By consorting with Khama, the UDC is sailing too close to the winds

13 May 2019

An era of conviction politicians, it would seem has now left us.

In its place have come politicians driven by expediency and convenience.

When everything is based on convenience, the first victim is often the truth.

That is consciousness with which we must approach the fast approaching election season.

We have in our midst a former president who refuses to leave quietly.

We should never forget the manner with which he ran this country.

For some elements in opposition to even consort with him, however vaguely should fill our spines with chill air.

Ian Khama is remembered not much for any outstanding achievements, but for a dark stain in our history that will take much long to delete. Almost to a man, there is a general consensus that he has been a destructive influence.

It is difficult to see what political capital any human being can salvage out of the former president.

Politically, he’s not only a spent force but damaged goods.

His hostility towards the media has pretty smouldering.

Which is why for many it has remained a source of mystery that of all his past nemesis, it has been the media that has been foremost in ongoing attempts to milk what little residue might still remain of the man’s capital from his prime years.

He eroded many of our liberties, he empowered and celebrated cronyism; he stifled the media and ridiculed the opposition. He sowed the seeds of intolerance, division and polarity.

By the time he left, the sense of community that was so much a fundamental character of our people was destroyed beyond recognition.

In its place had come shocking worship of wealth, money and materialism.

As a first time politician he arrived to see Botswana that was internationally celebrated. By the time he left active politics the country was universally reviled and had fully set its eyes on being an irrelevant and inward looking little outpost that was fast recoiling into itself.

On the economic front, he held back progress and entrenched corruption, such that by the time he left the scourge had become fully institutionalized.

Collapse of the rule of law was pervasive and ingrained.

An unhappy public service was a result. Low productivity was another.

If a leader’s success is measured by the nation’s general unhappiness then Khama scored a big one.

Batswana were for a few years under him listed as the world’s unhappiest people.

This is a style not a bit missed by those of us who care deeply about fairness, justice, integrity and most of all our country succeeding.

By far his biggest weakness was his lack of commitment and enthusiasm for good governance.

He so much eschewed good governance that at one point he ran the country without ant National Development Plan – an aberration that was the first of its kind for Botswana since independence.

By far the single biggest calamity to befall the nation was Khama’s decision to unilaterally close BCL owned mines in Selibe Phikwe and Francistown.

That overnight sent thousands of people into joblessness, destitution and some of them into early death.

Both Francistown and Selibe Phikwe have become ghost town, closely resembling Bulawayo a little bit to the north across the border.

Abruptly closing down BCL required a supremely insensitive human attitude, not least because the reasons advanced were as frivolous as they were inconsistent.

Until he left office, Khama steadfastly refused calls to address the people of Selibe Phikwe on why he decided to close down BCL.

He was consistent in one thing – he only cared about himself and those closest to him.

Other than that he was indifferent to advice.

The consequences of the Khama years will be with us for a long time to come.

Rolling them back will require a heartless crusader who is perhaps as un-laden with sentimentality as was the man who brought us into this mess in the first place.

On democracy and human rights, Khama was a, eccentric if contradictory soul.

He preached democracy and human rights abroad while willfully shrinking their space back home.

Outsiders never understood how a man so seemingly committed to democracy could be so ruthlessly devoured on by the media at home.

In the end Khama was nothing if not divisive. 

It would be remiss for one not to mention Khama’s impact on the Botswana Democratic Party, the very institution under whose wings he flew into power.

Khama weakened and ultimately destroyed the BDP. From the day he arrived until he left he turned the BDP into a one-man show.

Those who dared to question him were shown the highway.

The first and so far the largest split to befall the BDP happened under Khama’s watch.

The late Gomolemo Motswaledi, a former BDP Secretary General turned the Godfather of today’s opposition was one such famous figure thrown out of the BDP by Ian Khama.

Speech after speech, Khama reminded everybody his disdain for politics; and by extension the party.

Just how does a leader of a political party hate politics? The net effect was to drive away dedicated young politicians while stacking the party with short-termist careerists whose primary objective was to use the BDP as a vehicle to wealth.

Today the party has been raided and even hijacked by aliens that are totally unaware of its culture, much less history.

Is it any wonder that the BDP is struggling to find talent within its ranks to stand for parliament and finally fill cabinet?

In the buildup to the 2014 General elections, the opposition was vocal and articulate in spelling out Khama’s destructive journey.

They pointed out quite rightly that the country was sliding down the abyss.

Unless action was taken, and urgently so, argued the opposition then, the country would in no time fall off the cliff.

They were right.

And for that they were handsomely rewarded by the voting public.

Now all has changed.

Out of expediency, the same opposition or at least some in its leadership is quick to rope in Khama into their ranks including hoisting him as part of their election campaign flag bearers.

It is an astonishing turn of events.

It is no longer about the country. Rather it is about weaving a coalition of the aggrieved.

The focus is on one thing; removing Mokgweetsi Masisi.

For the opposition, they should know that by consorting with Khama in the manner that they have been, now they are sailing too close to the winds.

And it will come with a price. A very heavy price!