Thursday, June 4, 2020

Has the bottom fallen out of the BDP?

For the last few months the media has been awash with wish lists of the coming congress of the governing Botswana Democratic Party due next year.

As we never fail to point out, internal politics of the BDP are of acute interest to every Motswana.

What emerges from the names mentioned as potential candidates is a clear cut case of a party that has become a shadow of its old self.

However charitable one tries to view the potential contenders, one cannot but help recognize what a demeaning caricature our politics have been reduced to.

If the year was 1992, many of the names being bandied about would not even qualify to contest at the party’s regional committee level, much less at central committee and executive levels.

There is not a more glaring reminder of just how badly the standards have dropped.

All of these have a history to it.

Botswana Democratic Party has neither recognized nor responded to the needs of long-term survival and long term continuity.

Over the last ten to fifteen years the party has been run on a trial and error basis, reaching an apex when President Ian Khama took the fateful decision to detach the party’s executive positions from cabinet.

The situation has not been helped by the fact that during the same time the party made no investment at grooming new talent or nurturing future leaders.

The upshot of it all is that where in the past there was depth, expertise, experience  and humility, today there is mediocrity, vanity, shallowness and arrogance.

One cannot help but ask themselves just what has happened to the BDP Youth league which is supposed to be a fertile breeding ground for the party’s future leaders!

Off the top of my head I can immediately count no less than seven past BDP youth leaders;┬á┬á Lesang Magang, Gomolemo Motswaledi, Kefentse Mzwinila,┬á Bontsi Monare, Peter Meswele, Fankie Motsaathebe and Armstrong Dikgafela, none of whom is a contender for any serious leadership role at the party’s much vaunted congress next year. The BDP is no doubt an outstanding embodiment of just what little premium our institutions attach to their youth.

This is a direct opposite of the situation with regard to our neighbor to the south where almost all of the governing ANC former youth leaders went on to hold more senior leadership portfolios including in cabinet.

There has been Peter Mokaba, Lulu Johnson, Fikile Mbalula and Malusi Gigaba all of whom have at one time or another served either as Members of Parliament or cabinet ministers.

This glaring contrast alone demonstrates that in more ways than one the BDP easily compares to a monster that feeds on its own children. While there is a serious leadership generational gap that the BDP has to address if it is to continue as a party of government, the party continues to be oblivious to this life and death challenge.

And there is a reason to account for this happy-go-lucky attitude.

The party is not preparing for the future because they currently have a formidably popular leader whose followers often get carried away as to even compare him to Christ.

The mere presence of Ian Khama as leader – strong and quintessentially omnipotent has deluded the BDP into a somewhat vague aura of infinity and invincibility. But individuals come and go, just as Khama will when his time is up. And when that day comes, the BDP will pay a very heavy price for years of underinvestment in youth talent. A life after Khama, if not handled properly might simply lead to the end of the BDP on earth, much the same way like has been the case with the National Party of South Africa.

The same way that South Africa will never produce another Nelson Mandela, the Botswana Democratic Party will never produce another Ian Khama.

Ian Khama, it must be said is not a BDP creation. Rather he is a creation┬áof the nation’s psyche, starting at birth as a crown prince, through his years as a celebrated army officer who was propped up by many fables of enigmatic existence.

While many people have no doubt always had deep-seated reservations about him, everyone has been too willing and too ready to give Khama the benefit of doubt.

It is tragically sad that it has been him who squandered all the goodwill that the nation bestowed on him.

Literally worshipped for most of his life, once in power, Khama has not been able to stand up to scrutiny.

The unfolding BDC saga has served to confirm and strengthen what has hitherto been downplayed as biased minority public prejudices against him.

All indications are that beyond BDC there are more horror stories of ministerial corruption still to come out, stories which will, if also badly handled  once and for all kill all the enigma about the man while reinforcing the view that for all the hype, President Khama is just your regular politician.

But still the biggest upset will come when the BDP is required to show who its next generation of leaders are going to be.

From the little we have been shown so far as candidates at the next congress, things are looking pretty grim.

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