The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) may have won the last general elections by a razor thin margin of 46.7 % but President Ian Khama appears to be unfazed by his party’s dismal performance ever.
“The 46.7 percent that voted for us does not reflect our support base. We could have swiped those people (opposition) by 75%. I don’t care about the 46.7% which the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) indicate that we attained,” Khama said when addressing the party youth wing congress in Masunga on Friday.
Khama does not believe that the party is increasingly becoming unpopular. In fact he said that he is not fearful of the opposition as they have little to offer the nation. In addition he believes the 46.7% is just a figure by the IEC.
But take away the microphones and the well-written speeches and ask; how genuine is the president’s remarks? Maybe the President has lost it, political pundits may say. Some party activists in Masunga even felt that his remarks were misplaced if not irresponsible.
They believe that Khama knows reality and how his party’s fortunes are dwindling.
On the corridors at the congress others argued that on the record every president or political leader will see nothing expect growth and prosperity within his party even though things are falling apart, in order to inspire his troops.
Khama’s remarks may also have been a calculated move to restore the confidence of the youth in the party. This is for one major reason: The party seed bed has been leading a mass exodus of members leaving the party for the opposition who they believe are an alternative as they are young and politically suave.
Even the youth wing chairman, Andy Boatile in his address suggested that the BDP has to work on changing the mindset of the youth who now believe that ‘moono’ (the catchy Umbrella for Democratic Change slogan) is the way.
“In the past immediate general elections, 47 % of the voting population was the youth which I suspect voted for the opposition and as such I have already started working on programmes and interventions that will make us more relevant to the current generation,” said Boatile.
Again Boatile’s well-calculated statement shows that the party including President Khama is aware of its failures.
Even the secretary general Mpho Balopi’s remarks at the congress seemed to suggest that the situation in the BDP is bad enough that it may cost the party its fortunes in the future elections.
He said the ruling party needs to re-brand in order to improve its vibrancy. This explains that the party might be worried about is own performance.
Again statistics says it all, the party’s fortunes have been waning election after election since managing 80 percent of the votes in 1965.
Just sampling the results of past elections the party has never gone beyond 75 percent after the 1979 general elections.
Things worsened from 1999 to 2009. In 1999 the party managed 57.15 and in 2004 it amassed 51.73 while in 2009 it could only manage 53 percent before 46.7 percent in last year’s elections.
This alone suggests that it may be wrong for Khama not to acknowledge that the party has failed. To an independent political analyst Anthony Morima, the utterances by President Khama regarding the outcome of the 2014 general elections are unfortunate.
“The 46.7% figure does not need any other interpretation. It’s a true reflection of how Batswana view the BDP and Khama himself. An attempt to interpret the IEC figures differently is nothing but a political gimmick,” said Morima.
He says it is also possible that he (Khama) is saying this to allay fears that the BDP ship is sinking. Be that as it may Morima is not convinced that a wrong interpretation of the election results is something that would save the BDP. He said Khama should have used the occasion to marshal the BDP troops after the party’s poor performance.
Another political analyst, Dr Bashi Mothusi of the University Of Botswana (UB) believes that Khama is in denial. “His statement is unfortunate. His words are of a leader who is in denial,” he said.
According to Mothusi, what Khama should have done, was to assure the congress that the party would implement various reforms to steer the BDP forward because it’s clear that the party has failed at the polls.
“By saying that the 46.7% is not a correct figure Khama is in a way casting aspersions on the credibility of the IEC, because he is implying that the IEC may have manufactured that number but in reality we know they came up with the number on the basis of how people voted,” he said adding that Khama’s statements are of a leader who is failing to come to terms with the election results.
The UB academic says in truth, Khama and the rest of the party leadership might be deeply worried by the party’s performance in the general elections especially after losing important constituencies.
“Politics is a game of numbers so one should be worried when the numbers of his party are declining,” noted the political analyst.
Mothusi also wondered if Khama would really say that he does not care about the 46.7% the party attained in the general elections during the party’s internal meetings.