FRANCISTOWN: University of Botswana (UB) academic Dr Zibani Maundeni has advised the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to discourage Vice President Ian Khama from defending his position as party chairman.
The political science lecturer told Mmegi yesterday that he does not see the wisdom of Khama defending his position when next year he would automatically become party and state president. "What worries me is that next year, Khama would be taking over from (Festus) Mogae yet I don't know why he is not leaving the chairmanship as he is graduating to the presidency," wondered Maundeni.
He advised the BDP to be wary of the possible consequences of co-opting a chairman midstream when Khama becomes president. He said now is the time for the party to elect a chairman. "He may wish to give the position to his choice of VP and in that, it may become problematic to the party with some dissenting voices emerging," he warned.
He said that so long as the majority in the BDP has accepted Khama as their next president, it does not add value in the party to challenge him in party electoral contests. "It will be difficult to challenge the VP as that might be viewed as challenging the state. According to the BDP members' calculations, they feel you are better off when Khama is either neutral about you or he supports you." To many people, Khama appears like an unchallengeable giant, but Maundeni feels this should not be the case because the VP is always challenged in matters of policy and this is good for democracy.
Another UB academic, Log Raditlhokwa, said that both opposition and BDP politicians do not feel they have the capacity to challenge Khama. "They always feel he is insurmountable given the resources at his disposal. Challenging him would be a waste of resources," he said. Raditlhokwa views Khama as more than just an individual. "He is not just simply an individual. He has almost been transformed into an institution. Some people in the opposition support Khama because of the credibility crisis that we see in both the BDP and opposition and now people are not prepared to challenge him."
Raditlhokwa indicated that a lot of people depend on Khama for their political survival and would not dare spoil their chances by supporting anyone challenging him.
"One group feels that Khama should not be challenged as once he is challenged, he can be undemocratic because of his military background and therefore fearing the consequences. There are those who are hoping that he can bring a lot of changes in governance as they see him as a person who can turn around the fortunes of the country," said Raditlhokwa.
Although there is a general belief that Khama has failed in the effective supervision of the implementation of government projects, he asserted that there are those who feel that he should be given more time to set up his institutions and changes in motion.
He was worried that Khama is not talking too much like other leaders who are open and their opinions known. For instance, he said once someone challenges or criticises him, he would not respond and this makes some people to give up on him. "This has serious impacts for democracy as leaders need to be understood by the people. Even people at Khama's office are letting him down as they will never respond to some of the crucial issues," Raditlhokwa said.
BDP executive secretary, Dr Comma Serema does not see anything wrong in the fact that Khama is usually unopposed. "No one has ever said that Khama should not be challenged. He remains unopposed for the party chairmanship though the whole membership was given an opportunity to make their choice but they decided to allow him in," explained Serema.
"You should understand that whatever the case may be, the President may reshuffle his cabinet before Khama takes over. So, Khama is not wrong to contest for the chairmanship," said Serema. He, however, explained that given the succession plan in the party and government, the process will be smooth.