Saturday, September 19, 2020

Primary elections could yet bring renewed bloodshed on the BDP

There is an air of assurance and accomplishment within BDP circles.

It is a feeling that the opposition has been defeated and that, after a tempestuous period occasioned by the party’s first split in its 50-year history, there is, at long last, some semblance of unity.

The feel-good attitude is not altogether unfounded.

With opposition on its knees, the BDP can be forgiven for its long running sigh of relief.

The last four years have not been easy ÔÇô not for the party and certainly not for the leader.
After four difficult years, they can afford to feel like a viable party once again.

Not only is confidence back, it now dwarfs the heights of the pre-split era.
The party mascots who for sometime had gone underground are back.
Once again it is their season and they are regrouping.

Like the communist commissars of a long gone age they want to control not just our thinking but our very way of life, the same way they used to before their similar actions split their party into two.
But in politics, as in real life, such feelings of reassuring vitality can turn out to be as deceiving as they are short-lived.

BDP structural defects remain in place ÔÇô by and large, not least because there actually have never been any attempts to correct them. Instead of confronting its demons after the split, the party only glossed over them, in a shamelessly cosmetic fashion.

What is now misleadingly interpreted as a reformed BDP is actually an outcome of a strategy to dangle the carrot at many indebted opposition politicians, especially councillors who, for the last few months, have camped at the BDP doorway, literally begging to be allowed in with hope that once inside their finance problems will be solved.

To be fair to them, the BDP today is in much better territory than was the case say two years ago.
But in the main it is more a case of opposition parties losing momentum than BDP gaining it.

There is no questioning the fact that President Ian Khama has defeated all his adversaries.

Not only does he call the shots inside the party, he also is regarded as a rain maker.
For party activists, administrators and strategists there is nothing that cannot come the way of the party if prayers are said in Khama’s name.

But party activists should be careful for their joy could yet be short-lived.
The primary elections season is coming, and along with it there may come bloodshed.
It has happened in the past.

In fact, the split which brought about the Botswana Movement for Democracy could, in a very explicit way, be traced back to the primary election season that preceded the 2009 elections.
As is to be expected, elections brought too many grievances and with those many unhappy people too.
Instead of the party putting in place conflict resolution structures, it resorted to dismissing all complaints out of hand.

And thus was born a groundswell of discontent, an army of the aggrieved which sought to rally against the unfairness of leadership. It mattered very little to this lot whether the perceptions they had formed about the leadership were true or false.

The unity that that currently resides inside the BDP is actually a veneer.
Unlike in the past, the leader has become more flexible, trying very hard to please everybody and even harder to be everything to everyone.

But will that frontage hold during the divisive and polarizing primary election season?
I do not think so.

Primary elections aside, the party elective congress due next year is already promising fireworks.
A compromise model, which the party is currently running on, was always going to be a stopgap, only useful for as long as it was acknowledged to be a time-buying tool that it always was.
Beyond that it can prove devastatingly counterproductive.

What Khama needs to learn is that you cannot forever suppress people’s individual ambitions on account of vague pronouncements of patriotism.

Sooner or later people want to assert themselves and make known what they aspire to do with their lives.

Which is exactly what former BDP Secretary General, Jacob Nkate, is doing when he wants to make a comeback into party leadership.

  Primary election season will prove a challenge to the BDP.

It will once again reveal what people’s perceptions of the BDP are.

Many people stick with this party not because they agree with it, much less like its policies.
 The sooner the BDP starts to look at itself as an employment bureau (for that is all it really is) the better it is for all involved in the project.

Many remain inside the party or closer to it because they rightly interpret it as a honey-pot that dispenses jobs, patronage, contracts, tenders and all sorts of largesse.

Hotbeds are drawn to it because it gives them not just a sense of purpose but also a sense of belonging they are unable to locate in their anywhere lives.

Business people are all too happy to be associated with it because they view the party as a kind political insurance cover. They make donations, which, in real sense, are protection fees.
And primary elections will, not for the first time, prove to all of us why people decide to belong to this party.

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