There is perhaps no better example of just how, from time to time, a country is called to pay an excessively high price in the name of democracy than the fact that two of the country’s most brilliant minds (Dumelang Saleshando and Gomolemo Motswaledi) will, for reasons beyond their making, be standing against each other in next year’s General Election.
The two are contenders at Gaborone Central; Saleshando under the BCP ticket with Motswaledi hoisting the BDP flag. There shall be only one winner.
The fact that, as a nation, despite our needs, we can, in the end, only have one (not two) is a particularly distressing one.
The country would be all the richer if we could have these two brilliant souls in parliament – at the same time, albeit from different benches; not least because the quality of debates in parliament has been growing in an inverse proportion in relation to the amount of resources spent on MPs.
Motswaledi is a fast rising star inside the ruling BDP and it is not an exaggeration to say that greater things await him inside that party.
In the same token, Saleshando is, by all accounts, one of the leading brains inside the BCP.
Which is why it’s all the saddest to see them square up against each other as to tear one another apart in pursuit of Gaborone Central votes.
In the last four years he has been a Member of Parliament, Saleshando has proved beyond any doubt what a competent MP he is. Even his detractors speak glowingly of his performance.
During those four years he has represented the people of Gaborone Central with a compelling determination, a fierce dedication and a breathtaking level of dignity.
During the four years that he has been a Member of Parliament, Saleshando has demonstrated a deep analytical maturity that is way above his age.
I cannot ask more from him.
It is thanks to his intellectual depth that he has effortlessly outshined the thirteen or so other opposition MPs from the rival Botswana National Front.
The BDP top leaders have never hidden their contempt for Saleshando, which is why they deliberately took it upon themselves to craftily and artificially deploy one of their most brilliant and persuasive minds (probably against his will) to cut Saleshando’s parliamentary career short.
Dislodging Saleshando from parliament may be in BDP’s interests but it certainly is not in the interests of democracy.
Dislodging Saleshando from parliament may be in BDP’s parochial interests but it certainly does not serve the multitudes of non-partisan voters.
Like Saleshando, Motswaledi is immensely gifted.
I have been lucky that on a number of occasions I have had the opportunity to interact with these two young but affably capable national politicians.
Motswaledi comes across as sharp-witted, good-humoured, likeable and immensely ambitious.
It is telling that at his age, he has already tried his hand at becoming the Secretary General of the party, a position friend and foe insist is only a heartbeat away from him.
He exudes an intellectual seriousness that is rare even among his senior peers in the party.
His mastery of languages (both Setswana and English) means that he is at ease among the chattering classes as well as ordinary Batswana in the rural areas.
A strategist with an outgoing personality, he has an elaborate grasp of politics and public policy.
While his win at the polls next year may be interpreted as a great gain for the BDP, as a detached observer, I cannot find any solace from the fact that it can only be at the expense of Dumelang Saleshando.
The biggest lesson young and aspiring politicians should learn from Dumelang and Gomolemo is that despite their towering intellects neither is handicapped by bloated senses of self importance that is so common among Botswana’s politicians.
It is also worth noting that even though circumstances above their making have pitted them against each other, at least from my private conversations with either, I have been deeply impressed by the mutual respect the two have for each other.
We know that Gomolemo had wanted to contest the Serowe North West, but stood down when the constituency was doled out to Tshekedi Khama by the party chiefs.
Perhaps there is nothing much we can do about the situation (especially given the BDP leadership’s express hatred for Saleshando who they want out for having given them a good run for their money in parliament) but this particular development remains a stark reminder of just how, if unchecked, excessively powerful party leaders can manipulate the situation to artificially serve themselves, their friends and their families at the expense of broader national interests.