Khama’s successor will have a near impossible task controlling the BDP
by Spencer Mogapi
As time slowly ticks on, it is interesting to note just how fast political debates are beginning to shift to a world after Ian Khama is gone.
This week the master tactician toasted the week with the arrival on his shores of yet another defector from the opposition benches.
Reggie Reatile is the clearest sign yet of political victory for Khama. The president has won all his battles; which is why people are looking forward to his departure.
Confident in the knowledge that he bestrides all that he touches, the president can now go back to his original roadmap which, we must point out, had been set back by at least two years.
Impregnable is the best word we can think of to describe him. Inside and outside his party, Khama has literally vanquished his enemies.
His opponents are running helter-skelter – disoriented, bemused and defeated.
The best they can do is to bide their time, hoping that he will ultimately leave the scene, and not behave like Vladimir Putin of Russia who has resorted to legal technicalities to stay well beyond his constitutional term. Or like Sam Nujoma of Namibia who runs his SWAPO and with it the country from the sidelines.
Because he is overly powerful, Khama has, as any human being would naturally be inclined, become less and less accountable.
Because everybody is scared of him, nobody inside the party or cabinet is strong enough to call the president to account.
The result is that what the president wants, the president gets.
His word is the command. This is not to say everybody inside the party is happy.
But what recourse does the unhappy lot have? Not much!
The president has won so many battles that nobody dares start a new one against him.
No wonder some people think of him as immortal. The price will however be paid by his successor. Talk of children paying for the sins of their parents.
Whoever they turn out to be, Khama’s successor will arrive on dry land. They will no doubt arrive to inherit a solid and united party that Khama would creditably have taken time to heal from its worst split in history.
But that is only a small consolation, given that the same party would also have become a poisoned cup – a result of long muzzled emotions and feelings among activists.
There is likely to be an inner party revolt after Khama’s departure with BDP activists behaving more like monkeys falling from a tree, an uncoordinated flare-up as each one tries not just to impose their own turf but to also claim lost glory and influence – all of these a prelude to a long and protracted season of battles for the estate of a past leader who for his unassailable personality had during his time been able not just to enforce discipline and keep everybody on a tight leash but also significantly limit personal freedoms inside his party. Under Khama, fear and with it deference has reinforced an impression of unity. Amid the loud and shrill voices shouting the party slogans, there still remain too many unhappy souls inside the walls.
The disaffected know so well that their time will come. And it can only be after Khama is gone.
Because no one BDP leader is ever to be feared or even be revered as Khama is, his departure is likely to usher an era of new political arguments that have during his time only smoldered beneath the surface.
Many of the BDP followers have a lot to say but they know saying it could cause them serious trouble. Many BDP members have a lot to complain, but they dare not for they know so well the punishment reserved for the malcontents.
During his time, President Khama has created a political system under which the winner takes all. And he has right from the beginning been the only winner of all the contests there ever has been. He has deliberately crafted a system under which he did not share power with anyone. From cabinet to the party; from parliament across all sectors of the service he is the undisputed master of all he walks.
His departure will provoke disorder and disunity as long-suppressed political demons strive to vent their feelings after a decade long siege of enforced silenced. Now unused to the rules of debate and internal conversation, the BDP will instead of a courteous and polished exchange of views, most likely explode into a volcano-like eruption, splashing dust and lava all over the place. Having lived for ten years under the false impression of unalterable unity and certainty, the BDP would just overnight find itself embroiled in a mode of panic and bustle.
This is just part of the legacy that Khama will bequeath the BDP. More importantly, it is also the legacy that his successor will have to contend with. The current aura of coherence inside the BDP has not come cheaply. First was the split, from which the party is still to fully recover. But the bigger repayment installment will come once the enforcer of discipline leaves the scene.
I have recently heard a cabinet minister talk worryingly about a future of inner-party chaos after Khama is gone.
Any mention of post-Khama talk, however innocuous is currently forbidden inside the BDP. It is interpreted as part of political blasphemy that has it its centre a conspiracy to overthrow the president; a culture of paranoia from which not even the big man himself is exempt.
But still it is reassuring that among the more sophisticated party members signs of bad omens are already beginning to show.