For Masisi the biggest problem is NOT Khama, but pervasive unhappiness inside the BDP

20 Nov 2018

President Mokgweetsi Masisi must look his party in the face.

If he is not in denial he will see an unhappy party that is also teetering on the brink of falling into disarray.

The problems are not political. They are administrative.  The symptoms have spread across the party structures countrywide, but to diagnose the causes, he needs not look too far away from Tsholetsa House, the party headquarters.

It is a situation he can ill afford, especially given that there are for him much bigger fish to fry.

When we met for an interview at his residence this week, the president was his typical self – an infernal optimist bubbling with both confidence and exuberance.

His high spirits belie the problems at hand.

His political worldview has remained by and large shiftless from the first time I interviewed him when he was a junior minister almost a decade ago.

Then, as now he talked boisterously of his party’s track record to humble doomsayers – a masterclass in either bravery or bravado, depending on who you ask.

At that first interview the party was hurting and still going through an unforgiving sway of headwinds having experienced its biggest split in its history.

“They will be back,” he said of all those activists that had left the BDP in deep anger.

Almost like an echo chamber from that long past interview, this week Masisi talked of the party’s unparalleled resilience.

“The party and Central Committee are absolutely united,” he said this week as a matter of fact.

Then as now he was telling the truth about the party’s inbuilt renewal abilities, but only up to a point.

It is very easy to underestimate the extent of a crisis, especially when it is you fighting the tide or sitting in the eye of the storm as is the case with Masisi today.

There are too many aggrieved people inside the BDP today.

Then as now their grievances are genuine. Then as now, the aggrieved feel slighted, taken lightly and also for granted.

Then as now the Botswana Democratic Party troubles were wholly self-inflicted.

Today’s BDP with Masisi at its helm is as torn apart as that of almost a decade ago when he was a junior minister and junior legislator.

A decade ago the party’s difficulties were a result of an intransigent leader who did not like to share power.

Today the party’s troubles can very easily be traced to a totally inept secretariat.

This inept secretariat has botched primary elections resulting in an unprecedented number of protests and appeals.

For a candidate, losing an election however fairly conducted can by itself be a painful and disorientating experience.

More unpardonably painful is to lose such an election when the outcome is a clear result of incompetence and mismanagement by officials from the secretariat.

The person responsible for secretariat is the Secretary General, assisted of course by the Executive Secretary.

The way primary elections have been conducted has created a groundswell of unhappiness across the BDP.

That unhappiness is so pervasive that many activists are beginning to doubt the party’s true commitment to fairness and justice, especially after an impression was created that appeals were summarily and casually dismissed by the Central Committee.

A falsehood has been created that president Masisi’s biggest threat is the hard to explain attitude of his predecessor Ian Khama.

Masisi’s biggest threat is the pervasive unhappiness among his followers.

They are not unhappy with him as the leader, but it is an unhappiness that Khama can easily exploit.

It does not matter much that the BDP has often confounded cynics by come back from the cliff to once again reassert itself.

The fact that the party is headed for an elective Congress next year provides for the BDP both an opportunity and a danger - a danger because it looks like the same failed people are positioning themselves.

And an opportunity because for the president he might want to usher in a new generation of untainted politicians into the Central committee, with no conflicts of interest, especially for position of Secretary General.

Two names have so far emerged as possible candidates for the position of Secretary General. The two are incumbent, Mpho Balopi and former BDP national Chairman Samson Moyo Guma.

If this is all that the BDP establishment can think of then it has either run out of ideas or manpower – possibly both.

In the two men, the BDP is hoist with own petard. Even as they sell themselves as rivals, both men are a textbook case of immodesty.

Somehow the BDP faithful seems torn in two camps, each believing somewhat religiously that with either of the two men they have an Ace in their hands. From where I am standing, I look at the two men and I see identical Jokers.

Moyo Guma is controversy incarnate. Based on the blunder-strewn mess that has been the BDP primaries under his management, Balopi should be declared politically radioactive.

A polarized BDP with either Moyo Guma or Balopi as secretary General is a casus belli for an implosion.

Add to that a renewed Khama insurgency, a divided cabinet and scores of disillusioned strongmen who lost primaries and you have a combustible mix potent enough to set the country alight.

President Masisi needs a safe pair of hands to help him carry the party to the General Elections.