President Mokgweetsi Masisi might live to regret his recent utterances in which he cast aspersions upon the calibre of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) winners of the party tickets. These are the people who will represent the party in the upcoming 2019 general elections. Mmegi Staff Writer, RYDER GABATHUSE reports that Masisi’s utterances might exacerbate the state of a party whose fortunes have been on a downward spiral and rocked by factionalism
FRANCISTOWN: Reports abound in the ranks of the BDP that a stealth political war could be brewing up as the elected candidates try to assert themselves and prove the power of the people and their worth to the party and State President, Masisi.
It was at the 15th National Business Conference (NBC) last month that Masisi had vented out his frustrations on the calibre of the BDP candidates for the 2019 general elections.
Giving a keynote address at the NBC, Masisi could not hide it that he was “mourning with some of my Cabinet colleagues who have lost in the party’s Bulela Ditswe primary elections”.
It was just after the President had settled at the Adansonia Hotel, the venue of the premier conference, and had hardly finished introducing some of his Cabinet colleagues that he started his debate that quickly went viral on social media.
“As President, I cannot but take note of the obliteration of my Cabinet at the primary elections. Some of those who beat them cannot match them,” Masisi had declared frustratingly, responding to questions from the conference.
“But, democracy allows them to partake and it leaves me with no choice but to do with those whose calibre is lower than the losers.”
He explained that the qualifications of winning an election in a political contest are not equivalent to the qualifications you need in government.
The President was supposed to ‘mourn’ the loss of his Cabinet colleagues in a more responsible manner, but not publicly demean nor degrade those who triumphed in the primary elections.
In a genuine democracy, there should be contestations for political office and the results must be accepted as the will of the people.
Commentators hold a strong view that the President did not only mock the winners, but also undermined the voters in the primary elections. Indirectly, he was saying they were dumb, illiterate, apathetic, and had no sense of direction.
Masisi’s situation is akin to that of former president Festus Mogae who over a decade or two ago found himself face-to-face with some members of his backbench and failed to contain an issue that he should have handled better.
Anger and frustration by former president over the actions of some of his party’s MPs on the backbench found Mogae using a BDP Women’s Wing conference in Serowe to accuse the independent-minded MPs of blackmail and selfishness at the expense of the national agenda.
Mogae was worried that the MPs wanted to arm-twist his government in a horse-trading exercise. This involved MPs passing the Judges Bill and government reciprocating by reviewing their salaries.
The angry Mogae attacked the MPs in the vernacular and labeled them: “…Phokwana ee tsenang mo sakeng le lesha e bo e kgorotha kgorotha (roughly translated Mogae was saying the MPs were behaving like young uncastrated billy goats when they got into a new kraal). This was meant to belittle the MPs. Adam Mfundisi, lecturer, political and administrative studies at the University of Botswana (UB) concurs that there are dangers in the statement alluded to President Masisi.
He posits that Botswana has been credited for adhering to the democratic principles of free and fair contestations of ideas, values, perspectives, and positions of power. His thinking is that this has been engrained in our political culture and leaders of this country have embraced it.
“The statements were an affront to value of tolerance as stipulated in our various national visions. The President’s words were unpalatable and devoid of tolerance and respect for the process of primary elections. He was perpetuating the division of the party ultimately promoting unconsciously factionalism within the BDP,” observed Mfundisi.
He added that the President’s utterances were not measured as expected of a leader of the country. To him the President did not only mock the winners, but also undermined the voters in the primary elections.
“Indirectly, he is saying they are dumb, illiterate, apathetic, and have no sense of direction. The BDP must take responsibility for creating a society of people voting who are barely political conscious.”
Mfundisi emphasised that political office in Botswana is a sure investment to prosperity mostly through corruptive practices.
This he said is anchored upon a series of accusations levelled against national office bearers within the BDP on the unfairness of the electoral process and manipulation of the voting process to the advantage of the preferred candidates of the leadership. President Masisi is attesting to the fraudulent primary election process.
Responding to Mmegi enquiries, Mundisi analysed that President Masisi as some of the political players have said, is still in
Most importantly, he declared: “The winning candidates felt betrayed by the President but I suspect they will not openly voice their displeasure.
For now, it will be muted but it may come to haunt the President. Their political opponents may seize if they have not yet seized on the President’s ‘no confidence statements’.”
He highlighted that the comparison the President made is unsustainable as evidenced by a mix of talents among the winners of the primaries. Some of the ministers’ credentials are overly overstated.
Their performance in their respective portfolios is not proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Whether the President was targeting certain individuals who are purported to be not in his camp or faction is debatable.
The jury is out for determination. But, there is a possibility that this will fracture the party further towards 2019. This has serious political ramifications for the BDP if the President does not take factionalism serious.
“Toxic leadership is dangerous to the party and country alike,” warns the UB don and added that President Masisi must be a strategic leader developing a culture of tolerance and diversity. He challenged Masisi to aim to maximise the interests of all members of the BDP underscoring a civic and personal commitment to citizenship. His encouragement was that the President must be emotionally intelligent to display an assortment of non-cognitive skills, capabilities and competencies to deal effectively with complex and dynamic environment within which he operates.
“The President must be a unifying force and not a divisive one. Narcissistic leadership will lead to his demise as a leader of the ruling party. Using momentary whims and caprices to navigate complex terrains in the political field will have disastrous results for the party and country.”
In summation Mfundisi holds a view that the President’s utterances, were unfortunate and he encouraged Masisi to learn to tolerate and respect the electoral processes even if he has personal views on them as citizens look to him for strategic leadership.
Another UB political scientist Dr Kebapetse Lotshwao quipped: “I think our starting point has to acknowledge the Botswana system whereby Cabinet is appointed from within parliament. That is the system that is being used unlike in other jurisdictions where the President does not appoint his Cabinet from outside Parliament.” He however, noted that in a few instances he might appoint others from outside as Specially Elected Members of Parliament.
Lotshwao noted that the way the Botswana system is, there isn’t much Masisi can do about it. The political scientist and UB academic does not think it’s a new phenomenon where people who have been serving in Cabinet are defeated in party primary elections.
“Maybe the difference of course as you say it, could be that now, the number of losing Cabinet members are a bit high. But, I take it that the way the Botswana system functions, is not diametrically different from that of other countries,” he noted, adding that from the people elected by the masses, the President can appoint Cabinet from them.
“To complain about the loss of his Cabinet colleagues, I think it’s not good in the sense that it’s like he does not recognise the ability of people so much that they can make their own decisions through a system that they find suitable. They found that the elected people are suitable people.”
But, Masisi’s judgement according to Lotshwao is as important as that of the masses who spoke through Bulela Ditswe primaries.
As the President, Masisi will be heading Cabinet he will be working with as elected by the people, so Lotshwao thinks it’s the President’s responsibility to get the best out of them.
“He (Masisi) should see how to get the best out of the elected people as he will be their supervisor. He should provide guidance and leadership to them and a clear roadmap to those people.”
As the appointing authority, he is the authority and the powers to replace them if they don’t perform satisfactorily rests with him.
All those that are eligible to be elected into any position of authority should be given a chance, like it has always happened.
“That is when the specially elected dispensation comes in handy when the incumbent President feels his Cabinet lacks here and there.
Otherwise, the system cannot be changed overnight simply because of what has happened during Bulela Ditswe primaries as otherwise, the President will be simply acting on his emotions,” he concluded.