Signs of desperation, the demise of an old party

Khama is traversing the country promoting his party. PIC: KEOAGILE BONANG
Khama is traversing the country promoting his party. PIC: KEOAGILE BONANG

It is a fact that succession from the edifices of a decadent past, from a nation ruled uninterrupted by a single party which has dominated electoral competition for more than half a century, will never be a straight path or smooth sail.

It takes the courage of brave men and women swimming against the tide, daring greatly and working collectively to achieve what has never been achieved: which in the case of Botswana would be the first change of government from one political party to other in our life time.

The year 2019 presents that glorious moment for our nation. It also presents an opportunity for our democracy to mature, to flourish and come full cycle, for Botswana to experience real, true and quintessential democracy.     

 Botswana is on the cusp of history, while some are understandably fearful, as many mistakenly are afraid of change, some in the leadership of our country, who have benefited unfairly from cronyism, the perpetuation of the status quo and perpetual stagnation exhibit signs of desperation.

At the risk of contravening some sections of the penal code which allude to how we ought to express sentiments about the state president, there is a good reason why cowardice in the BDF Act is considered a serious crime, right up there with treason, treachery or deserting one’s post during active combat.

Tor a sitting president, the commander in chief of our nation’s armed forces, to continually allow the proliferation of the idea that his life is under threat does not inspire confidence in his leadership. If anything it endangers the very instability he is claiming to speak of and stand against. It is the first sign of political desperation in the old party.      

In the last 10 years the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leader was none other than Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama, a man who was revered, loved and praised by all in the ruling party. When he left office not long ago he was showered with gifts and praises as he toured the country, receiving thanks for his service.

Many of the gifts were from BDP party members and ministers; today the same BDP is creating an impression that he was everything that was wrong with our country, a narrative which suggests that they manipulated the nation with their praise, and that makes all of them complicit.

The entire BDP acted in cohorts in whatever wrong they allege he did during those years. This position of utter insincerity by the ruling elites is another sign of desperate times in an effort to mislead the nation.       

 After a smooth handover of power from his predecessor, a man from a different tribe than his, we bore witness as the incoming President desperately tried to stoke tribal tensions by using divide and rule tactic of turning tribes against each other.

He unexpectedly alluded to a tribe that is spoiled, a particular tribe that remained unnamed that thought it was superior to other tribes. It would seem his end game was to use colonial divide and rule tactic to pit the Southern tribes against the Northern ones.

During a Kgotla meeting in Moshupa in an unprovoked diatribe, His Excellency went to great lengths extolling how Bangwato were a tribe that looked down upon other tribes. This tribalistic crusade continued in Tlokweng and other areas south of the country in subsequent political campaign events disguised as Kgotla meetings.  

Recently, ministers have also been used to stoke tribal tensions. A senior women’s wing leader we are made to understand was allegedly instructed at a Central Committee meeting to go to the greater Gammangwato area and stir up tension.

In this area different tribes like the Bangwato, Bapedi, Batswapong and others coexist in almost perfect harmony despite tribal contrasts but are now being told to rise up against Bangwato in a carefully orchestrated divide and rule aimed at curtailing General Khama’s traditional influence.

The minister claimed that she was tackling former president Khama as a politician and not as a Kgosikgolo, the same way an opposition member can hurl insults and unprintable epithets at our sitting president and claim that they are addressing him, not as President but as politicians, a display of shocking desperation and counter intuitive thinking.

General Khama served the BDP for many years as a Mongwato and equally so as a Kgosikgolo and the opposition never accused the BDP of tribalism.

Without intervention to stop the wave of tribally-inspired hate politics by the BDP we are heading for turbulent times. 

This is even more pronounced in presidential appointments. No wonder the general majority of our people feel that only people from one tribe and area are being appointed to key positions by the President while overlooking qualified people from other tribal groupings.

Currently because of such actions, the man appointed to head the intelligence organ has abdicated his administrative duties and imposed himself as a presidential bodyguard and not one to miss major BDP events.

There is a real danger that in the 2019 elections for the first time in our electoral history, people around the country may align themselves along tribal lines in response to this new divisive climate of desperate electioneering tactics.   

And as if that is not enough, the President seems obsessed with extending this crusade to include racial segregation. Recently, he openly dismissed naturalised Batswana especially those of the white skin as not being true citizens or Batswana ba sekei.

These are businesspeople who live in this country and have invested heavily in Botswana. The minister appointed to ‘tackle’ the former president also never passes an opportunity to remind former president Khama that he is half white and therefore not a true Motswana.

This is sheer bigotry and proves the BDP is in desperate times and in a dire leadership deficit. 

It is alarming that the President’s name keeps cropping up in several corruption cases, be it CMB donation to Dubai campaign camp, NPF donations and now Choppies donations, yet he has not been charged along with his senior permanent secretary.

Since coming to power we have witnessed the widespread use of the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) to intimidate, publicly arrest and harass the President’s political opponents. The BURS seems to be operating as a tool to fight the President’s political fights.

This is ample evidence of desperation, signs that his Excellency is not fighting corruption, that in fact he is perpetuating it. The first act to demonstrate that he abhors corruption would have been to promptly ensure the independence of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime within his first year in office, not only that, but ensuring that it is an independent body that reports to Parliament and not to his office and under his ambit of control.       

More than 15 months after taking power, there is little to no reform in our institutions and government. There is still no Freedom of Information Act, youth unemployment is rising, no independence of oversight institutions, no constitutional review, corruption is increasing rapidly and the declaration of assets bill passed is a big sham that criminalises journalism.

Our country has been brought to a distressing standstill and only one thing is consistent: plentiful signs of political desperation that point to the beginning of the end of the old party and the dawn of a true, enlightened democratic state.         

*Justice Motlhabani is the Botswana Patriotic Front information & publicity Secretary

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