Monday, December 4, 2023

Headed for a train smash: How succession battles will paralyse both party and gov’t

It was only a matter of time before it happened.

From the look of things it will get worse before it gets any better.

And by the end of it all, there will be blood on the floor.

It is a result of loyalty confusion that invariably happens every time a change of guard at the top is anticipated.

Potential for things to go out of control increases when such transition is badly mismanaged as is currently the situation with President Ian Khama’s exit, which will happen early next year.

The biggest problem of it all is that the president has steadfastly refused to start phasing himself out ÔÇô from both party and government.

A control freak, he has chosen to fight the forces of nature, refusing to believe, much less accept that his lame luck period has already ascended.

Instead he has opted to increase his grip at both party and government ÔÇô creating a fluid and potentially explosive situation where everybody in party fancies their chances because there are no clearly parameters of succession.

An impression has been created and in a savagely Machiavellian way promoted by the President that no decision has as yet been made on succession.

It is a sign of our times that the orchestrator and chief cheer leader of ensuing uncertainty is the President.

In the meantime and with just over a year before incumbent president bows out, the current Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has in a figurative way been thrown to the wolves, left alone to dry and called on to fight his way to power.

As a result there is no shortage of challengers. A textbook transition can easily be taken from the way Nelson Mandela ran his Government in South Africa.

From early on it was clear that his deputy, Thabo Mbeki would eventually take the crown.

Long before he became President, Thabo Mbeki was literally in charge of Government, including playing big roles in cabinet reshuffles and indeed key strategic decisions in Government like overall economic roadmaps.

Back home, Festus Mogae too adopted an admirable role ÔÇô at least with hindsight.

He made it clear from early on that his deputy would be his successor. So dedicated was Mogae to this path that he went as far as to threaten dissolving parliament if there was any slightest resistance to his line of succession.

The opposite of that is what Africa has in Zimbabwe where a senile dictator remains firmly ensconced on the throne, sadistically watching beneath his seat as his underlings fight among themselves as they endlessly try to position themselves in anticipation of a day that he might die ÔÇô a day that incidentally with every passing year, seems nowhere close by.

Ironically, the beneficiary of Mogae’s clear-sighted succession plan was Ian Khama who in a typical African dictatorship way is today threatening to plunge the whole country into a paralysis by his self-serving obsession with power.

Masisi is not among the ruling party’s most natural politicians.

He has also in his insatiable zest to prove that he was the right guy, performed some very elemental political mistakes ÔÇô like publicly getting ahead of himself as to publicly and prematurely coronate himself without the explicit authority of the sitting emperor.

As the Americans like to say, there can only be one president at a time.

But the way he has been treated creates a terrible precedent and puts the future of the entire country at risk at a time when certainty and predictability are not only most prized but also in short supply.

For all the talk of him being a heartbeat stay away from power, Masisi is easily the most vulnerable politician this country has had in more than a generation.

And it is all a result of the man who should be his chief protector.

It may well be that by throwing his vice president to the vultures, President Khama thinks he is opening up his party to a world of choices.

The practical upshot of it all is that all restraint has been thrown out through the window.

What we are now seeing is that important matters of government and country have been left to suffer as people fight succession wars to get the most prized spot at the table.

Nonofo Molefhi, one of cabinet’s star performers wants to become the future president.

To achieve this he will have to concentrate less on his ministerial job and more on his new attempts to focus on doing political tasks that have hitherto been alien to him ÔÇô party work.

Jacob Nkate, one of the country’s foremost public officers could not spend a day longer than he was required in Tokyo where he was Botswana’s ambassador. On his hasty way back here he had to turn down a job at the United Nations because he too wants to concentrate on becoming president. The behavior of Tshekedi Khama, the president’s younger brother amounts to nothing less than a bull in a china shop.

For him, it’s anybody but Masisi. Boyce Sebetela might also be on the brink of leaving his executive job at Debswana Diamond Company where his expertise is most needed because he wants to try his luck at becoming the President of Botswana.

And the line of names has only just begun.

This is manmade chaos.

In the end there is no way the negative effects will be limited only to the ruling party.

Some of us do not care so much about the party, but sadly the country too is headed for a train smash.


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