Wednesday, October 20, 2021

An entire country is collapsing under a gridlock of party succession: it’s a marvel to watch

A week is a long time in politics, a former British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson is reported to have said.

When a journalist asked him what was most difficult about his job, Wilson is said to have wryly replied “Events, my dear boy, events.”

How right the Briton was in both occasions!

A number of weeks ago we wrote on this space that President Ian Khama was losing his ability to influence his succession plan.

Our argument was that out of fear for becoming a lame duck president he had deliberated waited too long to announce a presumptive successor.

Events, we said were now fast spiraling out of his control.

History is proving us wrong.

It has been more than a week since we wrote that ÔÇô a very, very long time in Wilson’s interpretation of politics.

And since then, in a typically Wilsonian way, the situation has changed beyond recognition.

While at the time we talked of a lame duck presidency, any reference to the same would today sound like some wild hallucination.

The same events, which Wilson once said would make life difficult for him, have in an awry way conspired in favour of Ian Khama.

President Khama is back in charge.

One such event, in fact the chief event of them all has been the reported ill health of Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi.

With the ill health of the presumptive successor has also come inevitable uncertainty.

That uncertainty has quite naturally of course compounded the boldness of those lurking in the shadows.

But truly speaking there is one man in charge.

Whenever there is uncertainty there is a near instinctive response to rally around the incumbent.

Where a few weeks ago there was a discernible movement towards discounting Khama as a long-term player, the latest events have meant that he is by far the biggest player around.

This has been a natural response towards avoiding a vacuum.

But more importantly to make sure that the predatory opposition does not take advantage of the situation.

There is no emphasizing that with no direct input of his own, President Khama has become the biggest beneficiary of the current situation.

“Events, my dear boy, events,” so said Harold Wilson.

While a few weeks prior to reports of the vice president’s ill health there was another centre of power was fast emerging beside Khama’s, that development has been stopped in its tracks.

Now there is only one centre of power that everybody looks up to inside the BDP.

It is exactly how the man has always liked it.

Everything is working in his favour; from nature to manmade designs.

As Vice President Khama had once watched with subtle but awful glee how all the attention shifted in his favour against the then President Festus Mogae as the party and government,  in unison anticipation turned its back against the past and looked to the future.

While he quietly relished every moment of it as became the centre of the universe, Khama also vowed that he would in future stop at nothing to delay such moment from befalling him when his turn came.

And sure he has, albeit with massive assistance and help from independent events.

For himself, he has appointed no less than three vice presidents. There might still be more as his tenure is still far from over.

Nature on its part intervened on his side by taking away his first vice president appointee.

The second vice president retired, officially due to old age, though many questions remain.

As we now stand we are back to 2008. What Khama says goes.

With the pervasive uncertainty gripping the BDP universe there is once again only one man whose world view matters.

Khama is the only person that counts inside the BDP ecosystem. And everybody else is incidental.

If Masisi’s health does not improve quickly enough, Khama will replace him.

That naturally will be interpreted as ruthless by Masisi’s growing army of potential beneficiaries.

But in the overall scheme of things there will be no resistance against the president.

In fact any challenges to that decision will be rightly deemed as disingenuous.

In the meantime the whole country has ground to a halt.

The only thing that matters is BDP succession.

Former President Sir Ketumile should be dismayed.

He tried to move the world to come up with inventions meant to do away with uncertainty stemming from succession.

The ongoing events surrounding succession at the BDP highlight the magnitude of Sir Ketumile in that score.

As someone who has always opposed automatic succession, I relish what I see unfolding at the Botswana Democratic Party.

My only regret, however is that the country has in the same way ground to a halt, very much the same way as it did in 1980 when a founding president died before there was anything called automatic succession.

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