Monday, October 18, 2021

From Khama to Masisi: A whole new style of Botswana leadership?

With Khama throwing his support behind vice president for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairmanship in the upcoming elective national congress slated for July this year, Masisi could rest be assured that he is the undoubted heir apparent after Khama’s departure from the state house.

Once in the driver’s seat, Masisi’s leadership style is unlikely to be different from his predecessor’s according to political and social commentator Anthony Ndulamo Morima. Morima is convinced that Masisi’s populist leadership style is unlikely to be any different from his predecessor who has been at the helm despite the enormous challenges the country has been facing especially on the economic front.

“Assuming he had a lot of influence on the president with respect to such programmes as Poverty Eradication Programme and the Economic Stimulus Programme, he is, just like His Excellency, also likely to have focus on populist, yet unsustainable programmes. Considering his attitude to the same, just like his predecessor, he is likely to continue with less than favourable attitudes towards the media, public servants and civil society in general,” submits Morima.

He explained that the mandate of the country’s vice-president is to perform any duties as assigned by his principal. This, in Morima’s view, Masisi has done diligently because he has ably represented Ian Khama both locally and internationally. He is also the president’s closest advisor.

“Unfortunately, we will never know the advice he gives to the president, that is, as to whether it is progressive or not. However, his failure to mend relations between government and the media as well as public servants and trade unions is worth noting,” posited the analyst.

As the BDP chairman, perhaps because he is also fighting for his survival in view of the forthcoming chairpersonship elections and asserting his position as president Khama’s successor, he is not much of a unifier. The actual or perceived disharmony between Masisi and the party secretary general, Botsalo Ntuane, is a case in point. So has his failure to endear himself to the Women’s wing and the Youth League.

Morima however quickly warns that Masisi should avoid populist government programmes and do all in his power to improve relations with public servants, trade unions and the media especially that the ruling party support has been on a free fall during Khama’s presidency.

Morima further doubts that Masisi is likely to continue the Khama legacy of snubbing continental and global summits at the African Union and United Nations because has ably stood in for Khama whenever he was delegated in that regard. Also unlike His Excellency, he has shown a keen interest in parliament, meetings and other consensus building forums.

With particular regard to the BDP, Masisi should like Daniel Kwelagobe when he was secretary general and later chairman, by investing a lot of time in building party grass root structures and also have significant interaction with the Women’s Wing and Youth League, not only during party elections but throughout the year.

Still regarding the BDP, Morima submits that Masisi should improve his working relationships with members of the central committee especially the secretary general if he is to attain any unity in the party in its all different structures.

With regard to the challenges he will encounter once he becomes the country’s chief executive officer and armed forces commander-in ÔÇôchief, Masisi should tackle issues of unemployment especially among the youth if he is to sustain his presidency and reverse the waning popularity besieging his party.

Masisi’s other challenges once in the driver’s seat include a disgruntled public service which is more sympathetic to the opposition as well as a declining economy especially following the closure of BCL and its subsidiaries which led to massive job losses and a more skeptical citizenry, especially following threats to the rule of law by such state agencies as Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) and the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM).

He will also have to address the growing perception, especially among some attorneys and the Law Society of Botswana, that judicial independence is suffering gradual erosion. He will also have to bring back the public’s trust on such state agencies as DISS and DCEC. 

On the global front, Botswana enjoys favourable outlook because of its high ranking in such fundamentals as the rule of law, democracy, peace and stability as well as economic stability.

Botswana, therefore, even under president Khama has nothing that scares away potential investors although government has to hasten its economic drive. However, Masisi’s presidency will not be easy. The recent unity of opposition parties (Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and Botswana National Front (BNF) poses a serious threat to Masisi’s presidency.

This is coupled with a disgruntled public service which is working hand in hand with the united opposition to effect regime change.

To his credit, Masisi is an eloquent debater and speaker who on a given topic could manage to square up with the likes of Ndaba Gaolathe, Duma Boko and Dumelang Saleshando on most issues of public and national interest provided he does not exude arrogance which some democrats are also not comfortable with. 

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper