Monday, June 5, 2023

Old tribalistic undertones that are intruding the BDP succession race should serve as red flags

It was only a matter of time that the tribalism card found its way into the succession debate that is currently raging inside the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.

Midweek I had lunch with a friend from our days at the university ÔÇô a staunch BDP supporter, who as I also later found out is an unwavering supporter of Vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi.

For most of the time during our lunch we discussed the perils of our economy.

Unemployment and the difficult business terrain dominated our discussion.

But towards the end of our lunch meeting the conversation delved more towards politics.

My friend was adamant that the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change will never take power, adding that in fact the party should not be allowed to take power.

He advanced all sorts of reasons ÔÇô some really convincing, but many of them a bit outlandish.

As we discussed the political dynamics, the topic inevitably if a bit fortuitously shifted towards evaluating each of the possible contenders for succession when the current Head of State leaves office.

It was then that my friend went off the rails.

He talked of how intellectually Vice President Masisi was head and shoulders above all his likely challengers. Along the way he said it was as a matter of fact churlish and rude for anybody inside the BDP to even talk of challenging the Vice President.

It was after I reminded my friend that the BDP rules allowed for such a challenge that my friend changed tact.

“Don’t you think it’s now time for someone from the south to become President? All Masisi’s challengers are from the north,” he said.

He added that so far the country has had four presidents, and only one of them has been from the south.

By his reasoning a further President from the north would make other people feel disempowered.

I was dumbfounded. All of a sudden I had a feeling like our conversation had all the whiffs of Nigeria about it.

It just had never crossed my mind that in this day and era we still had serious people who adduced tribalism and regionalism as a reason for leadership succession.

But there it was; brazen tribalism is alive and well!

To be fair, tribalism never died, it just went under the carpet.

While the acidic and excessively polarizing exchanges that were in the late nineties unabashedly promoted by sub-cultural organizations like SPIL (Society for the Promotion of Ikalanga Language) on the one hand and Pitso ya Batswana, on the other have largely subsumed, there is always a real danger of them coming back to the fore.

But really it should be a source of national disgrace that many of the concerns that were raised by these sub-cultural organisations which by the way ended up being popular organizations at the time were never addressed.

Credit however must go former President Festus Mogae for making some attempts.

Mogae went out of his way to risk everything including his career to fight the demons of tribalism.

The same unfortunately cannot be said about Mogae’s successor.

It is a measure of his detachment that the current President has done absolutely nothing on his part to continue where Mogae had left off in fighting the hellish fires of ethnicity and tribalism.

The Constitutional Amendments and also the reforms of the House of Chiefs were far from being satisfactory.

In fact there was nobody from either side of the insurgency emerged feeling content with such reforms.

SPIL felt that the reforms were too half-hearted and totally inadequate.

Pitso ya Batswana for their part felt that Mogae’s reforms were too drastic, too broad and all encompassing.

But such reforms were way off better than nothing.

What was needed was to continue with concerted reforms after Mogae had left.

That did not happen.

Instead we found ourselves under an administration that has behaved like tribalism and all the ethnic tensions that come from it never existed.

However much we may like to pretend otherwise, the truth of the matter is that stoking the embers of tribalism still evokes a measure of comfort for a good number of our people.

We still have a high number of our people who see nothing wrong resorting to tribal fault lines to make up for their weakness losing a public debate.

But it goes way ahead of that.

Tribalism continues to be the biggest evils of our time.

We still have mainstream political leaders who use the tribalism as a big denominator in their decisions.

We still have leaders who tribalism as reason to explain why some areas are left behind – economically and otherwise.

To beat this people at their game, what is needed is to continually make all Batswana feel that they are taken the same, regardless of their tribe or ethnicity.


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