Thursday, October 5, 2023

BDP has won Letlhakeng West…has the gain been worth the pain?

We may probably never know for sure just how much money the Botswana Democratic Party spent in Letlhakeng West by-election for them to stretch the margin from just over 30 in the last General Election to over 340 in the just ended by-election.

Available figures stretch from P1.5 million to P2 million.

The truth is somewhere in the middle.

When all is said and done, a question that has to be asked is: has the pain been worth the gain?

The whole of this week, I have had several informal conversations with BDP insiders in an attempt to understand just how much was spent at Letlhakeng West.

This was after opposition detractors had feigned alarm at exuberance and obscenity of BDP expenditure during the by-election.

While it would seem like nobody really knows how much has been spent, everybody is united in their assessment that they have never seen such an expensive by-election.

“Up until Letlhakeng West the title had belonged to Tonota North. The important question to ask is why our party went to these lengths?” a BDP member said me.

That, by the way, is the million dollar question: why did the BDP feel obliged to go over the rails?

It is impossible to understand why BDP spent so much money without understanding what really was at stake.
At stake was much more than just the one constituency called Letlhakeng West.

Rather, it had more to do with a resurgent opposition which, perhaps punching above its weight, had wanted to use Letlhakeng as a launch pad for its campaign in next year’s General election.

The opposition had to be stopped, even finished off if that is what it would take.

Buoyed by those electoral victories, the opposition alliance had wanted to use Letlhakeng to announce their arrival and drive home the message that for BDP things are likely to get considerably worse.

That, we now know, was not to be.

After losing a string of council by-elections to opposition, the BDP had started to lose confidence in their own skin.
The party was growing increasingly anxious and unsure of itself.

They needed a killer punch to bolster their confidence that they are still in charge.

And nobody needed that reassurance more than President Ian Khama.

Victory in Letlhakeng West has provided the BDP with what it needed most: an augury that when challenged they will use all in their power to defend themselves.

As was to be expected, that BDP victory has disoriented the opposition. And, as we speak, there is confusion across the opposition ranks, with many of their kingpins running helter-skelter as they try to make sense of what bomb has hit them.

BDP victory in Letlhakeng West has given the party owners the confidence that they are on a right track, that there is no need for them to reflect let alone review their ways.
They are wrong.

Looked at from a closer perspective, the truth of the matter is that Letlhakeng West has been an exercise in charade.

A victory that comes at such a high price in both human and financial capital is not sustainable in the long run. And nobody is aware of this more than the true planners behind last week’s BDP victory.

Ahead of Letlhakeng West by-election, literally every member of cabinet had camped at the constituency, there not to do the job of the state but of the party. Their brief was to drive home the message that opposition is incompetent and untrustworthy.

Ruling party backbenchers were assigned in pairs to coordinate each and every corner of the constituency. Their mandate was the simplest of all; to show a Letlhakeng voter that the BDP cares about them.

And to put the cherry on top, there was no shortage of money.

Food was wantonly thrown about to the poor souls that bestride that desolate constituency, whose terrain is among the hardest in this country.

A majority of potential voters, many of whom had never known the certainty of where their next meal was going to come from all of a sudden found themselves stumped with three meals a day, with tea and beer sessions in between ÔÇô all at the cost of the ruling party.

There is everything wrong with a governing party that sees nothing with bribing poor people with food and beer to get itself elected, especially when dignity is one of the leader’s mantras.

I almost cried the other day when I heard President Ian Khama in the presence of his Malawian counterpart tell a poverty eradication workshop that dignity for all remains a cornerstone of his government.

How can a man who endorses such rancid abuse of people be the one to talk about their dignity?

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