President Ian Khama has distributed blankets, done walkabouts, appeared on the Daily News front page, and Btv more times than his predecessors combined, but he is just not so attractive to the voters anymore, write BAME PIET and TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE
When President Ian Khama warned his party followers that he was not a politician, and that he was forced into politics by some people, they took his statement lightly. Instead of requesting him to step aside, to let others lead the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), they insisted that he was the right man.
‘Seconds before Disaster’ was the Kanye congress, where his team lost the majority, if not all central committee positions to the other faction. He did not welcome the results. He crushed the newly elected team.
A few months later, after the 2009 general elections, the party split for the first time in its history, giving birth to Botswana Movement for Democracy. At the height of the split, some party members insisted Khama was the right man for the party leadership because he was instilling discipline in the organisation.
The civil servants nationwide strike in April 2011 was another test for the non-politician at Office of the President, and he failed the test of appealing to civil servants to appreciate the financial situation of his government. All he needed to do was to assure them he cared, was concerned and sympathetic to their cause. He didn’t.
Instead, in May 2011, Khama went to address a Kgotla meeting about the striking workers in Goodhope:
“You are aware that your children are engaged in a strike, they say they want money. They are lucky to be working. There is no money. I don’t care even if the strike goes on for five years.”
A few days later, a Btv news broadcast showed President Khama addressing a Kgotla meeting in Tutume. He stated that he was going to fire all the civil servants who had defied a court order to go back to work. Some in Khama’s audience ululated.
Those were the only remarks the President ever made publicly about the civil servants and their strike. His permanent secretary at that time was none other than Eric Molale, the then head of the civil service.
Little did the President know that the words he had uttered would stick in the minds of many people, including the elderly and poor constituents.
At the time, Khama had been in office for 26 months and there was hope for the future under him. However, there was no improvement under his leadership, with potable water and electricity becoming scarce.
When Khama visited Goodhope last Thursday to canvass for votes from the thirsty and impoverished constituents of Goodhope/Mabule, he was under the impression that he still wielded the Khama Magic. The results of the by-election proved otherwise.
Prior to the Goodhope visit, Khama was in Mabule, Mmakgori, Loporung, Phitshane-Molopo, Pitsane, Tlhareseleele explaining his government policies and why Molale mattered to the constituency.
In 2009 Mokaila garnered 4,987 against Mathokgwane’s 2,707 (BNF) and BCP’s 1,346. In 2014, James Mathokgwane beat Mokaila with 6,712 to 6,101 to win the constituency. Kgosi Lotlamoreng, of the Umbrella for Democratic Change platform, beat Khama’s man by 1,780.
Speaking to Mmegi this week, Fankie Motsaathebe who lost to Molale in the BDP primaries, said he suspected that Molale got some information from the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS) that some people should be thrown out of the party.
However, there was little the DIS could do to reverse the changes that are taking place in Botswana’s political landscape. Why the DIS didn’t foresee the coming defeat of the BDP in Goodhope/Mabule is a matter for security analysts.
The national television has not made life better for the ruling party either. Ever since the beginning of the year, Btv has made it a policy that events of opposition MPs do not make news. Rather, they prefer to broadcast events where ministers are officiating. In this era of information, with so much available through smart phones, social media, private radio stations, private newspapers and unhappy people, information travels with the speed of light.
Some people no longer rely on Btv or Radio Botswana for news. In fact, they get turned off by news blackout on activities of opposition MPs. The youth are also a constituency that is angry at the status quo. To them, the government should take the responsibility of creating jobs. That’s what governments do all over the world – they pride themselves in the number of jobs they have created within a particular period of time. Creation of jobs is the yardstick to determine whether or not the government cares about the welfare of its people. In Botswana, the government hardly releases statistics on the jobs it has created in a particular space of time. Statistics Botswana is only good at giving employment figures of three-four years back. Jobs give people hope, and this is why in the election manifestos of the each of the three parties, job creation was top of the list.
This is why the youth are going for political parties that are led by the youth. This is why even Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi wore that funny cap in Mmadinare, and calling himself Le14. It matters. Ma14 have new ideas, have dreams, and most importantly, have vision. However, Masisi’s role in Goodhope/Mabule campaign did not restore the Khama magic. During the campaigns, some voters were given blankets, airtime and food. The youth do not want blankets, especially this time of the year when summer is here.
The youth want blankets of their choice. They also want food of their choice, and they can only afford it when they have dignified jobs. In the absence of jobs, figures on jobs created in the first half of the year, the voters have gone hunting for politicians who can manage the economy of their country better than non-politicians.
The last time the party enjoyed support from majority citizens was in 2004 under the leadership of Festus Mogae, at 53 percent. In 2009 the figure fell to 49 percent, and now it is at 47 percent.