Sunday, April 21, 2024

Cult personality has pushed the BDP into an ivory tower existence

The intention until the very last minute had been to write about the unfolding saga of DIS and the now infamous media tour. The import of my thinking was that no amount public relations gimmicks would restore the integrity of the DIS. What the intelligence agency needs to do is to enhance its public accounting structures by subjecting itself to independent oversight scrutiny. Conjuring the airs of mysticism about itself as currently cultivated by DIS head can only engender public mistrust, fuel resentment, stoke ridicule and invite all sorts of caricatures.

That was until a friend reminded me that the ruling party was holding its annual National Council where, he told me, issues of policy were going to be discussed. That sent me into stitches.

I reminded him that as far as we were aware the Botswana Democratic Party does not have homegrown policies to talk about.

The party’s Policy Forum, if that is still the correct name to call it has long gone dysfunctional.

All policies are initiated by the public service and they belong to the Leader and are gleefully and unashamedly sold to the public as such including by a clutch of our largely inexperienced cabinet ministers.

Everything revolves around one person so much so that many are beginning to doubt if the truss will be able to stand on its own once Ian Khama leaves.

It is not difficult to figure out how much President Khama matters to the BDP.

The trouble though is that he matters so much so that any talk of a life after him elicits both fear and anxiety among the party faithful. The irony of it all is that Khama likes it that way.

An idea that he is about to leave the centre stage to somebody does not appear to him. In fact if it does such an idea would fill him with awe.
When he was Vice President, he relished every moment of it to realise that he was hogging away all attention from the President.

In effect Festus Mogae was a lame duck for the entire tenure of his presidency. For all that time the nation discounted Mogae in their lives as they always look up to a future under Khama. This made him determined to postpone as much as possible his own lame duck moment.

The idea that he could with time not be the most important person in the room is to him not only implausible, it also has a chilling effect on him.

The man who spent ten years learning the ropes to become State President has in a span of seven years himself  been served by no less than three Vice Presidents.

 And from the look of things we are still counting. Like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, our Ian Khama stubbornly refuses to anoint a successor.

A subtle impression is always created that whoever is the second in command will ultimately not be the successor to the throne.

For the time being the BDP cannot seem to get enough of their Leader.

This is much more than just love and deference or even reverence.

It has all to do with the weakness of the BDP itself.

An obsession with one man reveals a frightening unpreparedness on the part of the BDP for what will become of them when Khama leaves. After Khama one road leads to internal instability. The other one leads to extinction.
We must however have a measure of sympathy for the BDP. Khama is the one man around who the party’s entire universe has revolved for nearly twenty years now.

While for outsiders Khama’s imminent departure elicits excitement, for the BDP it brings to the fore not just sorrow but also fear and uncertainty.

It does not seem to matter to BDP members that this is the man under whose watch their party registered the worst performance in its history. He is all they have grown to know.

It does not seem to matter to them that for all their bondage to him, if pushed to say just what his one success has been as a Leader, almost to the man, each of them would be hard-pressed to come up with even a single believable answer.

This is called cult personality. To many BDP members, Ian Khama is not a political leader, he is an object of worship – exactly what a maverick Member of Parliament from Francistown, Ignatius Moswaane would call an Idol.

At the BDP everything is so much centralized around one.

When after the General Elections, the country went on for six weeks without a Vice President on a phony creation of which Khama was not a totally passive player, not a single voice of concern was heard coming from the BDP highlighting the inherent risks and dangers of running a country for so long without a fallback position.

The party is so much attached to him that they simply cannot imagine a life without him.

That on its own however underscores the weaknesses of the BDP itself.

It exposes not just the fragility of the BDP as an institution, but also the rot that has under Ian Khama eaten up the fabric that used to activate rebirth, reproduction, regeneration and internal recreation within the party’s systems.

For an institution of such importance to this country, all of us, including non-members should be frightened that an entire institution relies on just one man for its existence.

Ian Khama might be this powerful personality that inspires fear among and envy. But he is presiding over a very weak institution called the BDP.

His departure is likely to bring in chaos and instability for the BDP. And when that happens, many less sophisticated members will immediately be consumed by nostalgia as they start to miss the days when the all strong and over-imposing leader used to be around.

As it is the party continues to blissfully live an existence inside an ivory tower, hopelessly content that their destiny can be guaranteed by just one man.


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