Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Ponatshego Kedikilwe cannot stop the demise of the BDP

Two weeks ago, the Deputy Editor of The Sunday Standard newspaper, Spencer Mogapi, argued in his column that one of the options available to President Khama to stabilize things within the BDP is to reshuffle cabinet.

He eloquently presented the reasons why Vice President Merafhe should be sacked and replaced by Ponatshego Haleluja Kedikilwe, who is regarded by many observers as one of the smartest politicians and administrators that this country has.

I definitely agree with Mogapi that Vice President Merafhe is a spent force and that he has played a significant role in the collapse of the BDP in his capacity as the leader of the A-Team faction.
Since becoming the VP, Merafhe has stooped so low on many occasions and scored political own goals by making outrageous public statements. He addresses serious national issues in a very careless manner and does not seem to learn from his mistakes.

Even though I agree with Mogapi that Merafhe’s time in politics is up, I differ with him on the suggestion that the appointment of PHK as the Vice President can stabilize the BDP.
Let me hasten to point out that I strongly believe that as a good politician and administrator, PHK can, without any doubt, do a good job as the Vice President and even as the President of this country.

But appointing him the VP at this point in time can never be a panacea to the problems bedeviling the BDP. It will simply be a futile exercise mainly because the greatest enemy of the BDP is its constitution and the man at the helm, President Lt Gen. Khama.

A constitution that centralizes power in the hands of one person as it is the case with the BDP constitution has no place in modern politics. It is irrelevant and unhelpful to all efforts geared towards enriching democracy because it creates an environment which is conducive to tyranny; an environment where only the voice of one person can be heard; an environment where people can be dismissed from the party without paying attention to the principles of natural justice.
President Khama rightly stated at the Francistown rally that in a democratic set-up, power should rest with the people. Surprisingly, he does not see anything wrong with the BDP constitution because it gives him power to impose his will on other people.

It gives him power to appoint whoever he wants to all sub committees of the party without consulting anyone. It gives him power to renew the contracts of BDP employees without the approval of those who supervise them. It gives him power to recall any MP or disqualify people from standing for elections without giving any reason. It basically gives him power to do what he wants and he has done exactly that.

President Khama has failed to differentiate between leading the military and a political organization. It is his leadership style that many observers have commented on that is behind the impending demise of the BDP. Instead of allowing a democratic process to take its course before and after the Kanye congress, he used his constitutional powers to stifle it. The president’s intolerance of the views and opinions that are different from his is one of his main weaknesses.

It is either you are with him or with the enemy. Aligning himself with the A-team and selective application of discipline are some of the greatest mistakes that he made since joining politics.
It is against this background that I do not think PHK can succeed to turn things around as the VP. He is an intelligent and independent minded politician who I believe would not like to subject himself to abuse. His conscience will not allow him to do things that he does not agree with. Do we really expect him to publicly justify the existence of DIS or the loss of human life at the hands of security agents? Why would he want to clean the mess created by another man? Khama is bigger than life and no one in the BDP can handle him.

Former presidents have failed and we need to disabuse ourselves from the belief that he can listen to PHK.

It is public knowledge that Khama was against the reappointment of PHK and Kwelagobe to cabinet by President Mogae. Do we then expect PHK to return the favour by working hard to save the party that Khama has polarized? Remember that this is a man who had Gomolemo Motswaledi at his side when people deserted him prior to the Ghanzi congress. Surely he wouldn’t want to be the one who oversees the failure of a big national project started by Motswaledi and colleagues who strongly cherish democratic principles and ideals.

If our politicians were as principled as some politicians in mature democracies, President Khama would simply take the blame for the BDP problems and step down. But given the state of affairs in the party right now, his resignation will be disastrous. BDP will simply perish because its members cannot function without him.

Despite denials from the party’s spin doctors, it is a fact that the BDP is a one-man party. As long as Khama is at the helm, the problems will remain unresolved. But his resignation will also result in total collapse of the party. It is a dilemma that I believe cannot be resolved through a cabinet reshuffle or the appointment of PHK as the VP.

The BDP problems are beyond PHK because he cannot change the way his principal does things and he cannot advocate for a review of the party constitution because his actions will be viewed by Khama’s blind supporters as an attempt to strip the president of his powers. For Khama’s supporters, the issue of the constitution is about him and not the party or the democratic system that they claim to embrace and uphold so dearly. Jostling for positions has already started and those who lick the boots of the master harder than others will get the nod.

I honestly do not think that PHK can stoop so low and fall in this category of plebeians who seize every opportunity that they have to cheer and praise their leader for no valid reason.

*Dr Mothusi teaches Political Science & Public Admin at the University of Botswana.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.