The 2019 general elections were not won on ideology. The voter who decided these elections and gifted the BDP a resounding victory was not persuaded by ideological arguments.
The victors dust themselves in anticipation of civic reward. The vanquished look miserably ahead to the lingering tragedy of defeat.
The obvious and biggest winner is President Mokgweetsi Masisi. Although matching the worst ever performance of 2014 with 37 MPs, the BDP retained the reins of the highest office. The 38 MPs settled the dust of the likelihood of the BDP being held at ransom by way of a threat to defect.
The legislature is overwhelmingly BDP, a majority which allows the ruling party to pass anything it wants without having to negotiate with the opposition for a vote. Such victories, and in the advent of Section 58(2) to specially nominate an additional s MPs is also a source of discontent and a threat to internal stability in the battle for Cabinet appointment.
Never in the history of the BDP has an heir to the throne faced threats to security of tenure, uncertainty to ascend to the pinnacle and a possible defeat at elections. The crowning unshackles President Masisi from the clutches of automatic succession. It is President Masisi who won the elections. The BDP and some of its MPs were unintended beneficiaries in a head-on collision with victory.
The second biggest winner has to be Former President Ian Khama. In the six months leading to elections, Khama had convened a gathering in Serowe, joined the BPF as Patron and set out to unseat the BDP in aid of the UDC. More importantly for Khama, was settling scores with a select few who had betrayed him in the ongoing battle between predecessor and successor.
On any given day, a fight with multiple enemies should be an uphill battle. Invoking the emotions of his followers, Khama set a warpath that targeted Dorcas Makgato, Francisco Kgoboko and VP Slumber Tsogwane. Other causalities in the bigger battle to unseat the BDP would be Phillip Makgalemele, Bernard Bolele, Thapelo Olopeng and a relatively unknown Ecco Maje.
At the close of counting of the polls, BPF secured three parliamentary and 38 council seats. The greatest damage was to the BDP. In the history of our elections, the three Serowe constituencies had never been in opposition hands. As if that was not enough, Khama then took to Mahalapye East and West causing seismic splits in the BDP vote to hand the constituencies to UDC.
Victories for the UDC in Sefhare-Ramokgonami, Palapye, Bobonong and Tonota secured Khama as a strongman and asserted his authority and presence in his tribal territory. Makgato, Kgoboko and Olopeng will never forget Khama for the rest of their waking moments on this planet.
The third, fourth and fifth biggest winners were Aubrey Lesaso, Taolo Lucas and Dr Kesetegile Gobotswang. The trio represents the most graceful and gracious second place finishers despite several losses and sometimes by an eyelash. One disadvantage of winner -take-all electoral system is the loss of divergent views and under-representation of voting bloc that doesn’t earn the right to jurisdictional representation.
Lucas, Lesaso and Gobotswang were collectively recipients of a significant percentage of the district vote yet their voices and will of their voters was lost
Despite the BDP emerging as overall winners to govern, pre and post elections developments point to a basket of losers lying in the belly of the beast. The politics of the BDP in the last two decades are a dipstick of the economy. It is common to reduce the politics of the BDP to personalities. In reality, it is a fight between factions, both wanting to be first in the feedlot of the economy for personal gain.
Botswana’s economy is divided into insiders who derive benefit of the formal economy by way of proximity to power, and outsiders who are largely excluded first at party level by belonging to the wrong faction and largely distal to the levers of power. The main criterion for inclusion is patronage.
BDP dramas in this attempted continuation of patronage reached unparalleled heights in January 2017 with calls to remove then VP Masisi. Media reports and insiders have pointed to Dorcas Makgato, Tshekedi Khama and Biggie Butale as the front row attack in the onslaught to have Masisi removed. The attempts were thwarted by Khama, who in the process threw everyone under the bus by backing Masisi.
In the aftermath of 2019, the biggest loser has to be Makgato, a one-time Khama loyalist -now-turned-foe. Khama has never hidden the fact that at the twilight of his presidency, Makgato was one of the most vociferous in calling for Masisi’s sacking. With Khama taking the war back to Masisi, many of Khama’s loyalists found themselves having to think – and sometimes with their stomachs.Makgato shifted her allegiance, backing Masisi in Kang in song and tirade against Khama. In the heat of the moment, she even went barefooted in the bareknuckle fight with Ngwato royalty hiding behind innuendos to insult Sir Seretse Khama. She was cheered on – praised as a feminist who dared take on patriarchy that bordered on bullying.
The return of Kgotla Autlwetse, Kefentse Mzwinila and Unity Dow coupled with the emergence of Beauty Manake, former Permament Secretary Peggy Serame and Philda Kereng must have dealt Makgato a severe blow. For all her efforts, it would not have been farfetched to think at the least, she be considered for special nomination.
The second biggest loser has to be the career politician. Electoral victories should be celebrated by politicians. Drawing outsiders to the exclusion of sacrificial lambs within political parties must dish the worst bone of discouragement to any ardent politician. Even most painful is the abrupt severance of Bogolo Kenewendo’s stay – an indictment in poor approach to nurturing talent and leadership development.
A coalition of the wounded will be regrouping, reeling from not being rewarded sufficiently for their toils. In a few days, the coalition will be joined by those who will miss out at local government nomination. The battle and their next mission will be for the control of the BDP.
Politics thrives on factionalism – when done for the right things.