As the BDP turns fifty, the atmosphere is by every measure significantly different from when they celebrated their fortieth birthday some ten years ago.
Ten years ago, the party was under the firm control of Daniel Kwelagobe and PHK kedikilwe.
The two have since been defeated and replaced by Ian Khama, a man who did not hold any elective position in the party at the time.
While the party has itself dramatically changed over the intervening ten years, it is the economic climate that pierces into our eyes.
We could not have imagined at the time that we were headed for the most difficult economic times of the post independence Botswana.
Our economy is off the rails and the prospects are, for now, very gloomy.
How times change!
Although the BDP is doing everything to hype the celebratory mood, the somber economic cloud hangs over everything around, spoiling what was supposed to be a merry birthday celebration.
I remember when I covered the fortieth celebrations, money was not at all an issue, least of all for the BDP.
But today, there is no money around, not even for the mighty machine.
An insider tells me that for all the fanfare, the net profit the party could make from all their fundraising efforts is not much higher than P20,000. These are hard times indeed.
If the BDP cannot even make money for such celebrations, what then for the lesser parties?
There is no better example of the extent of the economic ruin we are currently going through.
Over and above the economic difficulties, for the BDP, the last few years have been exceedingly difficult indeed, as in my opinion the party deserved all the turn of events.
Of all the difficulties, the biggest was the split, the first of its kind, which was a result of entrenched arrogance that permeated every level of the party ÔÇô from leadership right way to the bottom.
As the founder had once predicted all, the seeds of destruction came from within.
It is our hope that the split has provided BDP with a good lesson from which to draw as it prepares to start a new journey of the next fifty years.
Humility and modesty will henceforth become part of the bloodstream, there is no doubt about that.
Even as the party leader would want to hold his course, there is no doubt that the split will, until the end, haunt him, reminding him to tamper his brashness with respect for those who may not agree with him.
After the split, things will never be the same again. The myth that BDP is invincible has been busted; and for good.
The opposition may be in tatters, but the remnants of what remains in their ranks can still give the BDP a good run for its money – and the party has lots of money to run for.
After such an illustrious 50 years, what comes next for the BDP?
We celebrate with the BDP.
We want to remind them that while there is nothing wrong celebrating one’s history, it is the future that matters most. And that is where all the energies should be directed.
Unfortunately for the BDP, the future is not as rosy as it used to be.
Almost half way into his presidency, it’s still not clear who will succeed Ian Khama.
He dwarfs all those who are perceived candidates, and that cannot be good, given the difficult times we leave in.
An institution that does not plan for its future is an institution that plans for its extinction.
The biggest evil facing Botswana and indeed the ruling party has to be corruption.
As the BDP turns fifty, its leaders have to commit themselves to fighting official corruption, including by its members and its financiers.
A perception is fast holding ground that the current administration has a soft spot for corruption.
That does not augur well for the next fifty years.
An organization that was so much a source of pride, inspiration and hope in the 1960s, 1970s and, to some extent, the 1980s has all of a sudden become a laughing stock, attracting not the men and women who want to serve, but rather mascots that want to use the brand to make money for themselves.
Today’s BDP is not the same one that Seretse left behind. I doubt very much the man would recognize his creation were he to rise from the dead.
No wonder Sir Ketume Masire often comes across as a man who wishes he also had died with his friend if only to relieve himself the misery of witnessing the decline of an institution he laboured so hard to bring about.
For all their shortcomings, the BDP has taught us an important lesson, to believe in the efficacy of democracy.
That is a lesson we should carry with ourselves in the journey of the next fifty years.
We wish the BDP a happy 50 years.