Sunday, September 27, 2020

Khama has to be seen to be fair to all inside the BDP!

Recent reports on statements attributed to Ian Khama during his trip to Nata in the Sebina/Gweta constituency go a long way to prove that almost ten years into politics, the man is still miles off before he fully grasps even the most elementary principles of the craft.

But time is not on his side.

In just over twelve months, he will be a head of state.

And he better show as early as now that he is prepared for the task.

Sadly, he comes across as someone who has already made up their mind that there is a certain wing of the BDP he will never embrace.

A reluctant president though he will be, still there are rules of engagement from which even a man of his soaring popularity will not be exempt.

From his statements, Khama does not seem to be in a hurry to learn the lessons of compromise and flexibility.

Rigidity and unfairness could be terribly suicidal for him as a politician and ultimately to those bent on manipulating his name and popularity for personal gain.

Sadder still, he comes across as a person who has lent all his faith in a certain small crowd in the party, outside of which he sees nobody else trustworthy enough to do political business with.

The fact of the matter is that Ian Khama’s tight and small circle of trusted friends has to crumble down and make way for genuine advisors with robust backbones and will to give him honest counsel.

He has to reach to more people including to those he perceives as enemies; the same way his father did.

While the tiny wall of close friends could have worked well for him while he remained a military man and now Vice President, that strategy can very easily become a recipe for isolation and political loneliness once he becomes the first man at the top.

Because of his inexperience in the fields of economics, finance and public administration he is going to need a much stronger cabinet than the one Mogae has chosen.

Early signs are however not so encouraging.
Inexperienced as he is in international politics and trade, he has little option but to reach out, including to critics.

A novice in many aspects, especially when compared to Mogae, Ian Khama is going to have to encourage dissonance and truth telling as part of a strategy to get more information for himself from those surrounding him.

He certainly is going to need a much more robust team to support himself than Mogae ever did.

There is a strong perception doing rounds that Khama is abnormally cautious of outsiders as to be paranoid. If that is true, then he is in big trouble.

He has a duty to dispel such perceptions of himself.
Khama’s level of indifference to his critics, the media and imagined rivals within his BDP borders on a deep seated denial that could in the end do him more damage than good.

His deep distrust of people outside his close knit circle of friends can easily be interpreted as paranoia.

And that does not bode well for a man who has allowed himself to be the sole embodiment of the nation’s hopes and aspirations.

Things may seem easy now because he remains unaccountable – not even to his supposed supervisor Festus Mogae. Things are going to change.

Ten years as a head of state is a very long time.

During that time as president he inevitably, going to experience turbulent times and the caliber of people closest to him will matter a great deal on how he overcomes those hard times.

Loyalty and trust, two items which are said to determine his personal relations, will be critical but still he will have to move towards identifying, recognizing and rewarding talent, experience and ability.

He can only do that if he changes his current discourse and becomes more inclusive.

He has to acknowledge that the people he likes most, his inner circle, the people he is most at ease with are not the best or most sophisticated to help him run a country especially in the face of unrealistic expectations he has allowed to swell around his name; expectations from which he has immensely and often unfairly profited as a politician.

Maintaining that small group to the exclusion of a thoroughbred advisors will only fast-track the arrival of troublesome truth which, when it comes to bear, will only expose the true limits of his abilities.

To be honest, ten years on as Vice President Khama has not set himself apart as particularly excellent in any aspect of governance.

Even his large army of unthinking admirers privately concedes to this.

Recent reports that Khama could have been clandestinely campaigning for junior minister Oliphant Mfa against Botsalo Ntuane are not encouraging.

They are a sign that the man is not prepared to change his mind to perceived enemies in any substantial way.

To be honest with him he is going to need more people of Ntuane’s intellect in his cabinet than those relying on emotion and sentimentality than Mfa.

Leaving all the independent thinkers outside of his inner circle will not only swell the ranks of malcontents, but will also deny him the opportunity to get honest and hard advice.

As president he is going to have to make concessions even to his critics and rivals.

He has to appreciate the simpler fact that politics is different from military operations.

He has to appreciate the simple fact that he cannot run a whole country like he used to run the BDF.

More importantly, he has to prepare his army of unthinking followers that he has limitations, and that there are certain expectations that they hold very dear that will inevitably be disappointed.

He has to surround himself with people with far greater experience and capabilities than himself.

But first he has to accept the fact that his huge popularity could actually become his undoing especially if during his tenure as President he is found not to be living up to the expectations he has used as a ladder up his carrier.

Such popularity could very easily deteriorate into disenchantment and eventual disillusionment against him.

Finally he has to find a way to reconcile himself to other Members of Parliament.

Khama’s contemptuous disdain for other members of parliament bungle whatever little chances he has of getting sympathy from that quarter. And he may live to rue the fact that he never made any effort to court this very important arm of state.

He is going to have to make tough choices and compromises. The best time to prepare is now.
And he can only do it if he is perceived to all be fair to those he leads from inside the ruling party


Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.