Friday, July 19, 2024

Can Boko make Batswana excited about democracy again?

Constructing positive arguments about the vibrancy of Botswana’s democracy has proved challenging in recent times, especially when we consider the recent suspension and ultimate replacement of four judges by President Khama. More so, Khama and the DISS were allegedly involved in a dirty covert operation to try and turn Eritrean soccer players against their lawyer Attorney Dick Bayford.


Khama’s involvement in one dirty plot can be considered unfortunate, but to be involved in two dirty plots looks like carelessness. This begs the question: Can the UDC President, Duma Boko, break the cycle? And in so doing breathe a bit of spark and utility back into the body politic?


Boko’s talents are evident – he comes across as intelligent, competent and modern. For the past couple of years, Botswana has had to go from an optimistic country to a bleak world characterized by evil, disappointment and downright hatred for one another. 

Instead of working to make Botswana a better and more equal place, Khama and his BDP government are busy discussing a meager range of “reform” options that ask everything of the average citizen and almost nothing of the wealthy. Only the super rich are benefitting at the expense of the super poor.


Although Khama constantly talks about reform, it is clearly one of those political words that is unclear on the surface. Though filled with a certain positivity, on closer examination the notion of reform turns out to be just another euphemism for winner takes all. Before Khama can start discussing changes to policy, he should have a discussion about what sort of society we want.

Most Batswana would put hospitals and schools at the top of the list – knowing that hospital care is there in any emergency and knowing that, whatever our financial circumstances, our kids can go to a good school. In other words, most of us have already agreed on the sort of place we want Botswana to be. Indeed, the reaction to the SONA – suggests beyond a shadow of doubt that most Batswana want to live a society, not an economy, and they want policies that provide us with a high standard of living in which we all share fairly.


Not everyone may feel that there has HYPERLINK “” \hnever been a more exciting time to be a Motswana, but by God, we can all sense Boko’s own self-belief and his vast ambition for the UDC as well as for the country he intends to lead. In turn, it may be that Batswana are desperate for a bit of success and, of course, change. Certainly a return to some integrity in national policy-making would be a good start. There’s even the out-there possibility of a renewed burst of creative and far-sighted political leadership in Botswana.

But who doubts that we are at something of a tipping point? Too many of our institutions have failed us, the Botswana economy is battered by electricity and water shortages, the economy is expected to slow down on the back of decline in minerals revenues, the political environment remains febrile, and the self-interest of particular sectors trumps the national interest almost every time.


Of all our crop of potential Presidents in the BDP and UDC, Boko has the greatest capacity to reclaim the sensible centre of politics and in so doing, restore the faith of the mainstream in our democracy. We know that he is an engaging and thoughtful individual. His own instincts and temperament embrace agility and change. For the sake of the nation let’s hope Boko can marry these concepts with the idea of a generous enlargement for all. Boko should keep going in the consultative and inclusive way, and shouldn’t allow personal popularity go to his head. Although people are getting disgruntled by the current political lords from the BDP, UDC and Boko must understand that the deal with the electorate is far from sealed.


The other thing is that, despite the hype and hysteria about Boko’s ascendancy in the political realm, the honeymoon bounce from the recent general elections has not as yet buried BDP. If there is a huge sigh of national relief about Khama’s demise, it’s not flowing through to voting intentions, and the next election is still anybody’s on these figures.


Look around the country now and you see many BDP politicians eschew ideology and look as if they are up to the job. The truth is many people are slowly seeing the light and finally understand that believable policy advocacy has to be accompanied by effective implementation. People want to see that what you are selling them actually works, and will make their lives better. This has however not been the case with the BDP.

Boko is fortunate in his timing, he seems to represent the opposite – above all, one who understands that national confidence needs a boost.


Hurray for that!


His energy and honesty will likely secure his place in Botswana’s political history as the national leader who effectively tapped the zeitgeist and managed to flip the politics at just the right time. Duma Boko has so far proven himself to be a consultative and engaging leader. But if he continues to run ahead of his party in terms of personal popularity, there may be no holding him back.


Read this week's paper