The military versus people’s power

08 May 2019

By Richard Moleofe

Years ago I made some commentary in the newspaper regarding the Arab Spring and in particular its effects in Egypt. This commentary was considered controversial as I sought to justify the taking over of government by the military headed by General Morsi.

For those who have followed my column as some have done so religiously, I had gone into great lengths to explain the theory of the Three Instruments of Power. This is what I have taken from the theses of Brigadier Domcasa Mokgwathi while he studied at Staff College in Zambia.

The theory of the Three Instruments of Power reflects on the people, the military and the economy as the mainstay of any society on earth. They are the pillars that drive any government whether it’s a monarchy, democratic or totalitarian in nature.

The theory has come to play in the two countries of Sudan and Venezuela. It will be interesting to watch the events as they unfold in both of these countries in the coming days.

In Sudan, we have seen the masses take to the streets of Khartoum to demand the resignation of President al-Bashir who had consolidated himself into power for the last three decades. It is the people that finally forced him out of office by their persistent demonstrations on the streets.

Just on the eleventh hour, the military chose to steal the show by claiming to have deposed Bashir by coup. The conclusion to this matter was so obvious even before the military made the announcement.

So at the moment there is a tense stand-off between the military and the masses. The military has ordered the people to go home and the masses are remaining in the streets to make a very strong statement that they are not happy with the outcome. They had wanted a situation where there would be a civilian takeover of government.

While the masses remain in the streets and refuse to go home, their negotiators are also refusing to budge to the military tactics of bullying. Apparently the military is demanding a greater stake in the new government.

It’s not an easy situation. It has become so hot in the kitchen to a point where we have had three Heads of State in three days. The ordinary people in the streets insist that the military that wants to run government for the next six months before handing over power to a civilian government is a tactic to perpetuate Bashir’s rule.

The people’s anger turned on Bashir and his cabinet this week as their vehicles were pelted with stones on their way to prison. Imagine, they were transported in cattle trucks. And someone says they should have not only been transported in cattle trucks, but rather they should have been transported with cattle. That’s the level of anger in Khartoum.

What this says to dictators around the world and particularly in Africa is that there is an end to everything. Uganda had offered asylum to Bashir. This comes for obvious reasons that dictators have a tendency to protect each other.

In his wildest dreams, Bashir never imagined that he could one day wake up not being the president of Sudan. This is the reason why he was operating an arm of the Central Bank in his own bedroom. And the only currency there was the US dollar coming in one hundred dollar notes only.

Now the attention has shifted to Venezuela where tensions have reached boiling point. I fail to see how President Maduro will sustain himself and consolidate power around himself. The ship has started to sink and the best thing the man can do with his cabinet is to evacuate.

The people are on the streets and demanding change. After suffering the way they have in the past few years, I don’t see them going home until Maduro is gone. But the man seems oblivious to the fact that he should now be lowering the lifeboats.

Sudan and Venezuela are both oil producing countries. Where oil flows it should apparently wipe away all the poverty. But for these two countries, the suffering of the people has been so immense.

Bashir took over government in a coup in 1989 while Maduro is a civilian. But the truth of the matter is that Chavez is ruling from the grave through him. Remember that Chavez was a military man and by the time of his death, he had worked through a plan to rule posthumously.

And what are the lessons learnt for Botswana in these two case studies? We as a country came from the brink of what Sudan and Venezuela are currently experiencing. It is so because for a decade we lived under a dictatorship where civil liberties were slowly vanishing.

We are into an election year and the people must speak with their votes lest we allow ourselves to become either one of these countries. We live under democracy and many of us have often taken this system of government for granted.

Democracy is not a perfect system of government but it is the least imperfect among the many. I think this system of governance remains to be the easiest to manipulate. Some people’s vote can be bought for as little as a carton of traditional beer.

I recently watched at a documentary about South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994. There were long queues that snaked through streets and fields. The people were eager to lay to rest the regime of oppression. Nothing was certain at the time.

It is the certainty and the predictability of things that seem to spoil democracy in any given country. In Botswana complacency seems to override anything of value in our democratic system. This is why anyone can become a political representative at council and parliamentary level. Politicians have become like a leap year that only appears once in four years plus one.

It is still dismaying that some people are already into their thirties and yet they have never registered to vote. This is the epitome of political delinquency and irresponsibility’s best and worst combined.

Richard Moleofe is a security analyst