October 24 – it’s now getting awesomely close. For everyone involved – which excludes the thousands who didn’t bother to register believing that the whole thing was either rotten or had nothing to do with them – the next few weeks could be seen as being exciting and challenging, or disconcerting and infinitely worrying.
New members of the IEC are now being appointed – will they have the capability to ensure that this election will be relatively clean? Hopefully, it will ensure that the BDP’s determination to ensure itself a win, will not tempt it into adopting some of the tactics used in Zimbabwe which it had earlier, so admirably, condemned.
Was it Mobuto or Mugabe who said that if you are in charge, you cannot lose an election? And there really can be no doubt that the BDP government is, in so many ways, in charge. We are therefore presented with what could be seen as a contradiction in terms.
The BDP, which has given this country its much vaunted and much valued democratic system, is absolutely determined not to lose this election.
To what extent might it jettison the values it espouses in order to do so? I worry about the next few weeks which could become very nasty. But I also worry about the very different Botswana which is likely to emerge on October 25. What kind of a country will it be? What might happen if the BDP wins a majority of Parliamentary seats but with a hugely reduced number of votes?
What will happen if the BDP wins with a majority of perhaps five. Or three? Would it battle on, convinced that it is right and everyone else is wrong?
Or would there somehow be a post election re-alignment, a re-shaping of the political scene which might, perhaps, result in the formulation of a unity party, a party of national union.
The BDP has long despised its political opponents – possibly because in its earlier days the rhetoric deployed by them emanated from South Africa and its special, horrible problems –and then from the USSR and from marxism. But now, the imported ideological factor has gone – and all political parties are speaking with a broadly similar voice. All draw their inspiration from the same pool – the historical emergence of this country as a formally democratic state - and then its subsequent unfolding as one totally committed to the human rights values which were battled for and earlier achieved by other countries.
Since Independence, the country has drawn its inspiration from the very remarkable group of people who were its founding fathers, principally, of course, Seretse Khama and Sir Ketumile Masire. From their first days in office and for the next forty years or so, there has been a broad consistency of policy and re-statement of values which, it might be claimed, had their origins in Tiger Kloof and in the other famous missionary schools in South Africa. That inspiration, however, has come to an end. Would it be fanciful to suggest that the inspiration for a new generation of political leaders is now coming instead from van Rensburg and from the Swaneng, Shashe and Madiba nexus? Can it really be seen as a coincidence that Motswaledi was educated at Swaneng and Boko at Madiba?
The irony of such a development would of course be immense – because for so long the BDP government regarded the Swaneng initiative as being communist inspired and at best, viewed it with suspicion and misgiving. But now it seems that the wheel may be turning in remarkable ways because this new well of political inspiration derives from the BDP’s very own heartland, the central district and from Serowe itself. Swaneng, it will be remembered, was established as a direct result of the grim situation in South Africa where fear was, for so long, widespread.
This country in those years held itself together and, as far as it was able, stood firm for the human values which were being wrecked there, but has now implanted here the very element that it opposed there – fear. T
This election has little to do with party policy, with the success or otherwise of poverty alleviation or its elimination, with promoting and improving agricultural production, of assisting the small producer, encouraging foreign investment – this election really comes down to the one factor which makes it different from any of the others that have preceded it. Fear.
Widespread fear. Never before has routine conversation been so dominated by concerns which were never previously heard – of a hit list, assassination, torture, secret agents, peoples’ disappearance, cover ups, manipulation, lost files, favoured promotions, false names, embedded corruption, and phone tapping, How is it possible that such a fundamental change has occurred in so short a time?