Masisi O Biditse, Batswana Ba Arabile

“Mo itlhophele re mmone tsotsi! Tso-otsi o rata mang wee tsotsi!” Last week, many of us got to play childhood games on choice – perhaps a reminder of future obligations.

“Tamati so-so so-so-so-so! O rata mang?! Nna?! Ga ke go rate!” Following the announcement by the Chief Justice that President Mokgweetsi EK Masisi is the elected President of Botswana, the chant of the tamati so-so song and game came to mind.

His party was first past the post. Counting of ballots in numerous other areas proceeded, to determine the Members of Parliament in those areas. However, the decision had been made.

The recently held Botswana general elections were possibly the most vehemently contested, tightest, riskiest and most challenging. The opposition, I am sure, were certain their success was imminent. Many of us anticipated a hung Parliament, with the opposition seeming to have advanced in the recent months.

The outcome of the elections, is certainly not one which many analysts, critics and observers had expected. One thing is certain though, as the slogan goes, Masisi called, and Batswana responded, in numbers that are far more than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has had since the 90s. The win is evidence of a number of considerations, which will be explored at length in this piece.

When electing President Masisi, it would appear that many Batswana were reacting and responding to the Khama-Masisi debacle that had plagued our nation for quite some time.

The establishment of the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) gave Batswana the opportunity to expressly make a choice between one of the two leaders, in the only way that they could – through elections.

The elections were an occasion for Batswana to finally offer their opinion, and select which of the two leaders they prefer. It was similar, if you will, to the videos of BDP veterans which were circulating in social media earlier this year, in which the elders were taking a stand and picking a side.

That should have been a tell. For the first time, the tamati so-so game that we played as young people made sense, “o rata mang?! Nna?! Ga ke go rate!”

Batswana felt the need to establish, to themselves and the two main contestants, in the race, President Masisi and the erstwhile President, Ian Khama, who of the two they want the least.

This meant some abandoned their own partisan affiliations and membership to ensure that we do not return to a semi-autocratic rule. In these elections, Batswana were electing a man, not necessarily a party. The party, it would appear, was purely incidental.

The above choices meant that a lot of the big political players lost their races. Amongst them, were leader of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Ndaba Gaolathe, and leader of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Duma Boko.

These two losses although critical to the next five years for Botswana’s democracy and governance, differ fundamentally on basis.

On the one hand, BPF’s alignment with the Umbrella can be seen as one of the pivotal anchors in Boko’s loss. If UDC were successful in their race, their affiliation with the BPF would have compromised Batswana by exposing them to the one whom they have spoken most passionately against.

Their election of Boko would therefore have been defeatist in nature, rendering them back into the hands of their previous tyrant.

Another factor that ensured Boko’s loss, which would appear to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, were his sentiments as expressed at the Presidential debate, that the BDP was full of borankurata, magogajase, bo rankoborwane, bo mathinthinyane.

When some of the public reprimanded him for this saying it was not a reflection of botho, he positioned himself as the voice of the aggrieved Batswana, who had no jobs despite government’s seemingly endless resources; had low wages because government failed to review labour policies; had poor quality education and healthcare, despite government’s numerous obligations; and who government would not account to as pertains to the continued looting.

Many believed in what the UDC stood for. What they questioned was the quality of the leadership as well as its controversial associations.

Ndaba’s loss, on the other hand was most gravely felt and made many question the middle class voters. Was it really about picking between Masisi and Khama; or BDP and UDC? Or was it about continuing to eat? Undeniably, there is the reality that Ndaba can be likened to a monumental endless flub – each time he gets exactly what he wants, it terrifies him and he runs off. He is addicted to running away from the finality of success.

Perhaps his loss, which he accepts most graciously, can be used to rebuild his reputation, and guarantee Batswana of his ability to commit. Many say AP should go back home.

Some lament that Gaolathe’s demeanour as a leader in opposition is problematic as he appears too neutral – he is a leader of an opposition party but does not oppose or reprimand the party in leadership.

Of course, there are many other more complex features to be considered, including each leader’s appeal to their constituency, as well as the strength of each candidate’s campaign, the party manifesto and the viability of the undertakings made.

At the heart of it all however, is either tamati so-so, or “mo itlhophele re mmone tsotsi! Tso-otsi o rata mang wee, tsotsi!” a game. A gamble.

A blind choice we make, in hopes that our future is guaranteed.In this case, as his slogan demands, the President called, and Batswana have headed his appeal. Now we wait and watch.

Editor's Comment
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