My party, my leader – right or wrong!

11 Mar 2019

The political opposition in Botswana is currently drowning under an avalanche of irrelevance; they find themselves inside some deep hole.

This is a total contrast to where they were a little less than five years ago when they were seriously challenging for state power.

The bigger tragedy however is that instead of working at digging themselves out of the hole, they are flapping around for imaginary enemies.

They do not have to look too far to see where it all went wrong.

All they need do is look into a mirror and they will see an enemy staring back at them.

They are their own worst enemy.

As it they have put in place leaders who have now reached a ceiling.

Thus these leaders are totally helpless against today’s prevailing political dynamics.

Instead of creatively finding solutions, for every folly happening within their ranks these leaders go on a witch-hunt, looking for a scapegoat – possibly for elimination.

And it is almost always the media – never themselves.

Activists are of not much help either as there is never an attempt to question the leader, even when the most persuasive of arguments are put forward that the leader is not up to the task.

They have opted to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – and with their inaction, also do no evil.

Attacks on the media might provide them with a short term therapy. But they are really an alibi. Such attacks are an excuse to avoid dealing and facing up to more protracted and substantive internal structural issues like having to change the leadership at the top.

No amount of attacks on the media by opposition is going to make Umbrella for Democratic Change as a party more prepared to win elections.

More crucially, no amount of such attacks is going to make the foibles consuming these parties to go away.

Opposition party followers are right to feel jilted and even wrongfooted. But it is a mystery how having plunged this deep, the opposition sympathizers still cannot see just how the casual demeanour of their leaders, not the media is responsible for all the mess.

Attacking the media provides them with nothing more than an expedient and indeed convenient political cover to keep below the radar a far more serious malaise within.

As the media criticism is something we readily accept.

In fact we have grown used to such criticism, including unfair and even outlandish of forms.

But killing the messenger has never been known to be the best answer to the message.

Our society tends to exaggerate the influence of the media on the general discourse of our national politics. The truth is there is a limit of how far the media can go in its influence dynamics.

The bigger responsibility is with the parties themselves.

On this instance, the media might be an easy answer, but a wrong answer nonetheless.

It is hard to see how intensifying attacks on the media might somehow correct the ineptitude that exists within their parties.

That the opposition, especially the Umbrella for Democratic Change is losing steam in the face of the public is in very little measure due to the power of the media.

Rather it is the public simply walking away because of growing suspicions that in 2014 they had backed a wrong horse.

There has been a groundswell of public doubts about UDC’s ability to live up to what it had initially promised.

More uncharitable critics are saying the bubble has burst, owing to a high turnover of talent at top leadership.

Even if the media was to turn a blind eye, the public would still see through the lethargy.

The ingrained biases against the media are derailing and delaying the implementation of much needed reforms including changes at UDC top leadership.

Even at individual constituent party levels making up the UDC, there is certainly a long overdue shake-up.

Because the leaders at individual party level are the same who appear at UDC, the rot tends to be spread across all levels.

More lately, the UDC sympathizers have been getting shriller and more pointed in portraying themselves, their leaders and their parties as victims of a conspiracy between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and the media.

Again they are wrong. No such conspiracy is borne out by any evidence on the ground.

What consistently emerges is a childish UDC leadership that is helpless and hapless in the face of a march by Masisi to address all or many of the key issues that opposition had until recently used as key campaign matters.

Instead of rising up to show they are ready to govern, that leadership is resorting to sentimentality including unashamedly appealing for public sympathy by playing victim.

The idea of runaway corruption among the ruling elite seems to offer a misplaced solace to the leftists.

They think harping on existence of this corruption is by and of itself enough to confer on them some form of adequate legitimacy. This misunderstanding is a result of yet another self-misdirection, that it is finally their turn to be given state power.

The irony is that attempts by Masisi at rooting out this corruption is scoffed at by the same opposition that accuses him of politicizing state institutions; talk of double standards.

Credit where credit is due: The left in this country is right to feel embattled. They are however wrong about the enemy. They seem to see the enemy under every tree. All they need to do is to turn the torch within, and there they will see the rightful enemy.

Their behavior often smacks of paranoia.  It is counterproductive, not least because it delays them from tackling and addressing more pressing issues at hand.

If they seriously want state power, opposition activists should rattle the nest.

Or else they stop blaming imaginary enemies.