Sunday, June 16, 2024

Policy inconsistencies over specially nominated councilors expose deep seated panic

Some years ago, the then Member of Parliament for Mmadinare, PHK Kedikilwe came up with a motion that sought to abolish the dispensation that allows the nomination of Specially Elected Councilors. The motion failed to pass but not before as an insider the veteran politician and former Chairman of the ruling party had taken the nation into confidence on the true costs of this practice to Botswana’s liberal democracy Kedikilwe had watched from a close range how the dispensation was being manipulated to fight internal political battles along factional lines inside the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.

Inside the BDP, Councilors hold what amounts to ex-officio portfolios at party constituency levels. This allows them front row privileges that include a voting right at the party’s elective congresses. With over a hundred of them countrywide, specially nominated councilors constitute a formidable pedestal that allows those appointing them a significant shot in the arm against all contenders for control of the party. It is an unfair advantage that has always bred internal resentment and antipathy. To be sure, Kedikilwe’s motion was not entirely on account of altruism. Specially nominated councilors had largely been responsible for his defeat against Ian Khama when the two locked horns for position of BDP Chairman in 2001 at Ghanzi.

While Kedikilwe’s motion was defeated lessons were clearly learnt as over the subsequent years, the BDP exhibited some caution and restraint in its use of specially nominated councilors as a political weapon of choice. That restraint included offering the opposition a sizeable fair of the electoral spoils by allowing them a fair size of special nominated councilors. That caution was this time around thrown out through the window when last week the nation watched in bewilderment as the Minister of Local Government unashamedly resorted to dark age practice of using the dispensation to reassert the ruling party’s lost ground at the polls. As was the case before Kedikilwe’s defeated notion, the dispensation is once again being used to breathe life back into BDP including rehabilitating members that had long failed in politics. Former Minister of State Olifant Mfa has been extended this lifeline to reinvent himself. The dispensation is also being used to keep under the loop people like Reggie Reatile who defected from the opposition to the BDP.

Reatile was rejected by the voters at the polls. The list for largesse is especially longer where the system is being deployed as a lifeboat to economically rescue BDP followers who like the rest of us are simply finding it exceedingly tough to make ends meet. The unmistakable loss of ground in the recent General Elections which the politically draped intelligence services could neither foretell nor forestall has left many in the ruling party leadership asking themselves many questions for which there are no satisfactory answers. That loss of ground has left the party with no choice but to go back on some of the liberalist reforms that the BDP had started to implement, if halfheartedly which included sharing nominated councilors proportionally among parties, based on performance at the polls. The party is using specially nominated dispensation to prop itself up. Paranoia, always a part of their existence, has now reached debilitating levels.

On the one hand President Ian Khama says he wants to work with the Leader of Opposition, Duma Boko.

On the other, he would not allow Boko’s party a chance to even produce a Deputy Speaker of Parliament from within its ranks much less acknowledge Boko’s party by equitably sharing with it the nominated councilors. The nomination of Specially Elected Councilors has always been a foundation stone of a contested territory.

This year it is being use against Boko and his party. We should not cry because next year it will be used to settle BDP infighting at the party’s elective congress. This has cemented an absence of good faith on a President who says one thing only to do the opposite. It is a contradiction in terms. Under pressure from all sides on account of an opposition that has all of a sudden discovered its compass, the BDP allegiance will in the fullness of time move away from running the country and closer to fighting for survival. For now they are trying to use the nominated councilors to stop the forces of nature. It will not work. According to a research carried out by Afrobarometer, 53% of urban residents do not agree with the current system of specially nominated councilors whilst 45% say the system should be retained. 55% of those in rural areas do not support the system against 40% who agree with it.

“Men are more assertive about rejection of the system as 55% say so, compared to 50% of women who equally reject special nomination by the Minister.

The system is most disliked by those close to the opposition political parties, as 65% either agree or agree strongly that the system should be abolished whilst 33% support its retention. Within those identifying with the ruling party, one in five (50%) believe the system works well whilst 44% say it should be done away with. This is not surprising to find that the system finds favour within the ruling party as it is used to reward its activists.” We may rail against the BDP for their brazen unfairness. We need not worry because from the above statistics, the party is fighting a losing battle. Specially nominated councillors may postpone the death of the establishment, but only to a point. Beyond that point priorities will naturally shift towards saving the party rather dividing the ill-gotten spoils between its most undeserving members.

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