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02 Sep 2018

The big story of the week has been the high number of cabinet ministers that lost primary elections last weekend.

Somehow a narrative seems to be gaining traction that with so many ministers having lost elections, the country is somehow in a crisis.

The more spirited among us are even suggesting that the outcome of the primary elections is a direct hand of the Ian Khama influence. Far from it!

One does not want to make light of unethical interventions of Khama in the Bobirwa constituency against incumbent Shaw Kgathi. But exaggerating that intervention will prove counterproductive.

Truth be told, long before Khama arrived in that area to play his little but toxic games, Kgathi was already a man on the dying throes of his political life.

That much emerged as an apparent pattern going back two primary elections.

While the opposition was on an upward trajectory he was on a nosedive – literally.

I have said this more than once before; Shaw Kgathi is an immensely effective minister who unfortunately is always undone by his ever exuberant character.

By his nature Kgathi is a political pit bull that does not know when to let go.

Babirwa might be all too happy – even relieved - to have given Kgathi the taste of his medicine, but those of us whose direct association with Kgathi is as a minister should unashamedly express our apprehensions of a future cabinet without him.

There are big and strange disparities between Kgathi and the winning contender.

Something very untidy has likely happened in that constituency – most probably voter trafficking.

But that notwithstanding there is nothing to suggest Kgathi was going to win.

Thus rather than try to shrug off and contest the outcome, Kgathi must embrace personal responsibility for his loss and make a personal undertaking to learn from it.

For all his worth, I hope if his party wins general elections next year, the president will find space in his decision making processes to bring back Kgathi as a Specially Elected Member of Parliament.

The hope is that the loss last weekend has humbled him. And that a new and future Kgathi will be less divisive and also less crude.

I’m in no way suggesting that Kgathi is indispensable. Rather one is being pragmatic because practically all that is true of the man, the opposite is also true.

Pragmatism dictates that as a nation we find a way to do with the best that nature has dealt us. And Kgathi, for all the understandable and deeply held trepidations of his own people, he is one of the best cabinet ministers.

Whether one likes or hates him, Kgathi is a cabinet material. And our parliament is in perpetual short supply of truly and authentic cabinet material.

The practice of bringing back a loser always evokes resentment. The late Kenneth Koma was by far the most eloquent critic of the system. He said it was a slap on the face for the voters. He was correct – but only up to a point. As was the case with most of his life, Dr Koma’s criticism of the practice was based more on idealism and less on practicality.

Bringing back a loser has happened most recently with people like Kitso Mokaila, former Member of Parliament for Barolong.

It also happened with Eric Molale, after he lost a by-election to Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II.

In fact the list is almost endless. All of them have proved effective in cabinet.

This past month something really big happened in our opposition politics.

The Umbrella for Democratic Change, that much vaunted flagship of opposition politics, reached an inflection point.

The Registrar of Societies effectively pronounced UDC a non-party.

May be the Registrar has been wrong. But still that decision offers reason for introspection.

Yet no introspection seems to be happening.

Its business as usual, as everybody at UDC is in a slumber.

What we see unfolding at UDC has all the disturbing hallmarks of political parties whose ordinary members are powerless against the leadership.

Every day that passes, leaders tell lies and the members meekly cheer them on.

In a very big way members of these parties are complicit in the rot eating up the fibre of their organizations.

In other places events at UDC would have sparked a public revolt by members.

The reason why there is no rebellion from these dysfunctional entities is because members are themselves equally guilty.

They can neither demand nor get accountability from their leaders because created personality cults around these leaders.

It has almost been three weeks since Registrar of Societies rejected a UDC constitution.

Under normal circumstances the decision by the Registrar should have constituted a crisis, yet opposition leaders have still not even called a meeting.

These are the same people who have the temerity to sponsor a motion of no confidence on a sitting head of state.

The intention is to plunge the entire country into a mode of lethargy that they have already plunged their parties into.

It is high time ordinary members used immense power at their disposal to hold their leaders accountable.

If that is what it will take, there absolutely nothing wrong putting leaders’ feet to the fire to wake them off their slumber because they so clearly are asleep even as Rome is burning.

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