Monday, July 22, 2024

Khama and Tafa have killed BDP

We supporters of the BDP will one day look back on the run up to the 2014 general elections and the resultant dismal performance as signs of the beginning of the end of our party. The disastrous showing is an outcome directly attributable to the leadership of Ian Khama. One wonders how a man so barren of professional accomplishment fascinated us to the extent that we believed he could lead a movement that had consistently achieved recognition as a best case model of how to stay in power through the democratic will of the people.

In retrospect, it was a mistake by the BDP to allow Khama to ascend to presidency. The results of the 24th October election tell the whole story; Khama is a failed party leader who should consider resigning. Ian Khama’s pre-presidential life can be summarized as, ushered into the second highest seat of the army despite unremarkable academic achievements; a cushy ‘non job’ as head of the armed forces; and a ten year career as Vice President devoid of any legislative contribution other than labelling legislators as vultures for demanding better pay.

In fact the years between 1998 and 2008 were spent preparing the state machinery and a once formidable party for his defunct presidency. Six years on and with two elections behind him, the 2014 elections reflect Ian Khama’s failure to live up to his presidential promise. When he assumed office, on the back of huge goodwill the highly touted, Khama sold the infamous 5D’s of Discipline, Dignity, Development, Democracy and Delivery. However his six years in office has been marked by a catalogue of incompetence and comical errors in the destruction of both party and country by a paranoid and vengeful leader hell bent only on upholding cronyism. The BDP needs to take blame for this situation. We were mesmerized by Khama’s entry into politics thinking his mere presence will improve the fortunes of the BDP. The man also believed he was God’s present to the party and the country. Ian Khama saw himself as a ‘Moses’ gifted with a charm offensive to part the waters and deliver fundamental changes for the good of Batswana, so much that the nation would have no option but to follow suit.

The BDP of today is so weak it cannot rise to deal with one ‘powerful’ individual who seems intent to bring the party’s days in power to an end. When did Khama ever attempt to govern? When did he ever put the effort into ending factional infighting in the BDP? He failed his first test of temperament as a leader before the 2009 congress in Kanye. Hardly a year into office and Khama had successfully split the BDP into two by openly declaring his support for Tebelelo Seretse for party chair of the BDP. While a team assembled to campaign for Daniel Kwelagobe criss-crossed the country at own expense lobbying for support, Ian Khama canvassed Botswana at tax payers’ expense to disadvantage a party stalwart he had recently dropped from Cabinet.

The outcome of the 2009 elective congress tested the self-imposed sheriff. Members of the BDP delivered their collective verdict by electing Kwelagobe to the position of party chairman and sweeping all the electable seats. Gomolemo Motswaledi emerged victorious in the race for Secretary General. The membership of the BDP left Kanye with a belief that normalcy would be restored. Unbeknownst to them the wholesale attack and purging of elected officials by Khama and his ally Parks Tafa was about to explode. Motswaledi’s innocent inquiry about his marginalization and limitation of exercising his duties quickly earned him a suspension.

The suspension was orchestrated by Parks Tafa. An attempt at intervention by the only founding father of the BDP alive was met with contempt by Ian Khama. Sir Ketumile Masire’s attempt at mediation was dismissed. Motswaledi would lose the ensuing court case on account of Ian Khama invoking presidential immunity. The already prejudiced internal legal proceedings would later dismiss Motswaledi’s appeal. The actions of the conspirators Khama and Tafa were instrumental in the formation of BMD in 2010.

Fast forward to four years later and the split has come back to haunt the BDP. Of the 17 opposition seats in the UDC coalition in parliament, 10 are held by ex BDP members who were driven from the party by Khama and Tafa. Dozens adding up to the hundreds are in various councils and thousands make up UDC membership. Just four years ago all these individuals were in the BDP. In the immediate aftermath of the formation of BMD Parks Tafa was rewarded for the ‘meritorious’ service and appointed chairman of the Electoral Board. Today no one can tell how this subcommittee of the Central Committee got elevated to the standing of an almost independent subcommittee sometimes usurping and overriding even the functions of the Secretary General.

The conflict of interest ridden appointment also saw Parks Tafa serve as both legal advisor the President and party lawyer. The highest realization of the failure of Parks Tafa came towards the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014 when the BDP held its primary elections. The man-made disasters and failures under Ian Khama extended to government through corruption and self-enrichment at the expense of citizenry. Eradicating corruption will never be accomplished so long as the chief corruptors remain in office. While the public cried for moral accountability Ian Khama insisted that his Ministers remain in office despite charges of corruption. This is something unheard of in a democratic dispensation. To his credit only Dikgakgamatso Seretse took the route so sought by the electorate and resigned when facing corruption charges. Corruption has become a favourite pastime of Khama and his friends. Our party is suffering because we are now lumped with the few corrupt elements. As BDP supporters we only watch because we are not part of that corruption and don’t benefit from it. Take the case of the Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) Isaac Kgosi.

Here is a civil servant layered with allegations of serious corruption charges yet remains in office despite authentication of the charges by the Directorate on Crime and Economic Corruption (DCEC). Angry voters punished our party because Kgosi who does not donate any of his ill gotten wealth to the BDP is allowed to act with impunity. Today the civil service watches in fury as Ian Khama and his cronies heavily intoxicate themselves in their corruption. This is a paradigm shift for a civil service that has over the years maintained shared responsibility with the political administration in delivering a conscientious mandate of the government of the day.

The civil service and trade unions do not deem this leadership fit to govern. The display of non-engagement during strife, as seen during the treatment of Masire with contempt, would again play itself out in the 2011 civil service strike. After dismissing thousands of employees, Ian Khama zapped the Attorney General’s office and outsourced legal services to Tafa, the same culprit and co-conspirator responsible for the formation of the BMD. Agitation of the civil service and the trade unions took another drastic turn in July 2011. At Mahalapye Congress President Khama instructed that a statutory instrument be modified to include teaching services, diamond sorting and veterinary services as essential services. The 2011 BDP Congress also saw the culmination of the Khama imposed compromise. Fearing an election, the Kanye perpetrators handpicked individuals to form a Central Committee. A disgruntled Kentse Rammidi expressed dissatisfaction at the non-election and discontent at the repression of internal debate in the otherwise constricted national council and congress. The biggest beneficiary from Mahalapye would be Mpho Balopi who upon Rammidi’s resignation got into the seat of Secretary General via a back door. The Mahalapye Congress was a continuation of the troubles that began in Kanye 2009.

An attempt at reviving the fortunes of the party at the 2013 congress in Maun was met with resistance by Ian Khama and Parks Tafa. The propensity of the BDP leader to impose his undemocratic will on the membership continued. Tafa deliberately trampled the BDP constitution to pave way for Samson Moyo Guma to contest as chairman. The cash laden farcical election in Maun was also characterized by openly endorsing a BDP cadre ahead of another by the divisive Ian Khama. Unfortunately for Khama and company, they had never bargained for the uncontrollable and very ambitious Moyo Guma. The resignation of Moyo Guma set the record for the shortest serving chairperson of the BDP but not before he contributed to the primary elections chaos. Parks Tafa and his Electoral Board mishandled Bulela Ditswe. Ian Khama’s favourites enjoyed free spirited campaigns even before the Central Committee gave the green light. Double standards favoured Thapelo Olopeng who campaigned well before time. Protests by the likes of Pono Moatlhodi and others against some of Khama’s favourites were dismissed without hardly a hearing.

Joseph Molefhe and Olebile Gaborone were amongst the favourites who got the benefit of re-runs without launching procedural protests. Briefly Bulela Ditswe can be summarized as a tool where personal whim and favouritism was used to provide leverage for Khama’s allies who were at risk of being trounced at the primaries. Once again the master conductor was heavily entrenched in orchestrating duty to master. How does Parks Tafa sleep? The 2014 elections point to a party that has been in chaos since 2009. Any semblance of peace was an illusion which was blown open by the general elections. Disgruntled members of the BDP and nonaligned members of public who at once had confidence in the BDP voted for the UDC. The punishment for these deserved crimes of the BDP can be placed right on the shoulders of Ian Khama and his sidekick Tafa.

The decline in popularity from 53% to 47% in a first past the post electoral system cannot be ignored. Coincidentally a 6% popularity drop resulted in 10% loss of seats by the BDP from 45 in 2009 to 37 five years later. It will therefore come as an embarrassment if the BDP can choose to focus on the number of seats in parliament something unresponsive to changes in public opinion. Opinion leading to the elections was dominated by views suggesting that President Khama ran two parallel states. When the DCEC investigates, Isaac Kgosi lives above the law. After posting the worst results ever, the same Parks Tafa responsible for the formation of BMD and the chaotic Bulela Ditswe undermines Parliamentary democracy and the office of the Attorney General by challenging standing orders in court. The goodwill and standing of Botswana has suffered grossly in the last six years. A once shining example of democracy is now an almost pariah state risking complete isolation. Electorates are adamant that President Khama’s record is very much at odds with his promise of 2008. They say today Ian Khama is full of resentment, suicidal in mission and fearful at his loss of popularity. As a supporter I have to agree with them. But even after a harsh lesson from the general elections there isn’t an inch of compromise in him. Former Speaker Dr Margaret Nasha can attest to that. He would rather ride motorbikes with Thapelo Olopeng than put up with the demands of the job of president. The six year presidential sojourn is characterized by series of public tantrums rather than demonstrating how he could bring the party and people together.

It was a journey where Ian Khama walks into a room and says, ‘I am the President and so have won the argument’. The presidency under Khama has been a disaster never before seen in the country. Ian Khama leads a limping party now vulnerable to losing power in 2019 due to widespread disillusionment with his leadership. Ian Khama has been overrated all his life and when it mattered most to deliver on the hype he led the BDP to its worst ever performance.

Is Ian Khama prepared to accept responsibility for this epic failure? Can the BDP move forward with Ian Khama and Parks Tafa still in its midst? A 6% popularity drop in five years; and renewed factionalism all raise questions about the party’s ability to survive in 2019. It is imperative that Ian Khama quickly recognizes that under his stewardship Botswana as a country and the BDP as a ruling party, respectively have been weakened and diminished. Khama must accept responsibility for the dismal performance of the BDP and step down with Tafa accompanying him.

*NB. Ntoloki Zebe are the pseudonyms of a disillusioned BDP member writing from Orapa. The Editor has agreed to protect the identity of the writer after a careful process of verifying their identity.

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