Friday, October 23, 2020

Don’t be deceived by what looks like hugs, BDP members are at each other’s throat

We are now a few days to a full year since Ian Khama took over as President of the Republic.

A few weeks before he took over, I wrote on this space that Khama showed some potential to become the best President Botswana has ever had, changing the country’s course in a big, dramatic and positive way, before adding, in the same vein, that he could also become the worst President, especially if he failed to meet people’s rabidly high expectations of himself.

Those views still stand and I do not apologise.

The best but seldom acknowledged decision that Khama made as President, at least for himself and his feuding party, was to evenly divide power between the two warring factional outposts.

Daniel Kwelagobe was made the party’s National Chairman while Mompati Merafhe became Vice President.

For a year now, there has been internal peace, rickety as it sometimes seemed to be.

Such peace and calm allowed Khama the leisure to focus on bigger issues, like forcefully tackling the Zimbabwean question and attempting to turn around BDP’s declining share of the national popular vote ÔÇô two pastime luxuries that his immediate predecessor could only dream of.

It was, therefore, with shock that we learnt a few weeks ago that the peace that has for now held was being risked by a bizarre new set of rules; ostensibly still at the behest of the President.

Against the party’s constitution, BDP members of parliament and, by extension, cabinet ministers will no longer be allowed to contest the Central Committee positions.

This is weird to say the least.
Khama has been bold and tenacious with his new initiatives, but a lot depends on them being wholeheartedly bought over by both factions ÔÇô and that is not easy.

As it turns out, the initiatives are not only a hard-sell they are also proving divisive.

While the BDP is as certain as ever that they will win a General Election in the next few months, internal peace and harmony can no longer be guaranteed.
Indications are that instead of yielding to the President, both factions are flexing for resistance, obviously out of self-interest.
Perhaps for the first time ever, Ian Khama has a real fight on his hands inside the BDP.

The new initiatives are set to rub bare the old scars and re-fracture the bones that were on a course to healing.
It’s possible the new suggestions were made in good faith, but on this one Khama has trouble coming.

The danger is that such initiatives are not only an obvious highway back to the days of instability, they could also ignite sparks of direct mutiny against the President himself.

Powerful as he may be, Khama should tread with caution.
There simply is no way his power can be as infinite as to be immune from challenge.

He may be at the top of his game but power and, to some extent, popularity have limitations.

I have suspicions that in a totally unintended way, Khama’s strategy to neutralize the factions could in turn pave the way for an internal challenge for his seat inside the party.
Under the circumstances, the best he can hope for is to contain and manage the BDP factions, never to exterminate them!

Overplaying his influence and power too hard, as he seems to be doing, risks uniting the two factions against himself. More crucially, he also risks radicalizing them.

President Khama should be careful never under any circumstances put his fate in the hands of BDP factional belligerents.
Yet that is exactly what he is doing.
There is another twist to BDP’s latest twist of events.

Events at BDP should be cause for alarm among those of us who believe in the predictability of a constitutional democracy.

If the ruling party can be so reckless as to flimsily flout their own party constitution under the guise of concocting superficial harmony, it will not be long before they start fiddling with a national constitution.

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