The death of the Botswana National Front, last night aged 44 brings to an end one of the country’s longest running, troubled and intriguing political lives of our times.
Ironically it has also been a life full of hope, romance, drama and pain.
It is not yet exactly clear what the causes of the death are, but it is generally agreed that the last nine years had seen the BNF’s health steadily weaken and deteriorate despite spirited and largely genuine attempts by Otsweletse Moupo and his obscure club of central committee doctors to administer life saving medication and restore the once admirable political colossus that was their party.
Though the BNF died in the hands of Moupo, it would be improper and criminally insincere to speculate at this juncture that Moupo could be responsible for the BNF’s death.
Despite occasional murmurs from detractors that he is a dyed-inÔÇôthe-wool Khama man, Moupo’s love for the BNF has remained irreproachable.
It is generally agreed that Moupo is a good man who would not even want to hurt a fly.
But then it is also agreed that throughout the nine years that he has presided over the BNF, he has often come across as a man out of breadth.
His admirers say he was thrown into the deep end, to fill the boots of the larger than life Kenneth Koma (May his soul rest in peace) by friends who not only wanted to see him fail but who also had ulterior motives to manipulate and micromanage his very personal life for their own ends.
Although the BNF only passed away last night, historians and obituary writers are already agreed that ever since Otsweletse Moupo found himself mysteriously stranded in London half a decade ago on a still to be explained trip to England nothing has been the same again; not for him and certainly not for his BNF.
Like the BNF, the last few years of the man have been filled with trauma and what at times seemed to be insurmountable life threatening difficulties.
While in the past he enjoyed writing well thought out pieces littered with socialist polemics to the public media, he has lately become withdrawn and reclusive.
Those who know him well say in private he has always insisted that that history will be kind to him.
They say up until the last moments of the BNF, Moupo held to the belief that the problem had never been him but rather a few journalists bought over to become mouthpieces of his longtime nemesis, Kathleen Letshabo, who has since faded into semi retirement, from where she occasionally emerges to taunt Moupo with accusations of “weak and unprincipled leadership.”
It must, however, also be conceded that despite his knee-deep troubles, Moupo has often faced life with breath-taking grace and admirable dignity.
As the nation mourns the BNF, whispers are beginning to resurface of exactly what role may have been played by Moupo’s closest aide Moeti Mohwasa – an uncompromising, no blows barred young ideologue who many say his hard-line, straight jacket approach to politics only further estranged Moupo from the BNF main fold.
Reference is also made to a certain Mogalakwe Mogalakwe, former councilor in the Central District who has never ceased to amuse the nation with his wild and vague claims to the Ngwato royalty.
As we now know, Mogalakwe never gave up his dream and ambition of deposing Moupo ever since he (Mogalakwe) was unceremoniously bungled from the party he had grown to control and dominate through his carefree use of a sizeable wealth he inherited from his parents.
The problem that even Mogalakwe now has to contend with is that there is no longer BNF to talk about.
Surprisingly, even as many are mourning the BNF’s demise, which he claims to have loved, Mogalakwe maintains his trademark naughty smile, oblivious of the pain that Moupo and others are going through.
Elsewhere, echoes of condolences are pouring in with many commentators looking back in nostalgia to the 1984/94 decade when BNF popularity was at its highest.
How things changed!
Twenty five years ago this summer, the BNF fancied itself a future government as Kenneth Koma, Maitswarelo Dabutha and a small group of others swept their way into parliament in wave that even shocked the then hugely popular State President Ketumile Masire who was to be later forced into retirement by a small team of technocrats (led by Festus Mogae) all of whom literally owed their careers to him.
General Elections are due in two months time and the ruling BDP is holding early celebrations as they prepare to take over all the urban constituencies, hitherto a nonnegotiable fiefdom of the departed BNF.
President Ian Khama has hastily called his inner circle of strategists who, to everyone’s surprise, include Botsalo Ntuane and Gomolemo Motswaledi.
He is patting them on their backs congratulating them that the BNF death aside, he was convinced from day one that urban constituencies were always rightfully his.
With the BNF death, a new possible pretender has stepped forward as possible heir to the now vacant throne of opposition politics.
Just to drive home their long held contempt for the BNF, the BCP is not even waiting for the mourning period to lapse before announcing they are now the official opposition.