President Mokgweetsi Masisi ascended to the presidency amidst fanfare in the country. The nation was in unison that he was the ‘chosen one’ to lead it to the ‘promised land’. However, as cracks start to emerge in his presidency two years on, Mmegi Correspondent GOITSEMODIMO KAELO wonders whether the President is feeling the heat
Masisi had, in his unparalleled oratory skills, promised ‘milk and honey’, something that might have eventually led to his party claiming a resounding victory in all Gaborone constituencies during the 2019 general election.
Amongst other things, Masisi had won the people’s love when he made graft busting his pet project. He somewhat became the people’s President.
Fast-forward to 2021, Masisi finds himself having to deal with challenges on his plate as the Head of State. His presidency has been marred by his fall-out with Khama, his former boss. But, while the fight between him and Khama had won him a little bit of sympathy from the public, his fortunes have significantly changed.
To many people, Masisi is someone who never keeps his promises. He has earned a few nicknames along the way. Masisi is seemingly gaining too many detractors than admirers.
Even his diehards, including those who defended him at the top of their voices, are now seemingly rebelling against him. There is talk of a new faction within his party, led by some members of his Cabinet. All these are clear signs of gaps emerging in his leadership.
Furthermore, his pet project is falling apart after the State lost all the high profile corruption cases against alleged perpetrators. The loss of prominent cases against former director-general of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Isaac Kgosi, businessman Bakang Seretse and recently Welheminah ‘Butterfly’ Maswabi, are a serious potential harm to the President’s legacy, and could make him feel immense pressure. To make matters worse, the State has also lost cases against Khama.
From the time when rapper ATI was arrested, some youth threatening to torch the State House to another rapper Ozi F Teddy’s diss track to the government, there is a clear indication of frustration amongst the citizens, especially the youth. Many are frustrated by unemployment and the lack of support from government.
All this has put government under fire lately over what is termed failure to serve Batswana and taking decisions that further irritate people such as the purchase of Tautona Lodge in Gantsi for P58 million. Pastor Thuso Tiego is the latest figure to make the headlines calling for Masisi to step down. There is an ongoing petition signed by over 12,000 people, which reflects increased expressions of displeasure amongst Batswana.
These developments seem to be giving leaders sleepless nights with the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng posting on Facebook last Sunday morning calling for calm. The pressure seems to be piling on the presidency. Political commentator and University of Botswana lecturer in politics and administrative studies, Adam Mfundisi said there is no doubt that the President is faced with an existential threat from within and without.
Mfundisi said the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) as a political movement has been highly exposed by allowing the President to hijack party programmes to advance his political interests.
“It allowed the politics of personalities to get foothold during the 2019 general election. Everything was about President Masisi and now the angel has turned into a political ‘devil’. The hype on and about President Masisi has evaporated. At the beginning of his tenure, he developed enemies within his party and outside it. His weird promises and pronouncements have come to haunt him,” argued Mfundisi.
He explained that Masisi’s vicious attack on Khama and the Umbrella for Democratic Change as well as its leader Duma Boko has created problems for him. Additionally, he said the narcissistic politics pursued by Masisi’s government have led to erosion in public confidence and trust amongst citizens. He said the COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed his lack of strategic leadership.
“The public trust and confidence on government and the President have waned substantially. Therefore, the President is a besieged man and as pressure mounts, he finds himself alone as some of his supporters have deserted him.
And some are paying lip service against massive assault from many quarters,” Mfundisi said. In his view, the plethora of allegations of corruption and maladministration against Masisi and his government are taking a toll on the President. Mfundisi said Masisi’s Cabinet is ganging against him using the same methodology and tactics he used against Khama, which has put him under heavy stress.
Mfundisi said there is mounting pressure from opposition forces and civil society in general is presenting insurmountable problems for the President while the response of the State apparatus to peaceful civil disobedience is not helping his cause.
He explained that the police have exacerbated the problem for the President by being brutal to peaceful demonstrations, which are provided for in the Constitution of Botswana.
He said Masisi must learn from the President of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema, who castigated unprofessional law enforcement officers. He said the President must know that humility is a great virtue.
Another political analyst, Professor Zibani Maundeni is also in agreement that there is no doubt that pressure is mounting on Masisi. He explained that the fact that Batswana are starting to resist his restrictions linked to controlling the spread of the coronavirus, while individual church leaders, artists, the liquor industry (through KBL) are mobilising against his policies and his presidency, show that people are resisting his rule.
“Their resistance could become more threatening if these link up with trade unions, religious associations and political parties. Such links could easily be made as we recently saw teaching unions threatening to boycott teaching if teachers were not vaccinated. Nursing associations have also been making threats of some kind. There are also fears that factions are growing within Masisi’s ruling BDP. He must tread carefully as conditions can easily harden his presidency,” said Maundeni.
According to him, Masisi must make himself easily accessible and understand that livelihoods have been destroyed while small businesses have collapsed, with more plunged into debt and into poverty.
“More people have lost and continue to lose their jobs. More people have lost their loved ones.
Where is Masisi’s government? Not enough tangible help is coming from his government. Instead, silly acquisitions are being done amidst shortages of vaccines,” he added.
He warned the government to change strategy and appear to be caring to the general public by diverting funds from entities such as the DIS and put into public use. He said as it is, the centre is failing to hold and this risks being a lost presidency. None of the past presidents have had to deal with circumstances such as these ones before.
Having to deal with the pandemic that is claiming lives, being faced with a shrinking economy and threats of a recall. Although Morwaeng has said Masisi will complete his term, the President is under significant pressure to swiftly turn his promises into results and deliver.