Sunday, September 20, 2020

Maybe we should give Ian Khama a chance after all

It is now a fait accompli.
Ian Khama is Festus Mogae?s inevitable successor.
With still over twelve months to go, Khama?s coming presidency is already determining the parameters of political debate.

Inside every bar, inside every restaurant and under every tree, the conversation always veers to Khama?s coming presidency.

It is a conversation fraught with excitement and apprehension.

The political market is already bracing and preparing itself for something new, yet they do not know what is in store for them.

Without realizing it, a large section of the population is already bracing themselves for a long stay under Khama?s leadership.

Not only are they bored with current politics, they are also fed up with the way the BDP has been conducting business.

What is certain is that people want change.
The trouble is that beyond the BDP, there is no alternative, for the opposition has reduced themselves into clowns.

In the meantime, no one knows for sure what is coming their way.

It is all a result of Khama?s deliberate strategy to remain a closed book.

Khama is largely unknown, including inside the BDP executive.

Nobody, including those who profess to be his associates, knows for sure his political identity.
None knows for sure what the crown prince really believes in (if there is anything at all.)

To his detractors, and there are many, Khama comes across as a man in self doubt, too careful not to say anything in public lest he exposed his naivety and ignorance early on in his journey.

To them, he keeps quiet because he is not sure he has what it will take to make it on the big stage, especially once freed from the shadows of experienced public officers like Festus Mogae.

To admirers, and there are plenty of them as well, he is a BDP secret weapon who will unleash the country?s full potential.

But that is all beside the point.

The fact of the matter is that people are, despite his suspected weaknesses, willing to risk their future on him and give him a chance.

He has to offer something in return.

It is time Khama went public with his stance on policy issues.

Its time he provided the public with a template of his stance on economics, a template of his views on public spending, and his general outlook on such key policy issues like health and education.

Since arriving into the political map, Khama has never said anything memorable, except once when he called everyone inside parliament except himself a vulture.

His silence has created an aura of mysticism and he has thrived on it.

Keeping quiet, including snubbing and spurning parliament, has up to now worked miracles for Ian Khama.

It has saved him the burden and public humiliation of having to spar with barefaced hecklers like Dumelang Saleshando of the BCP.

The strategy has generated an illusion of patience and importance about the man.

But it has now run out of steam.

That strategy is no longer an electoral asset it used to be; not for him and certainly not for the tired old BDP.

In fact, the strategy of cautiousness no longer makes sense especially because, more than ever before, there is a sense of political coherence now prevailing inside the ruling party, all a result of a cabinet reshuffle effected a month ago.

For those reasons, the Vice President has to wake up to the horrible truth that the nation can no monger wait on him to deliver his personal political identity.

He has to wake up to the fact that he has over expended the political utility of his caution and aloofness.

For far too long, he has remained detached from the rigors that go with the importance and gravity of his office; only occasionally chipping in to play victim when accused of coldness.

He has to assume the centre stage.

People are getting impatient with him.

That impatience can easily degenerate into disenchantment and disillusionment on the part of his supporters, many of whom, up to now, have paid him unthinking allegiance.

The starting point is that the VP has to reach out beyond his inner circle.

For far too long he has allowed opportunists to play on his unfounded fears.

He has to outgrow his innate fears that border on paranoia, especially because opportunists inside his party have been playing on them so as to alienate him from the mainstream section of the party.

With his position as next president now conclusively secure, it is time he changed his story line and broadened his circle.

With the opposition now in disarray, Ian Khama has to radically change his discourse and embrace a wider set of opinions in preparation for his presidency.

It is true he has at times been savagely demonized, but overall politics has been generously kind to him as a person.

The Presidency, however, is not going to be a joyride.

He is going to make tough decisions, at times against the liking of his closest friends and associates.

And what better way to prepare for those cold moments than enlarging the pool of confidantes as early as now.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.