Lawrence Schlemmer, the political consultant who masterminded Botswana Democratic Party’s makeover that forced former president Ketumile Masire into retirement and saw Ian Khama spirited from command of the army to the vice presidency, has reservations about Ian’s younger brother, Tshekedi, also coming into politics.
Ian Khama is expected to succeed President Festus Mogae, who retires in seven months, at the end of the constitutional 10-year term at the helm. When he assumes the presidency, Khama would step down as Member of Parliament for Serowe North West. He has previously indicated that he would like Tshekedi to inherit the constituency. A first cousin of the Khamas, Ndelu Seretse, is MP for another Serowe North East constituency and a cabinet minister.
In an interview conducted in Cape Town last week, Schlemmer warned BDP against succumbing to personality cult.
“I don’t think it (Tshekedi’s succession of his brother) is a good thing. Personality cults are bad. I don’t know the younger brother. I haven’t met him. I don’t know his characteristics…but if Ian Khama and his brother became dominant, it wouldn’t be good. Botswana would become like Swaziland, where everybody who matters carries the Dlamini surname. That is not a good thing,” Schlemmer said.
He said Ian is an accomplished leader in his own right who deserves his high profile.
“He has a compelling presence. I don’t think he rides simply on his father’s name. If he were a large, overweight chief, and son of Seretse, he wouldn’t have the support he has. It’s not a personality cult with Ian Khama,” he said.
He said the other challenge facing Botswana’s democracy is the current electoral system of first-past-the-post, which prevents coalition governments, as opposed to proportional representation (PR).
“In PR democracy, you wouldn’t have one party in charge. BDP would always be part of a coalition. That’s probably the issue that needs much more debate in Botswana ÔÇô whether you should change the constitution. PR is attractive to the opposition because they may have a realistic chance of getting to power, but they wouldn’t be able to sideline BDP. The voters would like it. PR is a purer form of democracy than first-past-the-post. It works very well. I like it because it forces political parties to find common ground, and that is good for the country.
“In Botswana’s case, it would immediately make politics more dynamic and interesting. There would be a lot of debate about development… (Because) you form a coalition around development issues. PR is good as long as you don’t have floor-crossing. That is completely anti-democratic. You can’t vote for a candidate thinking he is BDP, and he crosses to BNF,” he said.