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26 May 2019

In a very curious way, the outcome of 2019 General elections is busy shaping up.

There has been talk of a hung parliament and talk of a possible UDC take over.

But, for now everything is still out in the air and if anyone says they know what will happen they will be lying.

Based on paper, the Alliance for Progressives would win an outright victory.

Which is not at all surprising because the party is led by a policy whiz kid, Ndaba Gaolathe.

Their manifesto is by any measure – out of this world.

It is bold, ambitious, futuristic and laden with clear pathways, targets and modern.

The AP would then be followed by UDC, and then the BDP – in exactly that order.

But then elections are not fought on paper, but on the realm of the real world.

In this world, the UDC has roped in the brains from the Botswana Congress Party, which in the last election was standing alone.

But still the UDC has been no match for Gaolathe’s brains at the AP.

Based solely on the manifesto, the Botswana Democratic Party comes out third.

The party needs to do something to build its intellectual firepower.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi cannot be expected to do everything.

The party’s strategy committee seems to be overly obsessed with aesthetics; consumed by more show and less substance.

In Kang for example, they literally got away with murder.

Under normal circumstances, the case of such clear plagiarism, followed by shoddy blame shifting from the committee should have claimed a few heads. It did not happen. It is business as usual.

But it will not be for far too long.

There is absolutely no reason why the BDP could not come up with a manifesto that could grasp people’s imagination.

Yet what we have seen is a few papers that have been hurriedly scrambled on.

The BDP really should be talking about reforming the economy, reforming and overhauling the education system and indeed reducing the income inequalities and the staggering disparities in living standards.

The manifesto does not say all of those. Instead it is a regurgitation of failed past policies that the public service is still struggling to implement.

Why are there no medicines in hospitals?

Why are government schools producing failed pupils?

Of course we heard something about commitment to media freedom.

But there is no timetable and indeed no commitment to repealing the laws like the Media Freedom Act or when the Freedom of Information Act will be coming on line.

Just too many policies have been less effective. They need to be reformed

For better or for worse the BDP should wake up to the fact that they are no longer the solitary player in the field.

President Masisi needs to redefine just what his flagship economic policy is going to be.

And the manifesto provided a great opportunity to that effect.

There is so far no tangible proof that he’s getting the much needed assistance – not from the party and certainly none from his cabinet.

He is all over the place. From the look of things, he might be forced to look outside the party and government for advice. The man is doing all he can but alone, there can only be so much he can do.

Watched from a distance, he often casts a sorry image of a helpless animal stranded at sea.

The anguish is there for all to see – on his face. But in his voice too.

The man is exhausted, sapped of all energy from many months of fighting on every front.

He’s fighting all he can, but he needs help that is not there.

At the moment there is certainly no evidence to suggest that cavalry will be on its way anytime soon for reinforcements.

And BDP manifesto has been clear: You are all on your own.

The UDC for their part has chosen to go the populist route.

They have opted to say, often in hyperboles how much they will spend without saying where the money will come from.

In a country wrought by squalor, economic misery and joblessness, the UDC leader has chosen to become a snake oil salesman.

He makes big promises. And provides no details where most are needed.

It is an elementary accounting principle that in every inventory there be an “income” and “expenditure” ledgers.

The UDC has failed this principle; big time.

As his flagship policy, UDC leader has adopted industrial hemp, saying investors are lining up behind him with billons in their pockets.

What he does not say is whether or not there is any shortage of hemp anywhere in the world.

I doubt if his industrial hemp, even in a rolling bumper year would be able to cover all their expenditure – P3000 minimum wage, P2500 for students and P1500 for old age pension.

The party is appealing to a very base human instinct - sentimentality.

They are clearly a party on a hurry.

For them its power first – and everything will follow.

Internally, the differences cannot be wished away.

There is a clear uneasy relationship between Duma Boko of the BNF and Dumelang Saleshando from the BCP.

Saleshando, it must be pointed out does not agree with Boko’s style where one makes bombastic statements without backing them up.

Saleshando does not look comfortable with the aircraft the conditions under which they came have yet still to be made public.

There is also a major rivalry and policy disagreements between the two men.

One can see the cringe and growing discomfort on Saleshando’s eyes every time Boko starts to talk about the hemp, his favorite electoral topic.

But then there they are the manifestos.

Not so long ago, the BDP would be strolling down to the finishing line with some majestic sense of destiny.

Not anymore.

There are pretenders – all of them biting their teeth; “it’s my turn, it’s my turn,” each of them is saying.

The BDP, once a fiery broad church full of swagger, is today no longer able deliver a killer punch.

In fact the leader himself looks punch-drunk, battle fatigued and somewhat dazed.

A few months down, the day of reckoning beckons.

This week there was talk of BDP manifesto re-write.

The confusion was quickly cleared.

Whatever the case, a point was made.

This is not the BDP’s finest hour.

The biggest hurdle will be a psychological one – in the case of a hung parliament, how do the once might BDP accept that it needs somebody else to help then run the country because on their own they could not get enough votes?

For now though the jury is still out.

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