Sunday, September 27, 2020

Counting Masisi’s Tea Leaves!

It would be an exaggeration to say ruination awaits Mokgweetsi Masisi’s presidency.

But there will be tough moments ahead, in fact in the not too distant future.

With the official opposition all but dead, those hard times will all come from within his club.

The surest way for him to stand a fighting chance will be to impose himself and his agenda through jobs.

So far the aesthetics have been good. But how about the substance?

Concerns are rising that with the honeymoon period clearly setting in, there has still been no big announcement coming from the big man.

At the moment there are too many even contradictory voices coming from inside Government.

At times it is difficult for us listening from outside to determine exactly who is in charge, much less who to believe.

Because ministers are speaking in turns and lack coherence, the atmosphere is palpably pregnant with an air of anxiety.

One thing however is certain: An intra-BDP war is looming.

Whichever direction one looks, a potential power grabber is never too far away, lurking somewhere under the shadows.

To underestimate Masisi’s vulnerability is to mis-diagnose Botswana’s increasingly cannibalistic politics.

Questions abound whether or not he will travel the full course.

If they are to be believed, those intent on undermining him, or their sympathisers in the media insist he is in it temporarily ÔÇô transient as opposed to permanent.

They point to his lack of a substantive policy programme as evidence.

Though born and bred, and a paid-up member to the bone, there are many who question his establishment credentials.

He might not look the part, but he belongs. And that is beyond reproach.

Masisi’s light-speed rise to the pinnacle of both party and government will for years to come be an object of fascination for both historical and political scholars.

Contempt for him drives his critics to ask themselves just what spurred him to the top of the pile.

Admirers respond by pointing to his intellect, his confidence, his oratory skills ÔÇô especially his English fluency.

The truth is that there are neither easy nor ready answers. It has been a mixed bag of factors ÔÇô a majority of them not by any stretch of his making.

Masisi has no shortage of political capital. Twice in a row he won the national chairmanship of the Botswana Democratic Party ÔÇô in comprehensive fashions.

His only misfortune, if one can call it that has been to be handed the chalice by the hands of a strongman.

History shows that every time a strongman leaves the scene, by whatever means ÔÇô be it voluntarily, by a coup, by old age or even death, uncertainty and even chaos are as predictable as sunset.

Inside his Botswana Democratic Party, too many vultures are circling around and flying too low.

Some of them have found their way into cabinet.

Inner-party instability is the price. And there is no shortage of takers.

They want to render him a hapless president.

History shows that every time the opposition is weak, the BDP turns on itself.

It says a lot that he arrived into his new job and started to behave more as a revolutionary following the overthrow of the elitist regime than as an insider continuing on the footsteps of his forbearers.

More often than not, he casts an image of a man riding a tiger’s back ÔÇô abnormally aware of his vulnerabilities, but totally unsure of how or when to get off.

There is no reason to soften up on doing what is right.

He should not allow his moment to soften. It is too early to relax.

His critics have been relentless in their zeal to point out that his tenure thus far, like his inauguration speech has not been punch-packed.

The Botswana Democratic Party has no shortage of aggrandizing self-seekers.

They call themselves mediators but they are an ever present distraction and Masisi should not listen to them, or else the balance of power might shift – irreversibly.

Admittedly, resetting his frontbench is work in progress, but he should not have his levers dictated from elsewhere lest he becomes hostage rather than master of own destiny.

A swap of ministers that was announced this week, happening less than three months after forming a Government does not send great signals.

It has led to a groundswell of gossip; is he really in charge?

To skeptics it confirms indecision born out of inexperience and unsure footedness; a lack of control and even uncertainty of the direction the president wants to take.

Public mood has been on Masisi’s side, but there is always a risk that such goodwill quickly degenerates into a false start.

We are living through an epoch where standards are low and public trust in politicians at its lowest.

For now Masisi’s governing vision remains at best foggy and at worst none-existent.

He cannot forever bank on often ambiguous, sometimes unspecified or even none-existent visions.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.