Festus Mogae’s last State of the Nation Address as President was received rapturously – a carefully weaved series of long running feel-good statistics, selectively handpicked for a nation groping and clamouring for good news. It had tailor made for maximum impact. It had the desired effect.
The delivery was excellent, made by a man at the height of his form, happy to see himself leave the stage at a time of his biding, when all state pieces are falling in place.
Having flattened all internal dissent, Mogae took to the national stage, driving home the message and doing as he pleased, abnormally awake to the reality that there are no alternative voices that matter to question his details, however skewed and casually sanitised.
While the BDP, through Mogae, is showing its mastery of the public discourse, the main opposition, the Botswana National Front is on the other hand crumbling. Literally.
It will be interesting to see how, given their false pride the opposition will regain the ground they are currently losing.
In a totally unintended way, the outgoing president’s address served to further consolidate the ruling party’s absolute control of the nation’s future.
A streak of bad luck, complacency and silly pride are just some of the factors conniving against the BNF.
With many things now out of control, the main opposition can only watch, moan and helplessly grumble in despair. As fate would have it, the President’s speech came at the time when the BNF is going through its biggest image crisis since the Molepolole Congress. Even for the infernal optimists, the situation at BNF is getting untenable.
With Mogae’s speech having gone so far as to capture the nation’s dreams and aspirations and provide a collective bond of national identity it would be interesting to see how opposition will meaningfully counter the president and his BDP and offer an alternative.
The truth is that a greater number of Batswana today feel helpless and poorer than (thanks to growing levels of unemployment) a decade ago when Mogae arrived on the scene.
Mogae and his advisors knows this very well but they are deliberately pulling back the punches, masking the bad news that could spoil what is otherwise a well organised farewell party.
But firefighting what is by all accounts an internal crisis, the main opposition is too engaged to take advantage, least of all to poke what could become embarrassing holes on Mogae’s speech.
As a result, Mogae and his aides are having a field day – playing fast and loose with facts, bending statistics to suit their message, well aware that the country has no opposition to talk about, let alone counter the false narrative that Batswana are now better off than they were ten years ago.
The BCP managed to make some noise, but what does it matter?
They are a nonentity punching way above their weight.
As has always been the case, the BDP government pushed the little, noisy thing to the sides, treating them more as a nuisance than a partner and, as such, never really to get worried about.
One very important aspect has been deliberately written off Mogae’s script.
Throughout Mogae’s speech there has been a blithe and indifferent silence to what the Vice President has achieved since he was dispatched about seven years ago to supervise other ministers and work on improving government implementation capacity.
The President should have offered some explanation in his address. He deliberately chose not to.
With great success from his time as Minister of Finance to his last days as President, Festus Mogae has established a framework for economic growth but he decimally failed to go the last but decisive step that matters which is poverty reduction.
Economic growth is only good if it is used as means to resolve the country’s root problems – in this instance poverty.
If growth is only used to stack the money offshore then its usefulness remains in the margins. Money in the reserves is of no use to people struggling to make ends meet.
Listening to Mogae from the press box on Monday I could see on the opposition benches an anxious and grim faced Otsweletse Moupo.
Biting his lips and grinning his teeth, the leader of opposition cast the picture of a troubled man.
He appeared restless and tormented.
He must have had on his mind the resignation of Obakeng Moumakwa and a difficult by-election ahead.
Even at the highlights of the speech and when Mogae threw in off the cuff jokes and everyone lost their lungs in laughter, Moupo maintained a remote seriousness that got me worried.
Of course, at the time I did not know that one of Moupo’s MPs had turned in a resignation notice.
It’s now official; Moumakwa has resigned and he leaves behind a marginal seat that will prove exceedingly difficult for the BNF to retain.
To keep the seat, the BNF now needs a root and branch overhaul.
Anything less would not be enough. Moupo is right to be unease with himself
If he fails to change the BNF image then it will keep slipping down and losing ground to the little but excessively buoyant BCP.
A few weeks ago, I predicted the BNF would die by 2009. I was wrong.
Its death will come much earlier.
Moumakwa’s resignation is the beginning of the many bear traps that lie ahead.
I do not enjoy saying it but the BNF is on a sure path of ruin.
The wall that used to hold the BNF together is not just cracking, it is crumbling.
In the meantime the BDP can only run away with the votes, rejoicing all the way to 2009.