Indeed politics is a dirty game. In Botswana, the game is getting dirtier. And those who seek power can go to any length to do just about anything to gain access. The end as they say, justifies the means. The conduct of the President Mokgweetsi Masisi-led regime has proven this to be a truism, writes Mmegi Correspondent DOLLY BYRONE THEBE
Masisi has given the nation and the world a good lecture on Politics 101. And that is how to exploit for political purposes, personal differences with a rival (real or imagined). The raging conflict between former president Ian Khama and his successor Masisi appears anchored more on personal differences than any other consideration.
It is purely an egocentric battle with little or no regard for the country. Studies show that a battle of egos is a phrase used metaphorically to describe competitions that are based on pride and often entail prodigious and arrogant demonstrations of prowess. It is not necessarily true that the Khama- Masisi saga is refusing to go away. The saga is serving Masisi well. After three good years of navigation of the responsibilities of the high office, Masisi still appears lost at sea, unable to get his bearings right.
Masisi is no ordinary mortal. He is the President of the Republic, the undisputed king of the ring and there is no doubt about it. Already the country is paying a heavy price both locally and internationally because of Masisi’s insecurities and vulnerabilities. Huge State resources are being diverted from worthy causes to prosecute, fan or douse a war that has now become real and it is holding the whole nation to ransom and mortgaging the future of the country in the process. To save the country from a possible abyss, the Masisi government must introspect and for once choose the nation over political considerations.
The Khama-Masisi conflict could have been handled well if the President and his handlers could have spared some thought for the nation. Masisi has all the powers and every arsenal at his disposal to bring to an end the raging war with the Khama family. But, he does not seem to want to see the matter resolved and closed. This is because most of the time he is the one on the offensive. He started the ball rolling after telling the world that the transfer of power between himself and his predecessor was not as orderly, peaceful and seamless as it was made to look.
He further even claimed that he had been the most abused vice president this country has ever produced. After these startling revelations, Masisi began to get even with Khama to put him in his place and to show him who is the boss. To justify a season of persecution against Khama and later the entire Khama family, the State began a narrative that Khama posed a threat to the sitting President. For the first time in the history of the once shining example of democracy, a coup was looming. There was a Khama hangover in the Office of the President (OP) and that Khama was capable of ruling from the grave. This problem needed a cure urgently. In what appeared to be a dress rehearsal of a bigger war about to begin, the State began with little, petty, and trivial administrative matters.
The State made a mountain out of an anthill. During his heydays as Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi led the onslaught against Khama. He portrayed Khama as an ungrateful man who could not thank the State for even breaking laws just to make his retirement stress free. In a dramatic and unprecedented move, the State raised issues with Khama’s security detail, kitchen staff, and request for air transport and even went to an extent of refusing to sponsor his external visit to the Dalai Lama. The latter meant that the State even wanted to exercise control over whom a former president could or couldn’t meet.
Fully conscious of his constitutional rights, Khama defied the OP and visited the Dalai Lama as planned albeit at his own expense.
Subsequently, Khama took the matter to court and it found the behaviour of the State unconstitutional. From petty issues, the State raised the bar and delved into bigger and much more serious corruption matters, where Khama and the South African prominent businesswoman Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe were implicated in the P100 billion allegedly siphoned from the Bank of Botswana (BoB).
Even when BoB, an institution of international repute, denied any theft, the determined State could not yield but pressed charges against one Welheminah ‘Butterfly’ Maswabi who allegedly did some bidding for Khama and Motsepe-Radebe. It turned out that the State had allegedly fabricated all evidence against ‘Butterfly’ and the courts have since thrown out the matter for want of evidence. The State suffered a humiliating and crushing defeat, but the matter has apparently been appealed by the State.
Smarting from the embarrassment stemming from the ‘Butterfly’ matter, the State came out with guns blazing to further fix and humiliate Khama and Isaac Kgosi. Now Kgosi is in and out of court to answer for several charges, which include possession of illegal weapons of war. The charges are seemingly connected with giving credence to the narrative that there could be a plot to coup the government. The State seeks to create an impression that proactive action is being taken to abort the coup.
The reason is to perpetuate the conflict and teach the Khama a lesson he would never forget. This is the one conflict that earned Masisi public sympathy and protest votes in 2019. The game of 2024 is about to begin and more than ever before, the issue has become increasingly relevant for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) 2024 campaign. The party seems all too happy to keep the bloody conflict switched on for political expediency. After all, the same conflict had delivered the goods in 2019 and it is poised to deliver once again.
It is clearly evident that the conflict has nothing to do with the country or its citizens. It is motivated by the BDP’s insatiable appetite for power. Power must be sought and secured at all costs. The Hollywood-style arrest of former DIS director general, Kgosi and the drama associated with Butterfly and Kgosi’s appearances in court, appear to be orchestrated by lovers of drama.
The BDP is at it again, repeating and rehearsing the same script and lines that worked wonders in 2019. It is worth remembering that the BDP of 2019 campaign nearly faulted from the start. The Khama factor gave the BDP the lifeline and the drama the party needed.
If there is any demon that tormented the people for the last 55 years, that demon is the BDP itself. Maybe roasting Khama and Kgosi can endear Masisi to the electorate but certainly it cannot create jobs, fix economic afflictions bedevilling the country and resuscitate an ailing education system that churns out unemployable graduates. Masisi must take stock, cut political demagoguery, talk less, and begin to act to get things done. He must stop creating imaginary enemies and fighting and dosing imaginary wars and coups. The country is much more polarised than ever before. Our nationhood matters more than sectional political battles.