FRANCISTOWN: The notion of having ‘attack dogs’ within the country’s political space is not new. One of the most widely known example in which political organisations purportedly use their foot soldiers to attack their opponents or play the role of attack dogs in order to provide leaders with a buffer against the concept of the logic of retaliation is the Alec Seametso attack on Tawana Moremi-then a member of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
Seametso fired salvos calling Tawana an irresponsible tribal leader who has failed in the family and business fronts. He said Tawana failed to keep a family as he was divorcing adding that Tawana once took a Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) loan to start a business but later failed at that as well.
Seametso said Tawana’s main undoing was leaving the BDP to join the opposition. Seametso was later nominated as councillor which some people interpret as his reward for ‘insulting’ Tawana on behalf of the party leadership and playing the role of attack dog during the buildup to the general elections.
The appointment of Seametso as the BDP national campaigns manager was seen as a strategy by the ruling party to ensure that he launches retaliatory attacks (play his role from a strategic position) against the opposition young turks and drum up support for the BDP.
Similarly in the opposition ranks, Fearfokol (a group of BNF operatives who are however not formally recognised within the party’ structures but are famous for defending the party from perceived internal and external enemies) and some BCP activists are cited in some quarters as examples of some party leaders hiding behind their foot soldiers to do the dirty job on their behalf.
The BCP and BNF fights in the public over the holding of the UDC’s inaugural congress are legendary. In the past, the BCP and BNF had promised to crack the whip against its coalition activists who bring the name of the UDC into disrepute by attacking each other with reckless abandon on social media platforms but that has not happened till today.
Since the 2019 general election, the BDP has struggled to ward off criticism from many Batswana and opposition parties. In a nutshell the BDP has often struggled to deal with a wave of coordinated attacks from the opposition particularly on social media.
Many believe that the recent appointment of some well-known (BDP) activists (who often actively defend the party on social media) in the party’s communications and international relations subcommittee is one way ensuring that the party’s insulation from opposition attacks is run from a well-coordinated perspective.
With the exception of Kagelelo Kentse who retained his seat as chairperson of the sub-committee, the newly appointed members are, Tumi Modise, Dennis Mmolai, Laone Kwati, Warona Mosielele, Selwana Kesebonye Godrey Ganetsang and Macdonald Peloetletse among others.
Kentse shot down suggestions that appointing those perceived to be attack dogs the party might see a situation where it will struggle to communicate its strategic objectives to the masses.
“There is a serious balance in the committee. For example, we have a former journalist (Ganetsang) and a librarian (Modise) who is also an avid reader. These people are more than what people see on the social media,” Kentse said. The shake up of the BDP communications subcommittee does not mean that the party will now shift its communications strategy to consistently launching retaliatory attacks against the opposition and ignoring its strategic objectives, said Kentse.
He maintained the recently appointed communications team will work hand in hand with the lower structures, and the leadership to advance the image as well as position of the BDP.
“The committee will be tasked with communicating BDP’s position on specific portfolios for a strategic purpose or in pursuit of the party strategy and initiating or maintaining relationships with fraternal parties, and the international community of nations parties.”
Political analyst Mokaloba Mokaloba does agree with sentiments that individuals who were recently appointed for the BDP communications and international relations subcommittee were brought in to help insulate the party from constant attacks from the opposition.
The University of Botswana (UB) political science lecturer, this week indicated that the appointment of individuals in the communications team, within a political party setting depends largely on various factors such as the strategic or overall objectives of the party.
“In this era, most of the communications take place on social media platforms, a political party needs to have a team that would be able to engage at a social media level. I think that was a strategic and deliberate move by Tsholetsa house to appoint people who are known to be activists especially on the social media to be in the party’s communications and international relations team,” Mokaloba.
Mokaloba labelled the recent appointments made by the BDP a good move because the party has been struggling to counter a wave of attacks from the social media in a very coordinated manner.
“On how the appointments will negatively affect the party it will depend on a number of things. Firstly, my worry is that the people who have been appointed are known commentators on social media,” he said.
He added, “Whatever they say often times will be confused to be a party position so a lot will depend on their behaviour. If they can be able to differentiate between a party position and their opinions that would be very welcome. it’s decision that can be both harmful and good to the BDP.”