Thursday, March 4, 2021

A silly season has begun!

The 2014 electioneering process is undoubtedly in full swing. But before dwelling on the substantive issue for this instalment, I thought it prudent to comment on the voter registration exercise for the upcoming October elections that came to an end on Sunday. The key question relating to that process, then is: have the IEC and different political parties done enough in terms of preparing for the upcoming elections? Put differently, are we going to get competitive elections?

From the look of things, there is nothing unusual that is in store for us come October if figures from IEC are anything to go by. Instead of the targeted registration of one million four hundred, IEC could only achieve a disappointing seven hundred thousand or there about. I am afraid these figures do not provide clear indication that Batswana find electoral process as key towards enhancing democratic governance in this country. Not only that, the low figures should be of great concern to parties, especially in those in the opposition because such a scenario often works to the advantage of the incumbent party.

In short, achieving high numbers during registration processes usually provides a clear indication that people are ready for change. Sadly, the figures don’t talk of a people ready for change. I hope I am wrong on this one, but the levels of apathy remains the key challenge as far as consolidation of democracy is concerned for our republic.

Despite disappointment with IEC figures, 2014 electioneering is not short of madness as illustrated by accusations and counter accusations between the BDP and UDC president, Duma Boko. For those on the other side of the moon, this is what happened.

Last week Monday in one of local radio stations, the BDP secretary general, Mpho Balopi, disclosed that Duma Boko had on two occasions expressed interest in joining the ruling party. In short Boko had approached president Khama to join the BDP. Surely, by the end of the show, the intended damage was done, to some extent. For instance, the next minute electronic media was on full swing; others celebrating the demise of the UDC, while others were dismissive of the allegations as another cheap propaganda meant to tarnish the good name of the party.

This issue and the way it developed reminded me that as a people we do things differently from many others in the continent. We are sort of unique in how we play politics, and the chronology of how Boko’s debacle unfolded suggest we are a rare breed in an otherwise hostile continent. The BDP line of argument goes like this; Boko approaches president Khama at the office of the president (OP) in the company of his friend, Sadique Kebonang, and some other influential figures in the ruling party and the republic. He does that on two occasions, and in both instances, president Khama advises him to go back and think about it. The purported response Boko gets from BDP leadership is better when expressed in vernacular ÔÇô tsamaya oye go ikakanya! (Go think hard on the matter before you come back). Surely, this can only happen in Botswana.

A day or so after Mpho Balopi’s interview, Sadique Kebonang is dispatched by the ruling party ÔÇô still in the same radio platform ÔÇô to go and corroborate secretary general’s claims. A silly show was in store for us when both Sadique and Gomolemo Motswaledi (representing the UDC) failed to adequately address the matter. Instead of providing clarity they somehow managed to get us literally to nowhere, for instance, Saddique could not even remember the dates on which he and Boko went to see president Khama.

All he could do was provide as little detail as possible under the pretext of confidentiality. Yes I know I am getting you lost! That is exactly how the interview unfolded. But there were others who were able to fully comprehend what the whole debacle was all about. To illustrate, the headline of The Guardian Newspaper read: Boko Busted! Even after going through the story countless times, I could still not fully understand how BDP could not give Boko their membership card he was so desperately looking for. Perhaps the Guardian team did know the caring side of our president when it came to matters of the UDC.
By the end of the week, Duma Boko entered the fray to clear lingering doubts about his credibility. He could not afford to sit back and hope the story die a natural death. Otherwise he would be playing into BDP’s trap. On his elements Boko did address the subject. He did not deny meeting president Khama. That he even expressed in a newspaper interview the previous year. But there were areas of discrepancy between his narration and that of the BDP.

While the BDP functionaries tell us that the meeting was attended by a number of people, Boko refutes the claim, insisting that the meeting was between him and Khama. Of all the areas of disagreements, the issue of who initiated the meeting remains shrouded in misery. The BDP tells us Boko was the one begging to join the ruling party. Interestingly, no one could shed light on why he wanted to leave the BNF or why he wanted to join the BDP!

Boko, tells us the BDP was the one recruiting him. Like many of those who listened to Boko’s version of the events, I came to conclude that we could only know the full picture of this matter should president Khama step forward and offer his side of the story. As far as president Khama coming forward, I doubt if that will ever happen. The least we can expect remains a possibility of a leaked video recording of the said meet between the two. But again, that possibility remains very little. Certainly, the only sure thing we will have in abundance during an election year is silliness, or to use Boko’s phrase – stupidity!

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