Sunday, September 20, 2020

The advisors of His Excellency the President are failing him

Even though politicians may be intelligent men and women of integrity, they need people who can advise them on different issues pertaining to the good of the nation. They need advisors to help them traverse the difficult political terrain that they operate in on daily basis. Good leaders listen to their advisors and make enlightened decisions about the organizations that they lead.

Since politics requires intellect, the ability to identify problems, direct and coordinate activities and be in a position to anticipate problems that may arise in the future, it is imperative that political leaders must always think and act strategically.

They need to show character, strength, skill or prowess under favourable and adverse circumstances as Machiavelli once said.

Contrary to the foregoing, I have realized that since Khama became president, he has failed to act promptly and appropriately when expected. He has scored many political own goals. When he had disagreements with Gomolemo Motswaledi regarding the manner in which he was using his constitutional powers, he completely forgot about the need to inform members of the various structures of the BDP about the problems besieging the party.

That Motswaledi was elected the Secretary General of the party through a democratic process did not matter to him. All that he wanted was to destroy him without taking into consideration the negative impact that his decisions and actions may have, not only on the party but even on his integrity as a political leader. People ended up sympathizing with Motswaledi, for he made us aware of a fundamental defect in our country’s constitution that places a sitting president above the law.

Last week, the president issued a statement on the crisis engulfing the BDP. Instead of telling the nation what he is doing to bring peace to the party, he dwells on what happened and goes on to call people dissidents and misguided elements. He views members of Barata Phathi faction as a bunch of indisciplined men and women who are bent on making the party and country ungovernable because of their insatiable appetite for power. According to him, these people are only driven by self interest and position seeking.

I have stated in this column before that the advisors of the president are failing him by telling him that he can resolve the BDP problems using his constitutional powers. The BDP is currently going through a painful process of self destruction and stands to lose the next general elections because of the manner in which Khama exercises his constitutional powers. It is inconsequential at this point in time for him to be reminding us of the constitutional powers that he has when he should be charting the forward for the BDP given the fact that they are going to lose some MPs to the newly formed political party.

By saying that people are self seeking and power hungry also indicates that the president has a limited understanding of politics or is deliberately interpreting it in such a way that it suits him. His advisors should have told him that people throughout the world go into politics so that they can acquire power and consolidate their positions in society. Politics is about acquisition and consolidation of state power. It is about who gets what, when and how.

It is the power that Khama has as a politician that enables him to fly military helicopters even though the BDF Act prohibits him from doing so. It is the power that he has that enables him to refurbish the state house at a very high cost to the taxpayer during an economic recession so that it suits his lifestyle.

It is the power that he has that enables him to wear many hats at the same time (i.e. paramount chief, BDP president, country’s president, commander in chief of armed forces, appointer of high court judges etc.). It is the power that he has that makes him to be above the law.

It is because of the power that people have as politicians and ministers that the companies owned by their spouses and brothers can do business with the departments falling under their ministries without the transactions being viewed as amounting to a clear case of conflict of interest. It is the power that these politicians have that enables them to protect each other and destroy the political careers of all those who have the intention of derailing their succession plan.

If the president and his lieutenants have all these powers as politicians, why should they complain when other politicians want a slice of the cake? Why are his advisors failing to tell him that it is normal and healthy for people to compete for political power?

Why are they failing to tell him that he should always choose his words carefully and desist from labeling people? Does he expect people to call him a self seeking individual since he stood for elections at the Ghanzi congress and availed himself for the country’s presidency?

He is the president of the BDP and the nation because, just like his opponents, he likes power. If this is not true, then how does one explain his decision to join politics when he retired from the military? He retired on the last day of March 1998 and was appointed the Vice President the following day.

Since the president has scored many own goals since joining politics, I can only assume that his advisors have dismally failed to make him realize that leading a political party is totally different from being a military commander. Or is it a case of the president rejecting the advice given to him?

*Dr Mothusi teaches Political & Administrative Studies at the University of Botswana

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.