Thursday, March 4, 2021

Mathokgwane’s Resignation: Lessons for the UDC

The past few weeks has been a tumultuous one for the UDC. The party, for instance, was thrown into confusion by the sudden resignation of James Mathokgwane, who was its parliamentary representative for Goodhope-Mabule Constituency. To date, the intention of his resignation still remains a secret. However secretive the move was, it also offers valuable lessons for opposition parties in terms of how to prepare for 2019 general elections.

This instalment, therefore, discusses James sudden resignation from the party. It also, importantly, draws lessons from his resignation.

James was not just an ordinary politician. He was a firebrand. I still remember his display in one of the political rallies in preparation for the 2014 general elections. He was on his elements. The ruling BDP was the main target and he did not disappoint. The highlight of his speech was an interesting story about a healthy bull dog and a fox. We were informed about how one day out of the blues a skinny looking fox came across a bull dog.

Obviously, the bull dog was now a domesticated animal. It displayed all the signs of good life ÔÇô smooth and supple skin, glossy coat without dandruff or any areas of baldness, and with no signs of parasites. It also had bright eyes and a cold moist nose. On the other hand, the fox was showing signs of hardship: disturbing signs of low weight ÔÇô identifiable by prominent ribs, a bloated abdomen, general boniness, and a high tuck-up. It also had issues dealing with sores and general poor hygiene. Ene ele ene tota phokojwe odithetsenyana!

In his own words, James told those in attendance how Mr fox was impressed by the healthy bull dog. He wanted to know exactly what kept the bull dog in a such great shape. The bull dog’s response was simple but instructive, “you see these walls in which I leave everything is provided for me. I don’t have to look for food or water; it is provided anytime I want it without fail.” He continued, “I also get medical attention whenever I show signs of discomfort. I rarely get sick, mind you.” But there was a catch, according to the bull dog, “I am expected to be on these chains day and night.” Upon hearing that Mr Fox immediately hit the highway to the bundus.

Expectedly, he made a nice parting shot, “I would rather be a skinny fox instead of a healthy one who has lost his soul.” Freedom or independence was a virtue valued so much by Mr Fox. He went back into the Hobbesian state of nature where life remains nasty, brutish and short. He wanted to be a Fox, not something else. Such is a proud Fox that cannot be easily bought by material things!

When the news of James resignation started to gain momentum, I immediately remembered Mr Fox and the Bull Dog story. I wanted to know what has become of James the fox. Initial news suggested that he had personal problems, which forced him to resign. But no one wanted to tell exactly what those personal issues were, including his party. I found it unusual, especially from the James I thought I knew that he could disappear into the night without leaving a hint. In no time, another lead developed. James was joining SPEDU in the sulphuric contaminated town of Selibe Phikwe. When I thought that was it, the public would later be told a different story:

James had left the MP responsibility because of ill health, but he would be starting on a new job, strange enough, at SPEDU! I am definitely sure that I am not the only one who witnessed within a short space of time a fox losing its soul. It had opted for opulence at the expense of the masses. It wanted a secure future. And what of the masses that pinned its last hope on him meant nothing at that moment and into the future. A friend of mine would call later that day to inform me that of all opposition MPs, James would have been the last pick on his part if he was asked to select the one he thought would betray his people first. But such is life. It is usually those least expected to go that in actual fact embark on a perilous journey at the first call.

What the UDC now needs to know is that James has gone. His departure carries with it significant lessons for the movement in particular, and the opposition in general. First, the wounded BDP is going to come after them in a brutal fashion. Yes, the 2014 results created huge challenges for those in charge of the republic. They were, for the first time in the history of this semi-arid place, given a run for their money by a broke opposition. Obviously, it is not a nice thing to lose a psychological advantage over your opponents. And 2014 results were clear: BDP was no more an invisible brand. The ruling party was just vulnerable like any other political party under the sun. But, secondly, dominant parties do not just go away easily. This is what the opposition, especially the UDC should guard against. They should prepare themselves for a long, brutal and taxing battle with the ruling party. Along the way, they would lose some of their leaders. It’s part of the game. And, importantly, they need to act strategically to match the BDP in the long battle until 2019. At the moment, the UDC appears to be in peace time while its opponent has declared war in any way possible, legal or otherwise. The UDC leadership should be awake to these realities.

As the Germans would have it: opposition parties don’t win elections, ruling parties lose elections. So long as the BDP is unable to resolve current water and electricity crisis, declining education standards, create job opportunities and fight corruption and mismanagement its stay in power, like anywhere in the world, is bound to come to an abrupt end like the fox that was James.

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