Sunday, September 27, 2020

Election fixing by the BCP will prove counterproductive in the long term

In exactly two months from today, the Botswana Congress Party is scheduled to hold an elective Congress.

But no election will happen.

Instead, what we will see is a coronation whereupon the party’s high priests will be crowned without any contest whatsoever.

Dumelang Saleshando will formally take over the Presidency of the party from his father, Gil.
Kesitegile Gobotswang will become Secretary General, Taolo Lucas is likely to become Publicity Secretary.

With no challenge from any quarter, Batisani Maswibilili is poised to retain his position as National Chairman.

As a reward for dismantling his BAM outfit and delivering it under BCP hammer, Lepetu Setshwaelo will become Vice President, by all intents and purposes a ceremonial position, but senior enough to assuage egos and make him and his followers feel like they are insiders.
Presiding over the death of BAM must have been a very difficult, painful and humiliating task for Setshwaelo.

He started the party from scratch and grew it under very difficult circumstances. But he could not resist the lure of promises made to him.

A retired senior public servant and accomplished businessman, trust would not have come very easily to him, but in the end he relented.

Anna Motlhagodi, a senior lieutenant in the BCP, had wanted to become the Vice President.
She has been summarily forced out by powerbrokers in favour of Setshwaelo. Her standing would have jeopardized the project being crafted; talk of a dictatorship in the making!
Other positions, like those of Treasurer General, Duty Treasurer and Deputy Secretary General will also be doled out, not by way of an election between the members but by picking and choosing among the key members of the aristocracy that the BCP is fast setting up.

It is a fact of life that senior members of the BCP, perhaps as a way of managing a revolution to replace the BDP are conniving among themselves to stage manage the process. But the flaws are there for everyone to see.

It is only because the media is busy hating Ian Khama and his BDP’s charlatanry so much that what is currently going on inside the BCP has gone on unreported.
That is a tragic disservice to the nation, not least because in the meantime the BCP is growing leaps and bounds and growing bolder by the day.

The real reason behind the BCP going ahead with its brutal strategy of fixing the internal election outcome is because the party clearly fancies its chances at the next General Election. They want power so much so that they are all too happy to sacrifice all the known tenets of democracy. Power is all they want. How they get it has become incidental.

Internal democracy has been relegated to the backburners. In a way the end justifies the means.
When a month ago I asked Gil Saleshando about the efficacy and sustainability of this strategy he casually dismissed me by saying at least on every front the BCP was better than the BDP. But that is not the issue.

As an opposition party the BCP has to be seen to be learning the ropes of democracy, including by way of subjecting itself to the rigours of internal elections, no matter how potentially disruptive such elections may be. That is the only way they can enhance their internal dispute resolution capacities. That is the only way they can inspire both trust and confidence from the still doubting masses.

I have no doubt about Dumelang’s abilities as a politician.
He has an astounding stability of character.

Unfortunately, he seems all too happy to use that character to personalise and privatize the BCP.
It is a matter of record that over the last six years or so, he has used his towering intellect to fortify his position inside the BCP so much so that he now enjoys an untouchable status in that party.

His performance in parliament, especially his meticulous sparring against senior BDP members, has been so brilliant that almost everybody inside his own party, including his own father, is literally scared of and overawed by him. Dumelang has become what Kenneth Koma was during BNF’s heydays.

There is no doubting that Dumelang has proved himself more than capable of taking up any position on offer inside the BCP.

But even then, that cannot be a reason good enough for him to be allowed a blank cheque as to be allowed to head what is by all accounts an onslaught against inner party democracy.
As of now, a perception is created that he and his team are being thrust onto an otherwise helpless party, using means other than an open election.

The BCP leadership may answer that they have not stopped any party member from contesting any election on offer. In fact that is what Dumelang said to me when I last engaged him on the matter.
But the truth of the matter is that by sitting down and dividing key positions between themselves, the BCP leadership has effectively killed whatever chances there ever have been of a credible internal contest. Whatever contest can happen under these circumstances will be devoid of any integrity.

There is no proof that the BCP maestro personally hatched and masterminded the project, but somehow one cannot help but sense that he always has been a part of it, he approved of it and gave it his blessing.

The biggest victim, the biggest loser of all this is the membership, who are denied an opportunity that comes through an all out election competition to choose who they want to lead their party. Like democracy the BCP members have been dealt a killer punch.

Should the BDP recover from its current crisis, the BCP will find it difficult to defend itself against charges of election fixing, which, by the way, will no doubt rise some time in the future.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

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