Saturday, June 3, 2023

The anticipated cabinet reshuffle is going to leave not just broken hearts but also broken china on trail

A season of political bloodletting is fast coming our way.

As things stand it’s almost impossible to shake off a seething public suspicion that a proposed constitutional amendment that would see an increase in both the number of specially elected Members of Parliament and also of cabinet ministers is from the beginning to the end all a design in bad faith.

All undercurrents point to the fact that the impending cabinet expansion will be wrapped up without appointing any of the serving backbenchers.

People will be parachuted from outside into parliament and right into cabinet.

This is going to cause tension and disturb the uneasy peace that currently holds within the ranks of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.

The situation is not made any easy by the already existing rumpus caused by clear special dispensation extended to the new recruits from the Botswana Congress party.

When you put those together one gets a powder keg that is ready to explode.

There is a real risk of the already rickety edifice collapsing down.

Bad as that might seem, the situation is made all the more complicated by the fact that serving Members of Parliament do not believe the president has ever had any regard for them anyway.

A good number of them are convinced that the president does not think they are qualified to enter his cabinet.

“It is clear from his [President] attitude that he would rather go out of parliament to look for new ministers. That cannot be a good career prospect for anyone who has ambitions to become a minister like myself,” one ruling party backbencher told me recently.

It’s a hard thing to swallow if one is a BDP backbencher.

All the names being whirled around as potential beneficiaries of the expanded cabinet are not in the BDP backbench.

Ordinarily, this should not be surprising at all.

All told, the president has never had a fondness for Parliament, much less for the souls populating it.

Since joining politics, Ian Khama has always swerved with the gravitas that pointedly crossed bounds in his determination to undermine the very integrity of his Members of Parliament.

It’s his long held view that politicians are really not worth much.

Now almost twenty years in politics, he has steadfastly refused to call himself a politician.

In fact he has actively shunned such a label.

He despises politics the same way that he despises politicians.

More to the point, he has in the past frequently clashed with legislators, once going as far as to call them vultures.

Given a history of mutual suspicions that has often bordered on thinly veiled contempt for one another, a full-blooded public fallout has always seemed prescient.

The latest developments playing behind the scenes, which have nonetheless found way to newspaper pages have brought an already testy co-existence to a head.

Sensing that the president is on his last lap, and also buoyed by knowledge that they have something they know he needs badly, which is the power to craft a sweetened retirement package for him, they are going for broke in their demands to extract their own pound of flesh from him.

They want their salaries to be also reviewed.

If newspaper reports are correct, then the President has dug his head in the sand.

He will have none of it. It’s my way, or the highway, he has told his MPs.

This is unlikely to be the last sparring round between an outgoing president and a group of MPs he has never really held in any high regard.

There is no question that he will be back before long, if not for anything then at least to embarrass and humiliate the MPs.

As things stand the odds are heavily stacked against the MPs.

More to the point, we are headed for an open warfare between the President and Members of parliament from his party.

It is a fight that the MPs are most likely to lose.

And there will be little or no tears spilled on their behalf.

They will ultimately approve the president’s package. And get nothing in return.

More humiliating however will be the cabinet reshuffle.

When it ultimately happens, a clear message will be sent out: In the world of President Khama, a takeaway for  our MPs can easily be summarized in a few words; “You do not qualify to enter cabinet.”

This should get each and every backbencher really worried.

For a long time now we have tried in vain to convince BDP members of parliament that the executive looks at them as not much more than just voting fodder whose numbers are only called upon when there is a need to keep the opposition barbarians at the gates.

If ever there was any need for proof, now we have it.


Read this week's paper