Why Khama is unlikely to emerge victorious

Khama's behind the scenes moves are shaking the BDP PIC: KEOAGILE BONANG
Khama's behind the scenes moves are shaking the BDP PIC: KEOAGILE BONANG

So, the man who created the Republic of Fear - mind you he was also ruled by his fears, every move he made, it was because he was/is still tormented by his fears - who institutionalised corruption, obliterated dissenting voices, now threatens to liquidate the very party that his father founded.

This is all because it will not let him play with helicopters and the taxpayers’ money.

The truth of the matter is that strong men like former president Ian Khama eventually disappear, but the harm they cause to citizens and society at large is often severe. 

Over the course of the year people have tried different means to force him to ‘retire’, but none of it has seemed to make him shift his attention to the cattle he received from the poor, if anything it has invigorated him. 

Really, what would you expect from a man who has a deep messianic complex and fashions himself as a one stop-shop solution to the country’s multi-faceted and complex problems?  So then, what should be done with a man who has dreamt of nothing else but becoming a Paramount Chief on a grand scale?

The answer is there is no one solution.  In fact, neutralising Khama and his cohort will depend on so many factors falling into place, some of which I will outline later in this article.

But before that it is important to state the obvious key strategies and modus operandi that Khama and his advisers employ, which feed one another and make effective use of each other in his build up to the end game.

Let’s look at the first point, which is Chaos.  A lot of his actions seem to be pointless and do not yield desired results.  For example the time they sponsored the motion of no confidence, the Elephant Saga, sowing divisions within the BDP ranks, casting belief of a North-South conflict, challenging the President’s legitimacy in court etc, but in fact are only a calculated attempt to create chaos.  Creating chaos (relentlessly) can cast doubt over the President’s ability to manage the party (after all people tend not to blame the problem child, but rather the parent who cannot rein them in), and therefore can allow a would-be ‘saviour’ in the form of Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi to come to the forefront and wrestle power from the President.

Fear. Khama’s other armament is fear. Machiavelli once said that it is better for a leader to be feared than to be loved.  Fear is the foundation on which power is built upon.  If you seek the people’s love whilst your opponent seeks their fear, you are giving away power to your opponent.  And Khama must have understood that because he spent the last 10-plus years cultivating fear than he did love. The truth of the matter is that Khama should not be so frightening.  Granted, there are pockets of power that exist within the party structures and government that are loyal to him, but the fact of the matter is that he does not hold any official position in the party and in government.  Yet he is feared to the point that people feel the only way to protect themselves against him is to side with him.  And who is to blame really for all this fear? I would say yes, his popularity with the common folk, his large war chest (possibly illicitly obtained), but I would largely blame society, the media and even the people who follow Masisi.

I mean, not so long ago a Minister wrote on her social media page that Khama intended to pull a Putin on us.  I mean really?  If you tell people that Khama is relentless, and is unforgiving, and in the same breath that he intends on coming back, what do you think some people’s thought process is going to be?  Bear in mind the majority of politicians are spineless. You are only telling them that they need to find a safe place i.e. to either be neutral or to choose the side that if they didn’t would result in dire consequence. Furthermore, you are also participating and fanning in the chaos.

In essence one in a leadership should also never publicly acknowledge the threats.  By doing so you are feeding his key strategies and giving away the power to your opponent.

I am sure the honourable Minister knew all of this, as I am sure she knew there is not much to gain from the callous negative –campaigning and mudslinging (fact or not), other than to score a few points with the leadership. Because any wise person who soberly and thoroughly analyses the costs and benefits before acting will tell you that when it comes to denting Khama’s image, the majority of people are prone to numerous subconscious biases, i.e.  decades of embedded prejudices, fears, preference for their own grouping etc. Such that if you tell them something that is contrary to their beliefs, factual or not, their minds (under the influences of these biases) will trivialise it.

And to be frank, inadequate leaders like Khama will be around for a long time, for simple reasons like the fact that it takes a lot of education and cognitive power to correctly judge, untangle and perceive the underlying –i.e. to find the mind’s construction in the face of a man.  And because the majority of people are lazy in mind (because they lack the right incentives; e.g. hunger)  as demonstrated by the Parkinson’s law of triviality, whereby people will tend to focus on things that are almost trivial that they do understand than something complicated that they don’t understand when deciding on whom to follow, or vote for. You will waste your time.

People don’t really care about human rights violations and so forth. They only care about bread and butter issues (that include the soup and bread that we mock Khama for dishing out), as well as the pile of trivial and irrational things that they are so heavily invested in like which ‘Kgotla’ they come from, family ties and surnames as opposed to merit. Some opposition members will tell you that even if you were to take a picture of Khama stealing money and you showed it to the people, there are people out there that will see it and say it is fine, he is the son of Khama.

So coming down to my main point of why Khama is unlikely to emerge victorious against Masisi.

A series of obvious events and a combination of imperceptible key strategies that Masisi’s advisers will implement are going to be as follows;

The obvious series of events being to postpone the congress until after the general elections.

And then purging certain people before and after the elections, which is the most logical thing to do.  Masisi needs to postpone the elections because even if he wins against Mma V, he will still lose.  By the time of the elections, the people on the other side will be so heavily invested that a loss could result in a phenomenal spilt hitherto unheard of - just on the eve of the elections.  What’s more the leadership will need to indicate as soon as possible that the congress will be postponed so that those who haven’t invested don’t start raising their heads above the parapet.

 I doubt BDP will succumb to the school of thought that Khama should be expelled as it is irrational and perilous.  Never take away your opponents’ entire hope.  Any strategist would tell you that. The way Khama is fighting and is confident, it is clear that he has a trump card – an ace up his sleeve, a kamikaze type of card, one that will be triggered when he is put in a position where he has nothing to lose. So it is important that BDP does not make him desperate. So it is important that he must not see defeat up until it’s too late.

The Masisi camp will take consolation from the fact that whilst Khama may not support Masisi, he supports the party. And that even as he crisscrosses the country, creating a wave about a new promise, decreeing the BDP leadership as dictatorial, he is also campaigning hard for certain Parliamentary candidates who are the party. In essence Masisi’s advisers are cognisant of the fact that people are different and follow different leaders who they believe carry their aspirations. Some people are radical in nature and are more prone to follow the radical and populist leaders within the party. Some leaders are conservative, some are left leaning, some are right leaning, and each, will draw their own sizeable following from society.  It is precisely this system that gives the party the numbers as well as retains them.  Such that people even when aggrieved stay in a party because they have a voice that adequately represents them. Even if that particular leader loses at a congress, followers remain faithful because they believe that they will get the leader into power in the next congress.

Even if they are unsatisfied with the current leadership they remain because they believe or hope that one day the leader with whom they are aligned through the democratic process will some day wield power. Granted in most cases divergent views give the impression of disunity in the period leading up to elections, but someone who sees further knows that elections by nature trigger convergent thinking. Come elections, all those ordinary citizens, in his stronghold will ensure that the people he has endorsed will win at the general elections. In conclusion, he is campaigning to ensure that you become President in 2019.

Furthermore, the truth of the matter is that, a lot of the people on Khama’s side can be converted.  Maybe not now, but definitely after the elections. Khama’s only currency right now is to give them the chance to win the elections, after that there isn’t much he can offer. A wise man once said that if you want people to do as you want, you must first understand their desires, if you know that someone wants a horse, you tell them let’s do this work and then you will get a horse.  So my advice would be to treat some of Khama’s people like allies-in-waiting because they are acting the way they are now, not out of choice. All the Masisi Camp can do in the mean time is feign retreat by ensuring that the congress is postponed.

 As for strategies Masisi camp will take a leaf from Vladimir Putin’s handbook:

1. As mentioned before, Khama’s weapon of choice is his popularity – the deeply rooted 50-year-old Khama legacy and money.  Masisi is the President with power, and he is going to start using the levers of powers instead of engaging Khama in a popularity contest. Wisely so.

A wise man once said if you must choose between popularity, money and power, choose power. In the political arena money and popularity can take a long time to yield results, but power on the other hand is swift and crushing. What’s more unless money is used to assassinate the only shortlived window period of money working against the most powerful man is during an Election Day. On the other hand, power will work during the long periods in between. And even then power can deprive you of a chance to use money. Ask The Russian Oligarchs.

Notwithstanding, I anticipate the following strategies from Masisi’s Camp:

Masisi will make the application of power the focus. He will use it to change the rules and deprive his opponents air they thrive in. For example he may make it illegal for people to buy votes (he will put in rules that seem easy to circumvent, thus encouraging them to make mistakes, and then set traps). And the beautiful thing about the one who sets the rules is that, only, he can circumvent them. Ask the communist leaders.

It is, however, pertinent to state that the rules that he changes will appeal to the public, they will look like they are meant to level the playing field. Furthermore, he will use recent events like Khama’s unholy alliance with opposition’s Duma Boko to amplify external threats so as to rally the party around the leadership and give it extraordinary powers.

The second part in the series of events is the purges.

There are certain individuals who should be purged immediately and those that should be purged after the elections. But as Masisi purges, he will have the following in place: (a) A series of planned distractions (b) A deputy/henchman that will perform the dirty tasks whilst he keeps the popular ones for himself (c) A populist/demagogue surrogate  (d) Have popular but neutral people like Botsalo Ntuane on standby, who appeal to both sides, and will preach party unity when he replaces some of his opponents thus buffering the damages (e) Have everyone’s hated entity as the face of all the problems that besiege the party and the country. For example Mugabe blamed everything on the West, ANC blamed everything on the white monopolists. So just like how Emmerson Mnangagwa toppled Robert Mugabe by claiming that they needed to protect Mugabe because he was influenced and isolated by corrupt men and women. The populist surrogate will drum up that the likes of Isaac Kgosi is to blame, and that whilst they respect Khama, the former president is currently being fed the wrong information by men and women with sinister motives. And if the populist and the henchman does something that offends the public, Masisi will have plausible deniability, e.g. they will postpone the congress and he will appear against it, but unable to go against the party’s wishes.      

And I must say, distractions or diversions are good tools for managing perception.  As much as the time we live in is the post truth era, it is also the era of distraction – a politician must dangle shiny objects to distract the general public from more serious issues going on elsewhere. If you are going to purge, drown the interest and the impact with a big announcements, events etc.  Things like the budget speech, salary increments, reshuffling, and the arrest of a big fish.

Lastly, Masisi will likely take a leaf from Cyril Ramaphosa’s Disprin Plan. Letting others i.e. the courts, the televised commissions of inquiry and at times the opposition clean house for him. The likes of Tom Moyane, Malusi Gigaba, Fikile Mbalula could not cry foul because the rope that hung them is the one that they put around their own necks. I particularly like televised commissions of inquiry, because when all the corruption is there for all the public to see, the person eventually fires himself. Let them dissolve like Disprin in water (your job is to just bring the cleansing water).

In closing Khama will throw a lot of hard landing punches before this fight is over, but ask George Foreman about that time with Muhammad Ali.

*Tebang Barolong is a contributor to Mmegi. Feedback can be directed to [email protected]

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