Thursday, September 24, 2020

BDP primaries breed resentment

There is perhaps no better illustration of the absence of inner party democracy inside the BDP than in the way their Bulela Ditswe primaries are being handled.

Rather than enhance participatory democracy, Bulela Ditswe has become a big ingredient of spite, resentment and divisions inside the ruling party.
Truth be said, Bulela Ditswe is by all standards a very noble and highly commendable development.

The system was introduced by former President Festus Mogae, a liberal democrat who was horrified and embarrassed by his party’s ancient culture of exclusivity and patronage as exemplified by the old Electoral College system.

Unfortunately, poor implementation has allowed Mogae’s good invention to degenerate into a farce; polarizing the BDP as to even cost the party key constituencies that would be viewed as traditionally theirs.

While the decay brought about by Bulela Ditswe is no doubt an administrative failure, it is, more importantly, also a clear sign of engendered reluctance by the ruling party to democratize itself.

While there are attempts and pretensions to move with the time, in many ways the party remains enslaved to its past.

Recently, a large number of candidates approached the Central Committee complaining of gross irregularities at Bulela Ditswe.

The Central Committee responded by dismissing all of the complaints on a frivolous technicality.

Clearly, this style of conflict resolution does not heal wounds.
It stokes resentment and spreads hatred.
It’s difficult to see how going forward the sidelined people will embrace their former opponents as to start campaigning side by side with them on behalf of the party.

Going forward, it’s difficult to see how this snubbed and mercilessly humiliated lot is expected to forgive a party that is so patently unfair and uncaring.

Not for the first time the BDP is again playing with Bulela Ditswe fire.
In the last General Elections, the BDP performed below its strength exactly because it isolated and estranged its members by running a flawed and divisive primary electoral system.
No doubt the victors inside the BDP will view the protests as an absence of grace on the part of the vanquished. It’s not that easy.

The BDP leader should never have allowed protests to be dismissed on a technicality without first listening to the substance and merits of the protests.

At least on this particular issue, for all his qualities, his popularity and veneration, Ian Khama does not come across as a good arbitrator and peace maker.

The BDP spin masters will try to depict Bulela Ditswe protests as insignificant and far between.

The truth, though, is that a failure by the Central Committee to listen to protests can only breed resentment; a kind of resentment that cost them dearly in the last elections.
It’s hard to see how the losers will be expected to back the winners when there are so many unresolved issues.
In a totally unintended way, the BDP’s ham-fisted handling of its primaries can at best lead the losers to recoil and at worst to actively de-campaign the party.

That is exactly what happened in the last General Elections.

Clearly, the party has not learnt lessons from the first round of open primary elections that preceded the 2004 elections as there is no way the BDP can emerge stronger after the currently tumultuous round of Bulela Ditswe.

Several times in the build up to the 2004 General Elections, the BDP found itself literally overwhelmed by allegations of activists that were sleeping with the opposition enemy.
This was because many BDP members felt cheated.

No matter how one looks at it, as a party, the BDP is made up of real people who, like everyone else of us hate being cheated.

And if the members are to be believed there is a lot of cheating going on inside the BDP primaries.
In the face of such widespread, deliberate cheating, attempts by the BDP to portray itself as a high moral alternative to an opposition that is always fighting itself simply do not hold.

That the losers’ protests were dismissed on technical grounds, without going into substance just goes to show how insensitive the party’s leadership could be.

We have in the past argued that the BDP lacks a strong culture of inner party democracy.

The BDP’s dismissal of protests stemming from its primaries has not done anything to answer our concerns.
Of course, there may be people who are more prepared to forgive the BDP’s shortcomings on the grounds that the party is still learning the ropes to better internalise democracy.
But ignorance of the finer points of democracy cannot be an excuse for such blatant acts of insensitive unfairness as recently shown by the Central Committee.

As a ruling party, the BDP is a leading custodian of our democracy and should, therefore, take any signs of internal defects much more seriously than is currently the case.
The only solace is that this time around there is no opposition to take advantage of the divisions inside the BDP.


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