By its nature mankind demands to be shown scapegoats for it to fully accept and atone to its own unfortunate circumstances. This is because people like to blame others for their own follies. Over the next few weeks and months, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party will inevitably have to flap around and cast for a scapegoat. A figure from within the party has to be identified and more importantly get accepted as the real cause of the party’s terrible showing at the polls. That figure would then have to be publicly sacrificed before the party can even start to move on.
Anything less than identifying such a scapegoat would leave big questions hanging which on its own would lead to the party getting bogged down ultimately nourishing a fertile ground for open revolt which by the way had been simmering long before disaster struck at the polls. The BDP should never tire of reminding itself that its share of the popular vote has slipped from 53% to 47%. This truth is painful but internalizing it might just prove therapeutic. 47% share of the popular vote is a far cry from the 70% threshold that President Khama once dreamed of.
It is also is the party’s worst showing ever. More than the constituencies lost, it is the bigger reason behind the unease felt and privately expressed by some staunch BDP members. These activists are right in their assessment that maintaining the status quo is simply not an option. It cannot be business as usual following such an embarrassing 6 percentage drop. It cannot be business as usual when a party in power has been voted by a number of people significantly lesser than that of opposition. There is no doubt that President Ian Khama tried hard but ultimately failed to make a good case on behalf of the BDP. My view is that under the circumstances he did his best.
Not only were his attempts were a solo effort, he also were let down by the people he most counted on to, many of whom by the way never came to the party when he needed them most. Many BDP members believe, and not without reason that weak political leadership led to their disastrous showing in the party’s over fifty year history. Rightly, the feeling is that President Khama was over exposed as he lacked credible assistants who he could delegate or coordinate for effective attacks. Whenever he tried the results were disastrous, as it happened in Maun. To be fair to President Khama, he did not have support ÔÇô not from the party and certainly not from his executive.
This is the time for him to ask himself if he has the right executive team to run the party. Of course some people would still argue that Khama is the one to blame. And to a point they are right. It was a result of his purging exercise which started immediately following the Kanye Congress that led to the dearth of talent in all the structures of the party that in turn saw the rise of mediocrity that today sprawls all the levels. But to prove that he is still connected to reality he is going to have to deliver a scapegoat to his followers, and convince them that such a scapegoat has been the one wholly responsible for BDP’s decimal performance. That may mean sacrificing the party’s entire executive committee, or at the minimum the head of the war room who is the Secretary General. After that the President will have to accept that he too has exhibited some glaringly shocking defects that he needs to address if he to renew his party.
He needs to be more open to people outside his small circle of traditional friends and advisors. He also needs to be less vindictive. President Khama enjoys the advantage of being the first son of the country’s founding president. He is also the paramount traditional leader of one of the country’s biggest and proudest tribes. That perhaps is partly responsible for his fondness for ethno-tribal politics which by the way was at the centre of his conceited adventure against Tawana Moremi less than a week into the elections.
Khama’s tribal background is also responsible for his subtly divisive politics which has led him to blindly disregard calls to spread power through north and south by appointing a Vice Presi8dent from the South. So far he has had two deputies ÔÇô both of them, like him from the north. It cannot be coincidence that his party lost most in the south where a majority rightly feels isolated, sidelined and as is so often the case deliberately humiliated.