Saturday, September 23, 2023

Khama would have made an excellent trade negotiator

In deploying General Ian Khama to the Office of the President on April 1, 2008, President Festus Mogae did Botswana a great disservice because the latter should have taken up post a little farther ÔÇô the Ministry of Trade and Commerce as it then was.

First World nations take trade negotiations so seriously that they bring whole armies of experts when they undertake World Trade Organisation processes. The result is that Third World nations are routinely overwhelmed, completely outclassed and end up with lousy deals. Had an asset called General Khama undertaken periodic sorties to WTO talks, the outcome would have been different. Khama is one of the richest people in Africa – with real possibility of being the richest. However, the extent of his persuasion powers is such that he has somehow convinced legions of his fans that he is actually an ordinary man with little to his name.

In the 10 years that he was president, Khama achieved nothing and actually reversed some of the gains made by his predecessors. However, he has been able to convince his supporters, not just in Botswana but as far afield as Kenya, that he did a lot. Some of his supposed achievements include the constituency tournament (which contravened FIFA’s rules and in some cases, money won from it led to binge-drinking); the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development  (which the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis says depleted the soil of nutrients on account of persistent non-rotation of crops); the alcohol levy (which adversely affected the economy and precipitated the current drug problem among urban youth); and Economic Stimulus Package (an illegal jobs-for-the-boys scheme which the Leader of the Opposition said was designed to “loot” the national treasury).

Khama told members of the Botswana Democratic Party that he was stepping down as party leader. As a whole, the party (including members of the dissident Barata Party faction) threw him a farewell party at which he was lavished with farewell presents. Someone recently posted the picture of an invitation card to this particular party on social media. Despite this, Khama has been able to use his persuasive powers to convince people that he never actually resigned as BDP leader. As the year closes, there is now before the High Court, a case in which a party member is making that same assertion. Many more members have come out in support of Khama. This legal campaign is seen as an effort by Khama to return to power via proxies who have coalesced around a BDP dissident group (founded by him) called New Jerusalem.

After 20 years of serving as Serowe South MP, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, was ready to retire and didn’t seek re-election. At 68 years, it really was time to go home (Serowe) and rest. On Wednesday, Venson-Moitoi announced that she wouldn’t be retiring after all and next year, plans to challenge President Mokgweetsi Masisi for the leadership of the BDP. Following New Jerusalem’s formation, De Beers CEO, Neo Moroka, was touted as faction leader who would challenge Masisi but he has distanced himself from the faction. Tati West MP, Guma Moyo, was mentioned as a potential leader but if he was ever seriously considered for the position, Venson-Moitoi evidently beat him to it. Once more, Khama has been able to convince a 68-year old woman whose body told her it was time to rest that her body is actually lying to her, that she can still put in 10 more years of service to New Jerusalem.

It is easy to predict what will happen next. Khama will convince President Venson-Moitoi that no one is better suited to be her vice president and successor than his own brother, Tshekedi Khama. He will convince her that any anti-corruption crusade (like the one Masisi has embarked on, which might ensnare Seleka Springs, a company owned by the Khama family) is unnecessary and that electronic voting is a million times better than manual voting. Khama will convince Venson-Moitoi to repurpose the ship of state into an exclusive-barracks-bar karaoke machine on which a parade of the most musically ungifted soldiers will take turns boisterously singing out of tune and messing up lyrics clearly displayed on the video screen. Nowhere in the world has a karaoke-ised government produced a hit song – thus it is fated that Venson-Moitoi’s administration will not put anything on both domestic and international music charts.

Such outcome notwithstanding, one can’t help but marvel at persuasive powers that cause one’s eyes to see not red but sky-blue when blood gushes out of a gaping wound.


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