Saturday, May 30, 2020

Give the power back to the people

There is a growing realization among many Batswana that the country’s democracy, which we have enjoyed for decades, can no longer be taken for granted.

Sobered by the evil public humiliation Daniel Kwelagobe has suffered at the hands of his colleagues inside the BDP, some Batswana are slowly calling for a total opening up of the system.

For many years, we have boasted that we have the most stable and admirable system in Africa.

And yet, as we all know, this system has failed to meet what is an elementary principle of every working democracy.

We are not allowed to elect our President.

Instead of the general population electing what is by far the most powerful person on the land, that responsibility has been privatised under what is naively called automatic succession.

As a result, not every citizen is allowed to aspire to become President, even if they happen to be the most popular, most capable and most experienced members of the ruling party at the time.

The real danger with automatic succession is that it allows too much room for nepotism and favouritism.
It’s an act of abomination that even Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe rigs elections every five years, has a better system.

It’s still a mystery to me that our President likes to treat Mugabe as a whipping boy, when, as we all know, Mugabe, at least in theory, allows his people to go to the polls every five years to elect a Head of State.
The Zimbabwean system is much more legitimate than ours.

It allows for a direct connection between the governors and the governed.
It’s superfluous and pretentious of us to claim any moral ground higher than Mugabe’s.

There seems to be a deep-seated level of patronizing arrogance among the BDP high-priests that Batswana are not ready to directly elect a President.
Apparently, Batswana still have to be guided before they can be given such big responsibilities. Or else they will make wrong choices.

It is a kind of condescension not seen anywhere in countries that take their democratic credentials seriously.
It’s not just bad faith – its deceit.
The truth of the matter is that Batswana are not buffoons.

They know what they want.
In fact, many of our people are much more sophisticated and politically discerning than the whole lot that will stack the BDP Congress at Kanye these President Holidays.

In all fairness, the kind of internecine fighting today afflicting the BDP has its root cause on the fact that people are not allowed to choose who becomes the State President.

Rightfully, the combatants feel unfairly held down and passed over by a system that is inherently undemocratic.
Of course, it will be naïve to suppose that direct election of the President will stop BDP factionalism overnight.
What direct elections would do is to change the shape and shade of the combat.

Rather than fighting for control of the Central Committee, belligerents will be forced to go out to the people wherein will abode the real power.

The problem with party congresses as the one currently taking place in Kanye is that they provide a forum to flaunt what are, by all accounts, false senses of unity.

This in itself is a big impediment to solving the problems of disunity as we have seen consume the BDP over the last few months.

As it is, I cannot for a second imagine any senior BDP figure in his right mind, rocking inside the congress hall and admitting to being factionalists.
Yet, as we all know, many of the factional leaders will actually be sitting at the top table, all smiles, chanting party slogans and singing songs that have no meaning to the belligerents’ true intentions.

Every one of them will agree with each other that factions are a bad thing.
But will there be unity after the Kanye BDP show? Will it be business as usual after Kanye? Hell no.

Winners will want to further extend the frontiers and remind the vanquished of just who is in charge.

The mistake President Ian Khama made was to openly side with some belligerents against others.
He is likely to pay a hefty price for it.

If Congress results prove that he backed a wrong horse, the winners are likely to also go for his blood.
He has no one to blame but himself.
In the midst of this madness, citizens who are not involved in the BDP merry-go-round should call for the direct election of the President.
That is where real power resides.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.