Monday, July 15, 2024

Has the moment arrived for the BDP?

I had the good fortune to be watching the Hardtalk program of the BBC on Wednesday where there was an interview with a philosopher called Roberto Unger. He made the observation that democracy as practiced today changed on the basis of trauma. His suggestion was that changes in our form of government come about as a result of crisis. Recently some of our commentators suggested that there was alienation between the voter and the government. I have also had the privilege to read a few columns about branding by a certain Mr. Binns from which I have learnt a thing or two.

In Mahalapye there are rumours that in some council wards the registered BDP members on the voters roll was 3000 yet only less than 300 were able to vote in a period of 12hrs. The winner in one ward was elected by less than 50 people. These types of numbers do not need anyone to protest that there has been no election in such wards. The party leadership has no choice but to call for a re-run of the Bulela Ditswe in these wards.

In the past some BDP members left the party to form BMD. At the time I suggested that the real BDP split was in the future. I believe that it is when ordinary loyal members of the BDP are denied the right to choose a representative in Bulela Ditswe that the trauma that Rre Unger was talking about manifests itself. When even otherwise loyal BDP members are left wondering which BDP this is, the leadership of the party must wake up and do the right thing.

Effectively Bulela Ditswe has created a layer of alienation between the BDP voter and the government. How are people expected to vote for the BDP at the coming general elections when they were denied the right to choose a representative for the general elections? Should people elect the BDP even though the representative was not of their choice? I doubt if people will be keen to vote for someone who supposedly is their representative when such person won primary elections through denial of their right to vote. In the past the Central Committee could overrule the Committee of 18. This is very different from what is now happening.

There is no doubt that the BDP is a powerful brand. It is however very easy to destroy a brand. The Khama name is a brand. It would have been a disaster for the brand if Rre Tshekedi Khama had lost in the primary elections. That is why Rre Ian Khama had to go to Serowe to make sure that that was not going to happen. We effectively have a situation where Rre Ian Khama made an election to preserve the Khama brand. The question is who stood up for the BDP brand? What I am suggesting is that the BDP brand had no friend in the first batch of Bulela Ditswe and it is going to be difficult to retain the brand power going forward.

On the surface the leadership of the BDP has confidence in the resilience of the BDP brand. I however think that the conduct of Rre Ian Khama suggests that he is aware of the limitations of that resilience. A lot of people’s faith in the BDP has been shaken by what transpired in the primary elections. These people are likely to abstain from voting for the BDP in the coming general elections. In the past there was no internal contradiction between the BDP brand and its representatives. The recent primary elections have introduced a contradiction between the BDP brand and the representative. If someone can cheat to get elected, how can you trust them to listen to you once he gets into public office?

I believe 50% of the members of the BDP joined because they believed there was some economic benefit to membership. In view of the economic situation they have very little to show for their membership. Now they are even being denied the right to choose a representative. The trauma of having betrayed your ideals for economic gain that has not been realized is aggravated by the denial of an internal democratic right. I will very much like to see how BDP is going to still remain attractive to these members.

In the past it was a foregone conclusion that the BDP was going to win the general elections in 2014. It is quite obvious that there is some doubt introduced by BDP itself. How is Rre Khama going to rally the troops when all he could do was visit one constituency to ensure things go right? I am reminded of the riots that followed the murder of Segametsi in Mochudi. I could observe that if riots were to break up in Mahalapye to join those in Gaborone, Mochudi and Molepolole our security forces would not be able to contain them. The BDP has relied too much on Rre Khama to hold it together. Recent primary elections have demonstrated the danger of such reliance. Like all of us he cannot be in two places at the same time.

I have in the past thought that Rre Khama had more control over this country than any past president. He has access to modern transport and telecommunications infrastructure. The recent primary elections have demonstrated that such control is very limited even with that transport and telecommunications infrastructure. What was needed was not the facilities but a belief in fair play. Unfortunately Rre Khama was not able to ensure fair play within the BDP. The trouble for Rre Khama is that more and more evidence is emerging of his limitations and his opponents are seeing this. Sooner or later someone is going to emerge from inside the BDP who is going to challenge him.

The trouble for Rre Khama is that soon he will been seen as representing something that the BDP was established to get rid off; hereditary succession. Rre Khama has to a large extent emerged as leader on the basis of the very thing that the BDP was established to abolish. For a little while the party tolerated this contradiction. I however believe that commoners have never really given up on the liberating ideal of abolishing hereditary succession into positions of leadership.

The Watchdog column has in the past raised the question of why none of Rre Maisre’s children were at the high table? The answer is that Rre Masire is one on the founders of the BDP whose founding ideal was as stated above to abolish hereditary form of government. The absence of Rre Masire’s children must be seen in this light. I do not believe for a second that Rre Mogae does not subscribe to the BDP ideal. Chances are therefore that these two former leaders are quietly praying for a time when someone will emerge and stand up against Rre Khama by suggesting that the Khamas represent something that is contrary to the BDP ideal and is a betrayal of Sir Seretse Khama.

The bottom line is that the BDP project is incomplete without the rejection of the Khamas by the BDP. For a short while the BDP tolerated the contradiction of its ideal for purposes of survival. As more and more former leaders of the BDP get used to living as ordinary people they will harbor the desire to see adherence to the founding ideal and the greatest demonstration of this will be rejection of the Khamas by the BDP, and in my view such a situation is coming very soon. The saving grace for the Khamas is the constitutional limitation on the time that a person can serve as president.

I have in the past suggested that the BDP will not allow Rre Khama to choose his successor because he has made too many mistakes. I still hold that view. When commoners are made to question the presence of the founding ideals within the BDP then we will see what it is that Seretse has really established. The start point for commoners is the absence of democracy within the BDP. It is irrelevant that the absence is caused by other commoners who cheat at primary elections. The point is that the people will wonder whether the same would have happened under Seretse’s watch. In the past some people have questioned whether Rre Khama has the same standing as Sir Seretse Khama when it comes to preservation of the founding ideals of the party? The recent cheating in the primary elections has made it easier to answer that question and to communicate the same to the common man within the BDP.

Ordinary people can live with an unfair rule but they cannot tolerate cheating in the democratic process. Then again, long before one the big guys fell a cousin informed me that party activists in the constituency informed the big guy that they were going to cheat him in the same way that they had previously cheated his opponent allowing him to win. Activists may live comfortably with cheating but I doubt if the ordinary member can.


Read this week's paper