A few years ago when a young woman called Amantle Montsho was doing exceedingly well on the international athletics stages, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party made an unprecedented pitch to take a partisan ownership of her.
The then Minister responsible for sports, Shaw Kgathi made a somewhat cynical and irresponsible statement that Amantle Montsho was a product of the BDP.
The minister basked in the glory of Amantle. And he did not want to share that glory. Clearly uninvited were the opposition parties.
Unfortunately Amantle proved gullible and fell for this amateurish trap and started posting messages on social media essentially reflecting that she had bought line, hook and sinker the misguided view that she was a product of the BDP.
Inexperienced in politics, Amantle did not understand that minister Kgathi’s statement was basically not aimed at her, but rather at opposition parties who the Minister wanted to exclude from what was by all accounts a moment of a rare national glory. By falling for Kgathi’s trap Amantle effectively became an accomplice in sowing petty divisions and disunity among our people.
She allowed her success and excellence in sports to be┬á contaminated by party politics. Aligning herself with such party politics meant that a great moment of potential national unity was thus missed.
We warned Kgathi at the time not to politicize excellence in sports.
We told Kgathi that Amantle’s sterling performance offered the country a rare opportunity to put aside their differences and challenges and instead to celebrate one of their own as one.
We encouraged the Minister to use Amantle’s brilliance in sports to unify the nation ÔÇô very much like the late Nelson Mandela did when the rugby team of that country ÔÇô for many years a leading symbol of apartheid and its evils – won the rugby world cup.
A statesman that he was, Mandela attended the final of that world cup, wearing a replica of jersey won by the Springboks captain.
At least for that moment, the whole of South Africa celebrated when their rugby team won. The same happened when the soccer national team of that country won the Africa Nations Cup ÔÇô the first for SA to host since the democratic liberation of that country in 1994.
Mandela used the two events to try to bring all South Africans of all colours and creed together.
Tragically in our situation none of Kgathi’s political supervisors at the time saw anything wrong with what the then sports minister was doing.
Save for a lone voice by the Secretary General of the Botswana Congress Party, nobody, as far as we can recall joined us to condemn Kgathi. To the ruling party, Amantle’s grace in sports was merriest if celebrated by the ruling party at the exclusion of opposition.
We remembered the story about Kgathi and Amantle this past week when President Ian Khama criticized opposition parties for making political capital from ongoing power and water troubles.
This is what president Khama told his followers in Mmadinare: “We do as you are all aware continue to have electricity and water supply challenges which are being urgently addressed.┬á I have to thank you and Batswana in general for your understanding during the past difficult economic period and with current challenges.┬á It was only some in our misguided and unpatriotic opposition who sought and still continue to try to make political capital out of these challenges.”┬á
This is double standards at its most glaring.
Clearly the president has forgotten that the culture of gaining political capital from causes that should otherwise unite us as a nation was started some years ago by one of cabinet ministers.
As we speak Amantle is grappling with difficulties following allegations of banned substances.
This is a difficult time for this one time national icon.
Unfortunately she is going through it without help from those who once sought to own her.
Opposition members will naturally find it hard to sympathise with her in these difficult times.
They have been told before that she is a BDP project.
Her erstwhile political friends are nowhere to be seen. Amantle is facing the music alone.
In fact they do not want to be associated with her alleged shenanigans.
She was their product when she was doing very well. Now that she is facing the demons, she has to do so alone.
May Amantle’s fall from grace be a lesson to other national icons that they belong to the nation and not to political parties!