Saturday, April 4, 2020

People cashed off the Khama name; the trend is gaining pace under Masisi

Generally, Batswana accept that their country is in a pretty bad shape.

Many Batswana are at the say time also resigned to the fact that there is really not much they can do about it.

This is the same feeling that carried us as we marched into elections last year.

There is a feeling of thick gloom currently draping the national mood.

The national budget has come and gone – and pretty much failed to lift that thick cloud specter of collective pessimism.

This is a big challenge to opposition parties. For them it is a blunt statement that they too are failing to rise to the challenge.

They are on a terminal decline. The end product of it all is electoral. But the causes are political – through and through.

The Alliance for Progressives is the picture image of everything that is wrong with Botswana’s opposition politics.

AP has been created on the image of its leader, Ndaba Gaolathe; squeaky clean, non-confrontational, instinctively persuasive anti-political. Ndaba is a nice guy. He is genuinely reassuring and by all measure a politician of conviction. 

He can easily be mistaken for a priest of a local parish. He spurns grandstanding, hates ‘me, me, me” politics and has time for one-on-one personal relations building. He eschews grandeur and almost to scale of a monk practices frugality.

Ndaba rejects all kinds of political mudslinging and untidy slagging.

He refuses to punch back. And time after time turns another cheek.

He is a policy tzar. And his patience is that of a missionary. But still he lost in last year’s elections. Why?

In last year’s elections people were not looking for saints. Likeability was not enough to win elections for AP. First the AP needed a big scale with which to weigh themselves and their ambitions.

The AP brand of politics would thrive in an era of low-key politics. They were playing a wrong spot on a wrong field.

Of course AP’s reading of the situation that people are fed up with politics and that people mistrust politicians and their commonplace bombast was spot on. 

AP lost not on the lack of power in their ideas, but on account of an electoral accident that had as its rallying cry a yearning to save Botswana from outsiders.

Last year’s elections were probably the most polarized in our history.

Allegiance and self-righteousness ran high.

In the end pragmatism scuppered partisanship.

The group thinking was to stop foreigners from taking over Botswana using political lackeys that they were financing locally. The Botswana Democratic Party won the election, but like the rest of us, they know so well that the tide is not with them. Their victory was the result of pragmatists coming together to keep foreign led, foreign financed usurpers at bay.

And therein came Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Masisi inherited a dysfunctional party, a dysfunctional government and a dysfunctional public service.

His task, or so we thought was to get these back on track.

When he arrived, he exuded some level of chutzpah. He could be wildly exuberant. Yet still he also showed a cautious streak in him.

He radiated hope. And there was a breath of fresh air about him.

He talked big. And had expansive confidence – even as those who had served with him in cabinet continued to brief that it was all hot air.

He radiated a warm personality about himself.

And yes, on occasion he did stumble on something that resembled a solid roadmap.

We believed with a little bit of tweaking that roadmap would with time develop into a broad vision.

He reached out and talked of replacing corruption with clean governance.

He was a leader on a pedestal, effortless in convincing people that he understood their pain.

He talked of how he wanted his government to be addicted to the rule of law.

Of course that was a mouthful.

To achieve where his predecessors failed, Masisi needs to make a total break with the previous administration’s way of doing things. He needs to be a doer.

It is clear that people are beginning to use their proximity to him to cash in.

He has to be cautious about that.

That happened a lot under Ian Khama.

We do not know whether Masisi is as yet aware of it, much less if he condones it. 

Like we say, it happened a lot under Khama, until we learnt that Khama’s much-vaunted crusade against corruption was selective and did not apply to those within his circle.

Masisi should be president of all Botswana and all Batswana.

There have been insinuations that he favours people from the south in his appointments.

This is not at all believable.

But still he has to prove that it is a wrong perception.

Inside the BDP, he has to be the leader of everybody inside the tent.

There have been fears and also insinuations that he nurses grudges, that he is petty as he entertains those that come to him with gossip and that he is a tribal and even retail politician who systematically purges and excludes those that express dissenting views.

Again nothing has been said or happened to allay those fears.

Lack of discernible progress on his promises is given him a battering.

Sometimes he talks and behaves like he is still on a honeymoon.

The truth is that he has come down to earth in many fronts.

There have been too many points of a disconnect between him and the public for him to pretend everything has been a smooth sail.

The public judgement on him has become harsher and uncharitable.

Trust, where it was always readily given, is now forever in short supply.

Masisi needs to wake up to the fact that his credibility is no longer guaranteed as it was the case before elections.

The youth wing of the BDP will be going for their congress in the near future.

An aura of grandiose innocence, or should we say foolishness surrounds the build-up.

Some contenders are openly trading in the president’s name alleging that they are his favorite for certain position.

Too many people are using the president’s name to disparage competition. 

That should be shot down as political blasphemy.

If it is not, it might prove more damaging than the recurring and for now badly handled allegations surrounding the campaign donations.

For those working to unite the BDP after such a divisive electoral season, the attempt to capture the president and the ensuing silence from him must be terribly frustrating.

Inner party congresses are by nature divisive and polarizing. But they are even more so if perception is created and allowed to become ingrained that the leader has favorites.

At another level we know there is deep unease among many Batswana watching from a distance that their president has a thinly veiled soft spot for Indians and Chinese. As with favoring people from the south, so far no evidence has been adduced.

Many Batswana are hoping that this too turns out to be false and based on prejudice.

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