President Lt Gen Ian Khama this week tried to rally the divided Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to fight off opposition and stopped short of acknowledging that for the first time in history the ruling party faces the real prospect of losing general elections.
Addressing the BDP 55th National Council, the president spent more than half the time attacking the opposition and “the so called umbrella project” and the remainder of the time trying to re-unite the divided BDP.
Khama tottered on the brink of warning the BDP that it faced a real prospect of losing the 2019 general elections, bandying phrases like “new challenges thrown at us by the rapidly evolving political landscape” and “we are at a delicate stage and can little afford damaging divisions in the membership ranks given the crucial 2019 elections.”
He told BDP supporters that they must “remain vigilant and acknowledge that in the present circumstances, this country cannot be subjected to an experiment of opposition rule.” Khama also cautioned against “the risk Batswana will be taking by voting for the opposition. Our duty therefore as BDP is to caution our citizens that protest votes given to a clueless opposition might return to haunt them some day, albeit when it is too late…… It is the BDP that can through self-inflicted harm lose office.”
He further warned that divisions in the party wrought by Bulela Ditswe may benefit the opposition: “The unintended consequence is that those disenfranchised will either stay home or donate their votes to the opposition.”
Imploring party leaders who are vying for central committee elections, Khama stated that, “in line with the principle of consensus, the expressions of interest filed do also assist the party in exploring the possibility of finding common ground between aspirants. “We are at a delicate stage and can little afford damaging divisions in the membership ranks given the crucial 2019 elections.”
In his characteristic combative mien, Khama dispensed with his unifying father figure countenance and drew a divisive “us” and “them” line between himself and opposition followers: “we should congratulate ourselves that every single citizen of this country, including our worst detractors has benefited from the democratic dividend in various forms. We feed them, we employ them, we educate them, we provide them with water and electricity and roads and health care and many others.”
Khama also slammed the opposition for boycotting Bot 50 celebrations saying, “the good thing is that they were rejected outright by even their own supporters for their juvenile antics and deservedly so….. Opposition politicians and some of their followers should not just oppose for the purpose of opposing, otherwise it loses meaning and Batswana and people will see through their facade for what they really are opportunists who have lost their ways in pursuit of political power with nothing to offer…. Our advice to them is that, they should be aware that Batswana will harshly judge them on their everyday conduct, including their dismissive attitude towards public state ceremonies such as Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day for the rains and others.”