Thursday, December 5, 2019

Forget about Butterfly; it is Masisi’s rule of law that is on trial

Botswana government is losing a Public Relations war.

It might turn out to be far worse than when over a decade ago Survival International took Botswana Government head on for what the British based outfit wrongly but forcefully argued was Botswana trading in blood diamonds.

The Butterfly saga is not as easy as some people are dismissing it.

It easily compares with a decision by United States and the United Kingdom to go to war with Iraq based on a lie.

In the end Saddam Hussein was removed, but no weapons of mass destruction were ever found.

Intelligence, we have since learnt from then, is not a science.

After Saddam Hussein was killed both America and Britain changed the narrative.

They backtracked on weapons of mass destruction narrative and replaced it with what a better place the world was without Saddam.

That was Public Relations at work.

Botswana Government will not have it that easy following the Butterfly saga.

Public Relations is an immensely difficult multiple-step dance move that government head of media, Andrew Sesinyi has to start learning, practicing and perfecting.

He has to behave and look like a firefighter.

It looks the prosecuting authority (DPP), the intelligence services (DIS) and corruption busting agency (DCEC) are unable to their elementary duties that require coordination and intelligence sharing.

We are told that Butterfly is a codename for some young woman working for intelligence services.

For the greater public, Butterfly is turning out to be a code for ineptitude playing out at DIS, DCEC and DPP.

The president might have to break a few heads to get these important institutions back on track.

Government public relations machinery has to be on a cutting edge, not behaving like a wrongly calibrated equipment as is the case.

The P100 billion case mounted by DIS, DCEC and DPP case is collapsing before our eyes.

So far the case looks like a fiasco – chaos playing out in the court chamber.

This is much more than just an embarrassing ordeal. It is potentially very harmful to the president.

He will come under immense pressure and also unprecedented scrutiny.

His sincerity on whether he means what he says will be stress-tested to the maximum.

Henceforth it’s all about trust. And he has set the bar exceedingly high for himself.

At face value the case looks like a fictional narrative.

At a political level, Masisi’s first instinct would be to deny any personal involvement.

Sadly that will not be sufficient.

To his detractors what is playing out is much greater than Butterfly.

They will in no time start raising questions about Masisi’s entire presidency and project.

And for them, all evidence of abuse is in plain sight for all to see.

They will argue, not unreasonably that Masisi is using judicial processes as a political weapon.

Their sincerity might be very easy to dismiss, given a history that precedes many of them, but public opinion and the undercurrents bear them out.

We are witnessing the biggest crisis of Masisi presidency.

The air is thick with a looming tragedy.

It threatens to become a flare up.

The entire episode has right from the onset often smacked of a bogus undertaking with all the hallmarks of political and thus malicious prosecution, the kind of which we only hear of in Brazil, Latin America and East Europe.

Equally worrying is the fact that the Butterfly case is casting a long shadow over the State and exposing the chaos, dysfunction and paralysis inside government.

The inability to influence and control narrative is so far glaring.

Again let us not lose sight of what the saga is really all about.

It is about the efficacy of Masisi’s entire project.

History is asking if the project is well grounded and more importantly viable.

DIS, DPP and DCEC are likely to escape with no more than a slap on the wrist for allowing themselves to become Masisi’s private appendages that he uses to enforce his personal errands.

At stake is President Masisi’s multiple agenda which has at its apex the anti-corruption mantra.

Masisi has staked the mast on fighting corruption, going so far as to say his government was addicted to the rule of law.

The president has personally gone at lengths to prove that his is a different administration; built on trust, integrity and honour.

Opponents will have a field day to say what is playing out in public is the exact opposite.

He might have to go on record to restate what he really means and what he understands by the rule of law, at least as opposed to the rule by law.

Once lost, restoring trust becomes an impossible task.

The flagrant use of huge monetary figures by prosecution reminds me of a game we used to play as school boys called “monopoly.”

In the monopoly game every player would immediately become a billionaire. It was all paper money – toy money really, a make-believe existing only in one’s dreams.

If Government does not immediately rise from the ashes and reclaim the narrative, there is a real risk that the whole Masisi agenda will be stillborn – pronounced dead even before it is born.

If the latest turn of events is not making the President foam at mouth, then I don’t know what will.

Masisi should be careful not to give an impression that having won power, the hard way for that matter, he now does not know what to do with it.

The elections, only a few weeks past now feels like ages ago.

Those elections have been upended by a Butterfly case which is proving a defining moment in the Masisi presidency.

It is a do or die; a watershed stuff that is loaded with possibilities that bring down governments.

There is no future if his government loses this one battle.

The political fallout will be of immense proportions.

The outcome will be for him to wobble on; distracted and wounded – a lame duck president in the early days of his first full term.

Or he might choose to appoint a commission of enquiry to get to the bottom of it all.

A rickety boat ploughing through rough high waters seems like an apt comparison.

The eagles are never far away. They always fly low, circling around while keeping close watch.

Opponents inside the Botswana Democratic Party were never really decimated, they just went under, scared at the many battles Masisi was winning.

They held their breath and bid their time, hoping that one day as fate would have it Masisi would trip himself and fall over.

That day might come earlier than many had imagined.

If that happens over the Butterfly case, as it looks ever more likely, it would have come so early that everybody, including the most spiteful of Masisi would be caught by surprise.

Ian Khama must be an anxious man, salivating and keeping his toes crossed, but nonetheless confident enough to see a silver lining forming following an election storm that had for him brought nothing but dark clouds; things are for once beginning go his way, at least for now.

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