President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his camp of advisers would not by any means have expected an easy ride in the efforts to institute his new style of governance or the strategic objectives of his tenure.
Masisi, a seasoned administrator particularly in the highest echelons of public service, would only have been too familiar with the predictable resistance that naturally greets any attempt to change the status quo. This is even more pronounced when that change is attempted at national level, beginning with the public service and confronting established mindsets, practices, attitudes and policies.
The changes include tweaking the Cabinet two months after inauguration, firing the spy chief, reviewing the alcohol and hunting bans, pledging to fast-track privatisation and the streamlining of the civil service, and extending an olive branch to unions, opposition political parties and the media.
Perhaps what the new President possibly did not expect was that the greatest resistance would emerge from within his own party, in the form of his predecessor, who is visibly building an alternative centre of power. Many of the policies and practices Masisi is confronting now are the product of the decade spent under Ian Khama and it is clear that the new President, who spent four of those years deputising Khama, is keen for change.
Unlike with South Africa’s ANC, whose leaders at the national governance level are strictly directed by party policy and objectives, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) maps out broad objectives such as unemployment, poverty alleviation and citizen empowerment, but leaves the actual policy direction the prerogative of the President of the day, who is guided by a mesh of laws, policies and other parameters.
Policies and resolutions adopted at
Masisi, enjoying the same latitude, has every right within the national and BDP constitutions to go about his presidency the way he sees fit, with the overarching objective being the upliftment of the lives of Batswana, unfettered by any appearances of indebtedness to his predecessor. The challenge the new President however has, is that while he would ordinarily have preferred a more gradual approach to the institution of his desired changes, he has the huge burden of delivering an attractive proposition to voters in under a year, when the general elections are held.
After 10 years of Khama’s rule, the BDP’s popular vote dropped to a record low and Masisi has just months to attend to the issues that have driven the disaffection. Furthermore he has to unite the party - which includes applying stain removers in certain stubborn patches – and unveiling a product that Batswana can find attractive next October.
The spring-cleaning is clearly underway within the party and in national governance. Masisi will need to be resolute to see the job through to the end.
"It is only through labour and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things."