The most cynical amongst us describe politics as the hamster wheel of misery. In Africa, that cynicism is sometimes pardonable when one counts the many citizens caught in a seemingly endless cycle of brave hope and crushing despair at the hands of successive political administrations.
Botswana, for the most, has been insulated from this over the decades, enjoying stable economic growth, good governance as well as peace and security. Where other Africans have swung between the hope brought by a new administration, to the dreaded déjà vu and finally despair at achieving their development aspirations, Botswana has generally moved forward since Independence.
A major part of this has been political tolerance, or the ability of competing political interests to co-exist within the confines of the rule of law, for the edification of citizens.
Where disputes arise, aggrieved parties have a host of avenues for relief, including taking their respective constitutions for review by the judiciary.
In this light, there are worrying signs within the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which party’s much-vaunted democratic credentials are being put to a very public test. While the party has been before the courts before, the matter brought before the judiciary on Thursday was the most high profile, concerning the party’s very presidency and by its extension, its ability to retain power in October.
That the battle for the presidency within the BDP would actually be a positive in the spirit of healthy inner-party democracy, had it not recently morphed into such a bare-knuckle, no holds barred affair, to-the-death affair.
The public revelations ahead of Kang have been disturbing to say the least and suggest deteriorating inner-party tolerance, an assessment that gathers credence when the raging, cut-throat debates and insults flying all over social media among democrats and other political commentators are added to the mix. On a positive note, as the party that has claimed to champion democracy for more than half a century, it is also only appropriate that the tests of tolerance and the precedents that emerge from there, are hammered out in the BDP.
Other opposition parties have failed such tests in the past, with sharp political divisions descending into bloodshed as happened in Palapye in 1998 and Bobonong in 2017.
Non-BDP political actors in the country and beyond are watching to see how the ruling party emerges from this period and how indeed Batswana at large will regroup ahead of a potentially divisive October election.
This is an opportunity for the ruling party to demonstrate to its local rivals and international observers that even the worst of divisions and conflict can be resolved within the confines of the spirit of political tolerance and rule of law that this country was built on.
There is life after Kang for the BDP, Batswana and Botswana.
“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”
– Winston S. Churchill