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On the 23rd February 2019, Lady Khama Community Hall in Serowe was turned into a dishonourable place to whip up emotions and plough fears of a cruel and murderous regime that ‘wants to bury all of us – me, my family and all of you’. The community hall was turned into a base to plan mutinous activities and develop a program of action that is intended to cause confusion and mayhem.
Key Speakers at the gathering preached the ideology of extremism by making inflammatory and provocative remarks that have the potential to cause people to resort to violence. In not many words, the speakers publicly and loudly expressed their hatred and dislike of the leadership of His Excellency President Dr Masisi.
In so doing and judging by the reaction of the audience, the gangsters succeeded in getting people radicalized in their hatred of the country’s leadership. Their rhetoric was vile, dangerous, subversive and seditious.
At the said meeting, the Godfather of the rebel group, Former President Dr Khama allegedly made startling allegations that incumbent President Dr Masisi want to bury him and his family. To somewhat validate his claims and erase any lingering doubts about the sick allegations, the former President boldly revealed that he has spies - his eyes and ears - within the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS) who are supposedly feeding him confidential and classified state information for personal use.
As a former president who is friends with the former DIS Director General, it is hard to dismiss him as a distressed mental patient or a sly addict of the herb and simply ignore his statement. Worryingly, his assertion might have been taken for facts and might have caused anxiety, agitation as to enrage people and ready them to fight in his corner.
The former president also animated his subjects by peddling astonishing falsehood alleging that during his presidency government tenders were awarded transparently whereas today they are reserved for a chosen few. This is absurd especially coming from someone who once warned voters that those who give their votes to the opposition candidates will be denied development.
In simple words, the former president used the meeting to rally his subject behind his course of action by declaring that they (the audience and ordinary Batswana throughout the country) are poor because incumbent President Dr Masisi was running a system of patronage characterized by extreme predatory profiteering – a case of they are rich and you poor or you are poor because they deliberately exclude you from available opportunities while they stash away everything of value.
We know that these are half-truths. What we probably do not know is why the faceless elders would want to spread such malicious falsehood. Yet another ring leader was quoted appealing to the former president to come out of retirement and possibly lead the bandits as they wage guerrilla warfare to topple incumbent President Dr Masisi.
Politics and politicking is an acceptable game in vibrant democracies. It represents a transparent competition for political office and for the control of state power, often through the use of either propaganda or wilful misinformation or a combination of both.
Thus, politics and politicking is a platform readily available to politicians and pretenders to sell themselves by sharing their vision for the country with the public so that voters are able to make an informed or even irrational choice from among the available bodies.
In like manner, politics and politicking is a platform for competitors for political office to dismiss their opponents’ ideas and/or unduly bash the characters of their opponents so that voters are alarmed, scared and dissuaded from giving the opponent a vote. This is why the world has a lot of quacks, two-faced scoundrels and showboating politicians and only a handful good men.
Thus, it can be argued that the conducts of the convenors of the Serowe and participants at this ‘illegal’ meeting were within the confines of their democratic rights to do politics. However, context matters most and herein it goes.
In the run up to their meeting, the convenors could not be readily identified possibly because of the nature of their ‘illegal’ activities. Additionally and more frightening, apart from seeking to know what transpired at the party’s regional congress a fortnight ago, the agenda for the meeting remained a guarded secret.
Interestingly, the ring leaders and many of the participants at the meeting are not small fry but rather are some of the most powerful and influential people in Botswana including immediate past former president who is also a paramount chief; former cabinet ministers and former senior government employees many of who held senior positions in their party - the ruling BDP.
For such notable political figures to elect to conceal their association with the group they formed and/or the activities of the faceless group, and indeed their failure to share their agenda smacks of deception, illegality and treason. For them to elect to lay low until they could no longer hide from the video cameras of photojournalists shows that the group is as mischievous as it is criminal and evil.
Yet, their masked conduct only achieved the paradoxical effect of making their activities subversive and certainly incompatible with normal politics and politicking. This perspective raises further concerns especially considering that the group cannot articulate a definite political agenda or any principles.
Nevertheless, what is clear and unambiguous is that the group, at least the leaders who happened to have been the main speakers, have been in existence for a while but have elected to remain closed or unknown yet carrying on their machinations and manoeuvres to gain control of the party and state.
And herein are the more sordid and scary stuff. The group has been constituted without any clear political agenda [at least as far as it could be reported by the media] except the gush of fury and vitriol that often escapes from their skull holes; its formation and existence remains a closed book; its activities are sporadic yet their rhetoric is vile, despicable and vicious; their activities bore a purely conspirational agenda that is synonymous with acts of terrorism that generally seek to establish a shadow state in which informal networks control the economy through cartels run by political bosses and bloody corrupt business predators.
It is agreed that politics or politicking is an acceptable platform for the struggle for political power. However, any struggle for the control of state power without political principle; without an articulate agenda and by means of plotting, scheming and conniving to destabilize and ultimately make the country ungovernable is known as political banditry and this is what defines the group that gathered inside the Lady Khama Community Hall on February 23, 2019. It was a meeting of bandits in suits and party attire.
The fact of the matter is that political bandits have always operated quietly inside the BDP using a seemingly subtle and legitimate approach. However, their operations became an overwhelming spectacle when former president Dr Khama started publicly attacking his successor to a point where the ruling party and state President Dr Masisi’s security has to be beefed up.
While yesteryear BDP bandits used non-violence methods and recognized political structures in the party, today’s bandits seek to circumvent the rule of law and manipulate people in order to get that which they want.
When all is said and done, we must acknowledge that this kind of political banditry [the sly, manipulative, moneyed and celebrated rogues] is dangerous mainly because it is hard to deal with and can morph into s guerrilla outfit that will start deadly covert operations resulting in a collapsed state where citizens are left to their own devices.
Most fundamentally, the Serowe meeting has set of the alarms that the rebels are on the loose and their activities are a most recognizable manifestation of banditry that needs firm action before it is entrenched in our body polity.
This is why citizens generally and the BDP chiefs in particular must be deeply troubled and this is why the BDP head honchos ought to crack the whip to wean the party off bandits in suits and party regalia and generally keep hooligans out of the political fireplace.
The BDP’s lethargic response that sought to caution members against illegal meetings and activities simply served to trivialize and glorify the group’s acts of terror and subversion.