Sunday, July 12, 2020

Botsalo Ntuane: A calculating BDP savior or a simply unreliable vessel?

Much of last two week’s editorial acres have been taken up by excitement over the ruling party’s preparedness to give up his position as a token of selflessness to help bring about some measure of compromise ahead of the elective Congress due in July.

According to the numerous articles so far published, Botsalo Ntuane wants to forfeit his position of secretary General to Nonofo Molefhi, who is on record as challenging for party Chairmanship.

If Ntuane’s idea gets to pass, it would give Mokgweetsi Masisi a safe passage to retain the party Chairmanship and eventually the ultimate trophy.

This is significant at numerous levels.

Since the last Botswana Democratic Party Congress in Mmadinare, Ntuane and Masisi have been at each other’s throat, wrestling each other non-stop for the control of the party.

On a number of occasions, President Ian Khama has had to intervene, sternly telling the two that if they are not willing to work together, he will be forced to step in and the result might in the end prove painful for both of them.

Things came to a head last year when, Fish Pabalinga found himself in an exalted platform from where he often talked and behaved as though he was the de facto  Secretary General.

Inside the BDP, Pabalinga is a virtual political novice.

But that really did not matter.

What took precedence is that he is a leading Masisi surrogate.

Pabalinga, it seemed at the time had been given powers to run an operation parallel to that of the official Secretary General.

He was able to do that because he was acting with the total support of party Chairman and State Vice President.

The intention was clearly calculated to humiliate Ntuane.

To Khama’s credit, through his intervention, a truce, albeit a shaky one was achieved. 

BDP internal elections are for the media always a season of frenetic bustle and hyperbole.

But it is remarkable that up to now no journalist has seen it fit to ask Ntuane if his gesture to give his position to Nonofo Molefhi  is driven by altruism ÔÇô in which case he is doing it for the good of the party or it is a cut act of political self preservation.

Ntuane is a shrewd political operator. He is overly aware of the power of gestures and symbolisms in politics, hence his latest gesture that has been so gleefully seized on by the media.

His weakness though is that he often overplays his hand, including by way of exaggerating his power, influence and relevance.

Once again, a context is in order.

There is no doubt that President Khama has lost much of control; inside the party, inside government and also within his inner circle.

But owing to Khama, the last few months  have been particularly difficult for Ntuane’s faction inside the BDP.

At the BDP Council, President Ian Khama all but made it clear that Masisi will succeed him as Head of State when his term comes to an end next year.

That alone has put Ntuane’s political world at  sixes and sevens.

BDP insiders say Masisi and Ntuane’s differences ÔÇô petty as they are ÔÇô they are also irreconcilable.

The announcement, that Masisi will become the president has put Ntuane on a frenetic mood as he searches for Plan “B”.

It not only marked the end of a contest between him and Masisi, it also amplified who the winner of the contest has been.

Until recently, it was widely held that Ntuane is the future of the BDP.

But with Masisi all but assured of the presidency, there are no longer such guarantees.

Instead Ntuane has been left to fend for himself. He is looking for new ways to stay relevant in the backdrop of what is by all accounts a defeat at the hands of Masisi.

For Masisi loyalists, there is no doubt  that Ntuane has often made their man’s path to the throne resemble a journey through hell.

If he becomes president ÔÇô as it looks ever more likely ÔÇô Masisi will no doubt believe that he made it, not because of Ntuane but  in spite of him.

Just how an in-power  Masisi  will treat Ntuane remains a closed book.

And a shrewd politician inside Ntuane teaches him to be wary, nah averse to uncertainty, hence this gesture aimed at once again resetting his pedestals.

By offering to give up his position to allow Masisi a safe passage, Ntuane is flapping around for a reset of his personal relations with the now the confirmed crown prince.

It is a huge gamble that might yet prove an adventure in futility.

Forget about Nonofo Molefhi’s fate, the biggest risk for Ntuane is that if Masisi spurns him and refuses to embrace him there might be a huge backlash for this political adventurist.

If that happens, Ntuane’s latest antics will once against reawaken accusations of his casual approach to politics.

This will embolden his hostile army of virulent critics ÔÇô inside and outside the BDP.

These are the people who while grudgingly admitting to his talent, also fret at what they see as clear cut existence of untrustworthiness and unreliability on his part.

He may try all he wants to carve a political future for himself.

In reality, Ntuane’s future will only be decided when Masisi ascends.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.