to political lassitude after ten eventful years of robust political involvement.
Business, largely public sector driven, has always been in bed with government and nearly irrelevant to national discourse outside tax revenue. That professional body, the sporadically militant Law Society, has virtually returned to the barracks supposedly with no war to fight. Public interest litigation has dwindled even as newspapers file report after report of billions and billions of public money allegedly stolen from the public purse by some still in government and a token case involving marginal players, is urged fraudulently into the minds of the public as testament of government’s commitment to the fictional fight against corruption by the establishment. In entrenching party fortunes, and consolidating his rule, the incumbent seems determined to end all nuisance fire and to direct all ammunition towards the battle for political survival. To that extent,
Opposition political discourse has, not unsurprisingly, been affected. The engagement between the opposition and the present president seems to focus on how the supposed demerits of the previous ten years can be put at the door of the current president and his government without unnerving the former president himself and alienating his politically convenient constituency. It is all discordant and there is in the ridiculous narrative, a poverty of principle. The opposition are courting the very man they accused of murder, repression and economic rapine, or at least his tribal and political constituency for votes in a frantic push for the October finishing line. When I say the opposition, I mean the main opposition formation, the UDC as the biggest opposition block. And I do not pretend that others are by any means, less worthy formations.
There can be no contention with the fact that politics is a game of numbers and that the opposition are entitled to harvest BDP factional protest votes. I have maintained, and still do, that if the opposition would ever seek to do business with Khama, a subject on which they are conveniently equivocating, the man surely deserves an apology for all the suffering he has undergone at their hands and deserves at the very least, a retraction of the invectives and vitriol he has had to face. Batswana would deserve an apology for being lied to too. Never has a Botswana president been so openly hated by the opposition; never has he been so maligned; and never has one been so threatened and insulted. The image of a bad Khama has been burnt into the people’s minds and to date, he stands as a man with a gravely defamed legacy.
I am simply saying that it is truly a silly season we are having. In an electoral year when we ought to be addressing the germane issues of national development and socio economic welfare, civil society is dead and cannot accentuate such. The voice of business is silent, the ruling party is busy dousing the flames of civil strife and the opposition voice is more confused than ever. It is up to the ordinary Motswana to make sense of the whole political mess. No wonder more than half a million voters have stayed away from voter registration. Leaders are coming unstuck for want of integrity and no one seems to be speaking to their suffering. Whichever way it goes, October will come, and in the ashes of the prevailing madness a government shall be formed. God bless our country.