Monday, September 21, 2020

Automatic succession provides a rotten kind of stability

Of all the mis-creations (and there are many) that the BDP has come with over the years, nothing compares in lunacy to the rot that is called automatic succession.

The arrangement is doing more damage to Botswana’s credibility as a democracy than any other issue I can think of.
By allowing people a chance to sneak into the highest office through the back door, automatic succession has rendered democracy meaningless.

It’s not much short of an obscenity.
Originally conceptualized as a form of a safety valve, the system has since become an albatross around the neck of the ruling party ÔÇô literally.

And yet the party still does not want to engage with the matter as to be able to extricate itself from the web.

The tragedy though is that the system’s true ravages will be felt well beyond the confines of the BDP as a party.

Today, a whole nation is holding its breath, keeping their fingers crossed, hoping and praying that the current President does not position any one of his brothers and cousins to succeed him as State President.

It’s a strange form of stability when an entire nation finds itself at the mercy of just one man, who has not been elected for that matter.

It’s high time we stopped thinking everything is fine with our democracy for we are only deluding ourselves.

The election of a President in Botswana has to be reviewed so as to allow every citizen to aspire to be president without being anybody’s stooge.
Invariably, power is always abused when it rests in just a few hands.

The solution lies in diluting it.
And what better way to dilute power than by spreading it among many hands.
Not for the first time automatic succession debate has become all the rage.

In a very brutal way, automatic succession totally disregards the moral component of democracy, the linchpin of which is that the voter should be the source of all political power.

However hard one tries, I cannot imagine a more brutal betrayal of democracy than taking away the people’s right to elect the country’s most powerful person and, as it were, outsourcing such a responsibility as to be provided by just one individual.
Our democracy does not get any more unconscionable.

Former President Sir Ketumile Masire likes to argue that automatic succession provides some form of stability; an argument that is as vague as it is seductive.

What stability are we talking about when the system is today the root cause of the ruling party’s problems?
As chief author of the system, there is no need for Masire to justify this cockeyed creation of his.

We all know why he came up with the
fancy footwork in the first place.
Not only was it a way of ensuring Festus Mogae’s coronation, it also, perhaps more importantly, was meant to keep Daniel Kwelagobe and Ponatsheho Kedikilwe at bay.

Favouritism aside, the fear of uncertainty can never be plausible enough a reason to coerce a whole nation to privatize what is by far the most powerful office on the land.

Not only have we privatized the ascendance to the institution of the presidency, we have also allowed, for instance, where people can literally run this country through a long string of their proxies.

And that is dangerous.
Automatic succession can easily be substituted for autocracy.

The true effects are still to come.
Which is why it’s high time the power to elect a president is given back directly to the people who rightfully own it.

That is also the best way of restoring a covenant between the State President and the people he governs.

Only direct election of the President by the people will restore the pact between the governor and the governed.
There can be no alternative, especially given that in Botswana the State President is so powerful as to literally control everything that moves under the sun.

Our biggest problem is, of course, the one-party mentality which clouds everything else.

The ruling BDP is so strong that without having to say it, its word has effectively come to be accepted as a holy scripture.

This breeds not just arrogance but also corruption.

It also allows a strong leeway for a disregard of the people’s will.
While in a democracy the power to choose leaders vests with the people, I still cannot believe that we have put so much of our fate in just one unelected person.

Coming to think of it, who do we blame when a sitting President (who we did not vote for) begins to behave in a crazy way?


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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.