President Khama has, again, acted alone. He has severed diplomatic relations with Libya. We are aware that he feels outraged, and he is fully justified in feeling so for we all do, at Gadhafi’s murderous response to the peaceful protest of the people of Libya. The President’s dramatic response, while understandable, would be praiseworthy had it been in consultation and in common with his SADC colleagues. That he is, as is usual of him, the sole actor, detracts from what might otherwise be attractive merit in his reaction.
This tendency to have the best and right answer all the time reflects on his colleagues in the region. A little modesty in accepting that he needs to hear from others in the region similarly placed in relation to the appropriate and most effective reaction would serve him and our country better. After all, a response which does not deter Gadhafi and help the Libyan people is useless, unless of course the President does not care to help the Libyan people and he is being self-indulgent. That leaders of other countries in the world, including the western countries which he is ever anxious to impress, have not reacted as he has done, preferring to take measures which will so pressure Gadhafi he is likely to stop his murderous rampage, should tell the President that perhaps his response is not the appropriate one.
We are certain that the President will say that he was shocked by Gadhafi’s actions because they are anti-democratic, for they are calculated to terrorize the Libyan people into submission. The President never misses an opportunity to rhetorize on the importance of democratic action always, and his condemnation of dictatorial African leaders is unrestrained. But charity should begin at home, and with him it does not. He will not allow his Party to go to elections to elect its Central Committee, preferring what his Party styles “compromise”, ostensibly because he feels that democratic elections engender divisions. While this is so given the level of development of our politics, his true reason is that this is the only way in which he can have in the Central Committee of his Party only the people he wants, and eliminate all the ones he does not want. And we know what kind of people he wants in leadership positions on offer by his Party.
“Compromise” is inherently anti-democratic and undemocratic. It denies the members of his Party from offering themselves for election and competing with others for positions. It also denies the members of his Party from choosing their own leaders. Nothing could be more anti-democratic and undemocratic. I think political leaders, ruling Party and opposition, must realize that the expedient of “compromise” fixes elections and usually results in holders of positions being those preferred by the leadership and avoids those who are not. It aggrieves those who disagree, who may well include the silent majority.
Because of this simmering discontent which, in the medium to long term generates instability, the cost of “compromise” is far greater than its benefits. Often the response by authority in the Party is to seek to discipline their unhappy members. Orange then leaves Red; the brightness goes and the darkness remains. The BMD happens and Domkrag fades. I know our leaders have the best of intentions, but they must seek to find lasting solutions in the place of short term ones which, in time, create more problems than a democratic election would have done. Democracy has its burdens, but its benefits by far exceed its cost, and we need to learn to deal with those burdens without undermining democracy and its essentials. True leadership confronts rather than compromises the ideal in order to void its challenges. After all, the problems are not formidable, and are to be found in the primary election systems that political parties implement.
For the most part, although not invariably as some individuals are bad losers, flawed primary election systems and their poor management leave losers and their supporters aggrieved, and this disinclines them to accept the results, thereby engendering instability. Making the systems optimally fair and managing them should go some way in minimizing occasion for discontentment. Whatever the problems and their nature, nothing justifies avoiding them by fixing elections, denying aspirant candidates the opportunity to offer themselves, denying members the right to vote for their preferred candidates, thereby effectively allowing leaders to fill elective positions by implementing the notorious “compromise” expedient.
We express our support for and solidarity with the courageous people of Libya. We urge them on to victory, even as some of them are paying the ultimate price for it. Often the fight to gain or to maintain liberty involves martyrdom, and those who risk it do so knowingly. That they do nonetheless is a most eloquent statement of the extreme and intolerable nature of the conditions they act to change. We extend our deepest condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones who died at the demonic hands of Gadhafi and his goons, and to the people of Libya. May they be assured that the celebrated martyrs of Libya will be richly rewarded for their incomparable sacrifice. The Lord in heaven will give them an unfathomable reception and maintain them in conditions whose happiness is beyond all human imagination. Their deaths will not be in vain, and there already are signs that Gadhafi will succumb and yield to the demands of the Libyan people. Like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt before him, Gadhafi has taken to giving repeated speeches finding scapegoats and progressively professing to believe in the people and their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, to borrow an American expression. The people of Libya must keep the pressure up, and it will not be long before they prevail.
Sidney Pilane is the interim spokesperson of the opposition BMD