Kgafela’s prolonged absence is now a national security issue

21 Jul 2019

Everyone, it now seems wants a piece of Kgosi Kgafela II.

While everybody wants him back, no two people can agree on when or how to bring him back.

Everybody has been sucked into the political maelstrom that are efforts to bring Kgafela back.

It is a dicey issue for everybody involved; Government, the Botswana Democratic Party, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and also for the opposition.

The opposition for their part has opted to adopt an openly populist posture on the matter.

The Kgafela issue was always going to be a lightning rod of controversy.

When all is said and done, the issue is one of the enduring blights of the immensely divisive Khama era.

Sadly for his part, Kgafela was not been altogether tactful in dealing with the regime.

He played into its hands – literally.

His decision to take the regime head on left him virtually outflanked.

His virulent attacks on the country’s Constitution resembled a fight for a new vision and a new republic.

That did not sit well with those in power.

In the end his brash attitude posited existential questions not only for the country’s Constitution but the regime itself.

But still it did not have to end the way it did where he was literally hunted like a snake and hounded out of the country.

Masisi has the power to diffuse the situation. But it has to be done within the bounds of law.

This is particularly important for a president who has hoisted his mast on the rule of law.

The renewed quest to bring Kgafela back could hardly have come at a worse time for all concerned.

Election mood is sweeping across the country.

A little over three months into General Elections, already the partisan rift is unassailable.

And it seems like nobody is able to reason with anything but their heart.

Exactly why Masisi government allowed the Kgafela issue to fester on without resolving it very early on will remain a baffling mystery. May be it was a strategy of running the clock or kicking the can down the road.

Either way, it smacks of political naivety. And it has now caught up with him.

At stake are the two Kgatleng constituencies; Kgatleng West and Kgatleng East. And the ultimate trophy, it would seem lies in bringing Kgafela back.

It does not look like Kgafela himself is in a hurry to come back home.

He is already said to be a happy South African citizen.

That notwithstanding, it is crucially vital that all hurdles to his free movements between Botswana and South Africa be removed.

That, manifestly can only be done not by opposition – but by the Attorney General working hand in hand with the Director of Public Prosecutions and ultimately the Head of State.

From his body language he seems to have made up his mind never set foot in Botswana before and unless all attempts to prosecute him are fully and explicitly withdrawn.

For those in positions this is a tall order. A hard ask indeed!

In the meantime, his absence has created a power vacuum that cannot be filled by any other person.

Given the manner under which he left and his well telegraphed dispute with Government,  not even his appointee in Kgatleng would suffice.

But it is clear that in Kgatleng there are politicians out to mount a power grab.

Ordinarily, Kgafela’s difficulties with the State would be uniting all his subjects including politicians that are in opposition.

But clearly that is not the case.

Politicians are all out to use it for political gain. Instead of healing the wedge, they are growing it.

That is both sad and pathetic. Luckily Kgafela does not as yet look like anybody’s poodle.

Masisi has said he will stop at nothing to bring Kgafela back.

The opposition representatives in Kgatleng have hit back, expressing surprise at what they see as Masisi’s insensitive and callous effrontery.

“How can he be the one to seek credit for bringing Kgafela back when it is his BDP that masterminded his flight to start with?” they ask themselves. One of them went on radio to say Masisi should never again speak about Kgafela at a BDP event.

To them Masisi and his BDP have become tone-deaf.

There is a level of opportunism and unfairness in all of it.

Why should they talk about Kgafela, and yet bar another politician from doing so?

Masisi has taken longer than was necessary to show that Kgafela’s absence was urgent. And for that he is wholly responsible.

But it is not Masisi that led to Kgafela fleeing the country. Critically, it was also not the BDP.

If anything it was the then president acting through and in concert with key institutions of his Government like the police and the DPP.

Political mood of the day is no doubt paramount. And if channeled well could spawn much needed action.

But ongoing political games are a true distraction from what is at hand.

The Kgafela matter has long ceased to be political.

His enforced absence from his father’s people is now a national security concern – through and through.

That is the underlying storm that lurks at the bottom of the ongoing political petty talk.

If security concerns emanating from Kgafela’s prolonged absence are not yet apparent to all, they will with time become plain for all to see.

Even for a populist, trying hard to politicize what is a serious matter of national importance mind games can often be a bad and very difficult political strategy to implement.

The current debate is overly signifying party politics over national security. And that by itself is wrong and frivolous.

Batswana, it would seem are pretty much agreed on preserving and maintaining the institution of bogosi.

History shows us that bogosi is dynamic and can very easily to adapt to changing political realities.

Throughout our history, the institution has been able to survive chiefly because it was able to align itself with ever shifting views of our vision as a liberal democracy.

From early on bogosi has had to make enormous concessions for its survival.

It should thus be easier for us to also agree on the inconveniences of resolving misdemeanours by a chief as well as total costs of the up-keep of the institution.

Or else we are truly on our way to hell in a handbasket!