Thursday, October 1, 2020

“Whimper the ‘Left’, triumph the ‘Right’

This is how it will work out. The present leadership of the Botswana National Front will banish the socialist left and its empathisers in Elmon Tafa, Akanyang Magama, Karlmon Mogalakwe, Joseph Kanjabanga, Nehemiah Modubule and Robert Molefhabangwe. The Botswana Democratic Party will also do the same on the left by way of ostracising its more libertarian left, among them, Botsalo Ntuane, Duke Lefhoko, Kaizer Rakhudu, Gomolemo Motswaledi, and perhaps even the old guard of, first, Daniel Kwelagobe and then Ponatshego Kedikilwe. The electoral process has already done half the job. The central committee of the Botswana National Front, effectively reduced to the triumvirate of Otsweletse Moupo, national chairperson, Bashi Sengwaketsi and publicist, Moeti Mohaswa, were able to manipulate the disciplinary processes of the organisation to fiddle with the outcome of the primary elections where Modubule, Magama, Charles Charles and Molefhabangwe emerged as the popularly selected candidates. By similar means, the president of the Botswana Democratic Party, Ian Khama, made it impossible for the newly elected secretary general of the organisation, Motswaledi, to stand in Gaborone Central to where he had escaped after he was banished from Serowe to make room for the party leader’s brother, Tshekedi. Lefhoko did not survive the primaries, despite his friendship with king maker and cabinet housekeeper, Pelonomi Venson. Lefhoko gave way to Sam Makgalemele, who should be a more obedient servant of the presidency if he must survive. Ntuane, also displaced from Nata-Gweta, benefited fortuitously from the banter of the BNF regime which stripped Molefhabangwe of his BNF candidacy, in his place planting Moses Bantsi, thereby splitting the Front vote. Bantsi was among the few ÔÇô if not the only one – who retained their central committee positions at the Molepolole special congress that undid Mogalakwe, Tafa, Magama and then vice president, Kathleen Letshabo, two winters ago. Lefhoko had been treated to a cabinet seat after he, Rakhudu and Ntuane were admonished for their defiant behaviours, perhaps because of his association with Khama’s leading consort in cabinet, Venson-Moitoi, and his Shoshong origins from where the Serowe royalty sources its legitimacy.

There is the argument that the Khama’s are kings in fact, but not in law, and they owe it to Shoshong to renew their claim to royalty. Rakhudu, originally from Serowe should also be counted among Venson Moitoi’s prot├®g├®s. He found his way into cabinet when assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Guma Moyo, fell out of favour and Baledzi Gaolathe needed support when he was in ill health. That leaves Ntuane on the fringes of the Domkrag left in Parliament where he will have to rely on the quiet support of the deacons of what the BDP refers to as the ‘Barata-Phathi’, Kwelagobe and Kedikilwe. The Barata Phathi consider themselves the custodians of the Domkrag traditions, the party constitution and the universal democratic ideals purportedly established by founding party President, Seretse Khama, also Ian’s father. They will not be celebrating the invitation of Ian Khama from the BDF straight into the highest decision making organs of the party, seemingly overstepping party seniority and protocol. The A-Team, ironically, is believed to enjoy the support of the Khama consortium, generally going along with his establishment of the Directorate of Intelligence Services and stringent application of traffic and entertainment industry laws that limit liquor trade hours, also increasing road fines. The DIS is widely regarded as a threat to civil liberties having also played a part in the killing of John Kalafatis at a bar.

The A-Team also supports the Media Practitioners Act that allowed the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology interference in trade union matters of the press and media regulatory bodies whilst also nursing the multi-million Pula operation at the state media including two radio stations, Btv, Daily News, BOPA, Government Printers and others.

Modubule was deposed as parliamentary candidate for the Botswana National Front in Lobatse. He stood as an independent and won. He will be the lone independent candidate ever to be elected to Parliament, sitting next to six of his former party mates. All of them are of the rural ilk, doing politics far away from the mischief that returned the capital city constituencies to their adversaries at the BDP. The suspicion that the ruling triumvirate at the BNF might have connived to serve the urban constituencies to the BDP on a silver platter rather than leave them in the hands of Magama and Molefhabangwe is a hot subject on the popular grapevine.

Some, celebrating at the BDP rallies, held up placards that read ‘Thank You, Moupo’. Modubule, like Ntuane, will be on the fringes of the opposition left, holding the balance between their collective vote, and cooperation with the BDP liberal left. He will play a significant role in deciding the Leader of the Opposition. The effective decimation of the ‘Left’ at the BNF, and its taming at the BDP ÔÇô they were not as foolhardy as to compromise the chances of Ntuane and Rakhudu winning at Gaborone West South and Gaborone North – creates the conditions for even more lively cooperation between the conservative groupings of the BNF and the BDP, most likely, at the expense of the newly invigorated Botswana Congress Party which multiplied its representation in Parliament by five. This effectively shifts the politics of the country to the right; towards chiefs, the army and secret police, large farmers, State House, Serowe and towards deepening of the traditional role of the British and Americans in the determination of development strategies of the government.

Botswana’s foreign policy, crafted in the mould of the old Bush administration’s phobia for imagined Arab terrorists on the African continent and in Asia, will drift further away from cooperation inside the Southern African Development Community and the African Union, towards bilateral cooperation with Europe and America. That style of foreign policy will render Botswana a vassal state of the British and US armies and intelligence services where the DIS and State House source their lethal toys for safekeeping at the Botswana Defence Force. That means that Botswana will not benefit from the regional ‘peace dividend’ which should relieve the government of continued disproportionate spending on the army and so-called intelligence services at the expense of the education and health sectors. Fiddling with education, giving the excuse of the international recession, accounts in part for Jacob Nkate’s political demise at Ngami. Moupo had himself been beaten in the primaries by an ordinary member at Gaborone West North. He inherited the constituency, which he was given by the very left he now hounds, after the death of Paul Rantao and after his failure to persuade the Phikwe community to support his bid for Parliament. He had no personal investment in BNF success at the polls, unless it should be considered that it was his deliberate intent to achieve the present outcome. Only the leader’s resignation, though most unlikely, will indicate whether Moupo takes personal responsibility for the disastrous performance of the BNF, even if the rural community saved the organisation from total obliteration in Parliament. In the long term, that is neither here nor there. Every indicator points to the fact that the BNF had long reached its zenith at the point where it rid itself of Kenneth Koma six or seven years ago, for precisely the same behaviours now exhibited by the reigning triumvirate; ruling by cult, intolerance for dissent and a naive claim to a monopoly of intellectual excellence. Everything he had planned for it had been done and completed. That is, in his own words: ‘to develop a mass consciousness about people’s rights in a social democracy’. He was troubled by the name BNF, originally intended to have been the Botswana United Front which failed when the Botswana Peoples Party and the Independence Party would not agree to a proper ‘Front’ believing Koma to be a communist and a manipulator of things.

It then took on the personality of the regular mass party which he called the Botswana National Front Party, designing for it a ‘minimum programme’ even though there was no maximum programme owned by any active and coherent political grouping. Koma, perhaps confident that the BNF propagandists were able to deliver the election in the shades of the freedom square, distrusted their ability to govern, making no secret of the fact that he would look to Gaositwe Chiepe and Gaolese Koma to make a cabinet should the organisation, by some fluke, win. Since his passing, there seemed little option but the acceleration of the process of the disintegration of this artificial grouping of divergent and often antagonistic interests. The BCP grew. The NDF sprouted and was embraced by the BCP. Ephraim Setshwaelo ultimately achieved BAM in the hope that the BNF would cooperate.

He found otherwise. This crew is as representative of the BNF mainstream as they come, minus the brash egocentricism of the leaders and careless management of both ideology and funds. In the 2004 general election, the number of workers in the country exceeded the number of voters who turned up at the polls. That suggests that the workers of Botswana form the largest portion of eligible voters. The workers ÔÇô in the proletarian sense ÔÇôthrough their trade unions, command the numbers and the money to finance an alternative ideological agenda of the ‘Left’. They lack a genuine political party with the required resolve, organisation and ideological discipline to impose their agenda on state power. It is perhaps time that the working class took advantage of the gaping void in leftist politics to contemplate and found a political party that will translate their agenda into a political programme. After all, they are the majority.


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