Most of Botswana came to a standstill on the evening of October 16, 2019, while we watched and listened to a panel of our Presidential candidates, go head-to-head in a first of its kind for Botswana, Presidential debate.
Following the debate, there have been predictions that for the first time in the history of her independence, Botswana will have a hung Parliament. This would happen if none of the political parties secures 29 parliamentary seats.
There are also hopefuls, who expect that the political party they are affiliated to will be successful, either retaining leadership of the country, or finally taking over. By way of reflection, it is undeniable that the formation of the Botswana Patriotic Front by defectors of the Botswana Democratic Party has had an impact on the latter, and how Batswana view it.
With politics of populism, and the deified sons of Seretse having left, there are those who have obviously opted to shift their preference from the Democratic Party.
Vigorous efforts to win back the hearts of Botswana have been made during the campaign period. The presidential candidate, also the President of the country, although attempting to put up a picture of a party for the people is unable to measure his temper when he is confronted about his previously made speech in which he prided himself as a bootlicker.
His defensive response is reminiscent of his angry response to a member of the public asking him how far from Khama he was when all the poor decisions were being made, and why he failed to speak then. The defence smells a lot like not wanting to be held accountable.
On the other hand, the Umbrella for Democratic Change has its die hard believers, many of who fancy themselves as human rights advocates, led by a Presidential candidate who made a name for himself in the very context of human rights advocacy.
Even when he called members of the ruling party, warthogs who are actually magogajase, rankurata and nkoborwane, - supposedly alluding to their failures in being accountable to Batswana - his followers defended him saying he is but a reflection of the anger felt by many Batswana.
The Alliance for Progressives, although the new kid on the block, have made themselves an answer to many Batswana’s prayers, it would seem. They stay away from dramatics and as much as possible, advocate for change without being seen to be too aggressive in so doing.
With a leader who displays unmatched diplomacy, and expresses a critical and strategic thought process to many of the matters deliberated on, they have quickly become a favourite, although many still take the position that they are yet unready to lead, some likening them to the little brother who still needs his big brother’s mentorship in the playground (yes – brother!). The Patriotic Party – well, I have observed little else from them, except that their objective and primary aim is to ensure that Batswana shun the ruling party, at whatever cost. They are not afraid to criticise structures
In my opinion, four forms of patriarchy were at play in the debates:
- The aggressive and hostile patriarchy that has convinced you that it loves you because it does everything else right;
- The gaslighting patriarchy that does not want to be held accountable for what has been said, manipulating the one who questions into questioning themselves;
- The reflective patriarchy that acknowledges its privilege and says patriarchy should be questioned, and yet gladly enjoys the fruits of the system, and hides behind diplomacy in failing to hold the system to account.
- The delusional jester type of patriarchy, who is actually all four of the above, and does not even trust itself!
There was of course the fifth that ensured to hold the space for the above four, ensuring a chairman and a lineup of four journalists to question the candidates, but it is not central to the present discussion.
One thing is clear though from the debate, and in fact, from well before the debate. This is that, despite concerted efforts by various groups: whatever happens after Wednesday, we are still subjected to one form of patriarchy or the other. Botswana is far from centering women, persons living with disabilities, young people, LGBTQIA++ persons, in its politics.
This is a clear reflection that our welfare is still not in our hands.
No matter what changes are made, we are still going to have to make a case of why our concerns are valid, why they ought to be considered to a greater degree than other considerations and why they should be prioritised.
The sad reality is that, despite our country’s obligations to ensure the leadership of and by marginalised communities, we are failing dismally. And no! It is not enough that promises are made about what will happen after elections.
There should have been change already. In this regard, however, our votes may not be of great value.
Yet, I still say, let us vote. And in the next five years, let us wise-up. Nothing can change in our absence from these forums. Our change lies in our involvement, throughout all levels of political structures. We have to get better at smashing the patriarchy. That is the only way we will survive. “I want patriarchy to fear [us]!”