Thursday, May 30, 2024

Khama needs credibility reset

Botswana’s two biggest political parties, the BDP and UDC, are crafting manifestos to win the hearts of voters in the 2019 election. Like in most African countries, bread and butter issues and “politics of the stomach” will undoubtedly be key factors in determining the outcome of the polls. Meanwhile, politicians are already working around the clock trying to sell their agenda of revitalising the economy.

Batswana may not follow politics regularly, but they know failure when they see it. They know when the wheels are coming off. Against the backdrop of an opinion poll by Afrobarometer, a Pan-African non-partisan research network, and several others over the past few months suggesting the gloss has started to come off of Ian Khama, the President could benefit from reframing the Government and resetting the BDP’s 2019 re-election strategy. It is getting late and messy by the day but he could pull it off if he was faithful to achieving real economic reform.

Overall, the surveys show that the voters appear to be less thrilled with the BDP than they once were when Khama took over the reins of power in 2008. It is not hard to see why. Over the past few years, the President has generated dismay and disappointment ÔÇö but rarely respect. 

Over the past few months, the BDP has been stuck between a rock and a hard place and has had difficult times on the political stage. 

Although BDP stalwarts dismissed Mma Nasha’s defection as good riddance, the truth is she was quite a significant part of the BDP machinery from as far back as when she was a young woman. Mma Nasha’s address at the Umbrella for Democratic Change rally turned up the heat on Batswana to be more conscious of the current political trends and participants.

Nasha revealed some not so surprising truths about Ian Khama. Among other things, she said Khama wakes up in the morning and implements some ideas he dreamt about in the night not considering how that would affect the country. “We do not want someone who will wake up in the morning and start making their own decisions. He never takes time to look deep into issues,” she told the audience, to applause.

Such a statement from a formidable woman as Mma Nasha should really get BDP concerned that perhaps the Khama administration is not travelling on the proper rails. It is evidently clear that the current political lords from the BDP have fallen short of the economic competency rhetoric used by Khama in his leadership pitch against Boko and the UDC.

Dr. Khama’s pretense that Mma Nasha’s address at the UDC rally would not cause him to lose any sleep is simply to mislead his followers. The fact that many political adversaries, including some from his own BDP party, have crossed too many of his red lines is supposed to be a cause for concern. There is no need for President Khama to ignore reality at the expense of his party’s reputation and legitimacy. Even if some of this criticism might seem unfair, the Khama team can’t afford to ignore it.

Ugly jibes between Khama and the Opposition are not new. He has been on the receiving end of several such from senior UDC officials. But the recent one from Mma Nasha that he is an angry man whose decisions are based on emotions raised the question of how the Khama-led government can claim to have the central role in dealing with the current economic crisis when they cannot admit the current problems bedeviling the nation.

What might Khama say or do to chart a vigorous comeback for BDP leadership? 

He has to articulate a proper policy and halt the slide into chaos and irrelevancy. His diplomatic breakthrough on the Lesotho crisis proves that diplomacy and not an iron fist can surely unite the country. He could also do well to upgrade his advisers. It is likely that his advisers are misinformed about what is happening or, perhaps, the President just does not want to listen.

Shattered voter expectations and lingering suspicions are demonstrably electoral poison; the BDP experiences in the 2014 general election attest to that political reality. This is why UDC HYPERLINK “”is playing heavily on the line that Khama has abandoned his progressive principles. 

We now have a Government and Opposition with genuinely different economic policies that they’re prepared to fight an election over.

Accordingly, the President must now reset voter expectations, present a cohesive economic reform and reinvent his government if he is to turn around the fading fortunes of his party. A cohesive economic reform argument is needed from Khama to prevent UDC’s measures from getting political traction.

But then, Batswana are now looking for real solutions not political slogans.


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