He thinks they need him. They think they need him too. But they don’t. He is as replaceable as the day he assumed the office of the president because he has nothing unique to offer both the party and the country. At this rate the BDP is destined to lose the next general elections not so much because the party has changed dramatically ÔÇô not so much because its policies have worsened, but precisely because it has a president who has polarised the nation more than any president before him. His challenges are not only on spending, but they include leadership, his inability to engage directly and boldly with the people he differs with.
On economic management, since April 2008 there have been many reckless expenses by his government: The government black Mercedes Benzes were replaced by BMWs 7 series. Then right in the middle of a recession there was massive spending which was not budgeted for to establish the DIS with at least P26 million at the beginning and more millions following. Then in 2009 a P300 million presidential jet was purchased. Then there was the P300,000 spent on one minister’s furniture. Then the story of the purchase of a P46,000 fridge rocked the government. Then about P81 million of taxpayers’ money was used to construct 16 houses for Cabinet ministers. It was also revealed that government spends about P1.24 million annually paying the maids, guards and gardeners for the 16 ministerial homes.
Last year the government was spending just over a million a month on the salaries of Ipelegeng workers. Ipelegeng is a poverty alleviation schemes which unlike past government Namola Leuba programmes which resulted with bridges built by communities, Ipelegeng is characterised by the limited benefit grass cutting by the unemployed for about P400 per month. This year close to P30 million was spent on establishing another useless project: backyard gardens. Mountains of money have been also directed towards the president’s constituency league. Additionally, P20 million was spent on renovating the state house and an estimated P7 million spent on the construction of the barracks in the state house. This is just the tip of a giant iceberg.
Repeatedly it has been demonstrated that the president’s problem analysis of what plagues the country is common. He identifies problems, like anyone in the street but lacks practical and sustainable solutions.
We must remember that President Ian Khama was brought into the BDP to end factionalism and to revive its popularity. He has failed in doing either. He has instead led the BDP into a split resulting with the formation of the BMD, an opposition party which has experienced massive growth in its first year. The past general elections have also demonstrated that the so called Khama magic is only but a myth ÔÇô as the BDP failed to extend its lead over opposition parties by getting only 53.3% of the votes. Other blunders along Khama’s path include the infamous battle with Mr. Motswaledi which could have been resolved amicably had he listened to counsel from party elders. He threatened to sue Sunday Standard newspaper but was advised that though no one could take him to court, if he took himself to court he would undress himself of the impregnable presidential immunity. He retreated reluctantly.
Numerous national challenges have also received humiliating strategies. For instance Botswana’s alcohol problem has attracted a 40% alcohol levy, which it was hoped will reduce the level of drinking. It hasn’t. It has instead severely impoverished already poor families since it has not decreased alcohol drinking levels across the country. Families, more than at any time, spend more of their salaries on alcohol, not because they drink more but because the alcohol charges have been increased by the presidential alcohol levy. Money from the alcohol levy was supposed to setup rehabilitation centres and fund campaigns against alcohol abuse. It hasn’t. Instead the alcohol levy funds all sorts of other weak presidential initiatives such as backyard gardens ÔÇô a pitiable strategy to reduce poverty with onions, sickly carrots and cabbages the size of a man’s fist. That’s not the only challenge that faces the president. He has centralised issues around himself more than any other president before him in the name of the so called presidential initiatives. He has created the afore-mentioned backyard gardens, constituency league as well as the housing initiative ÔÇô led by Col Duke Masilo, aimed at securing accommodation for the most impoverished citizens. Instead of the housing strategy being a comprehensive government strategy, it isn’t. It isn’t just a government initiative, it is not even a BDP initiative ÔÇô it is instead a presidential initiative. It is clear that the strategy is to attract positive attention to the president so that he appears as a kind and generous man; when the contributions are not from him personally but from private individuals and businesses.
It appears PHK was right some eight years ago that “Over the last couple of years the politics of this country have gone backwards….We have become a demo-feudal state in the place of a democratic republic.” Almost with prophetic eyesight he observed that “Democracy will give way to autocracy. Many people in the top echelons of the party are today scared to speak their minds because of the stature of Khama. Many are no longer following any principles, but merely taking a side which they think will guarantee them longest stay in positions of power. For instance even people who you would expect to know… are merely competing at who licks hardest the boots of the man at the top…” (Botswana Gazette (Gaborone), June 18, 2003). Ian Taylor further observes: “Ian Khama has made no secret of his intense dislike of the compromises of politics and of his contempt for politicians.
Indeed, he has previously attacked members of his own party as ‘unprincipled, intolerant, selfish vultures and monkeys’” Khama has failed as a man who can save the BDP and restore the damaged national institutions. While the Botswana constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, a report of the U.S. Department of State released has shown that ‘in practice…the government (has) attempted to limit freedom of the press and continued to dominate domestic broadcasting.’ Stories and news-sources were ‘occasionally censored’. Following the formation of the BMD in 2010 and during the public servants’ strike of 2011 both the television and radio stations were used to conceal information and offer restricted coverage of stories to mislead the general population. Btv and Radio Botswana were also abused during the BDP wars between the president and Motswaledi, to broadcast the BDP statement by the Director of Broadcasting Service, Mr. Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo.
Mr. Kaboeamodimo was to later argue on a Btv program that there was no difference between government and the BDP. It is the same Khama administration which pushed through parliament a draconian media law which the Press Council of Botswana feared was crafted to limit media freedom and muzzle freedom of expression.
Recently Khama’s government has refused the counsel of pastors. The president has failed to meet the leader of the Opposition in parliament, Mr Botsalo Ntuane; he has failed to meet the three leaders of the main opposition parties to resolve national crisis. Not only that, it has been reported that he did not attend a special parliamentary seating and he has not received its envoy.
His own party the BDP group of backbenchers met and sent a team to him. He rejected it and asked for only one person to see him. This leads us to the following questions: what does the BDP or the country need Khama for? What exceptional skills or training does he possess that can do the country a lot of good? If he were assessed on five issues: 1. the handling of the economy, 2. employment generation, 3. strengthening the BDP, 4. representing Botswana effectively in the international arena and 5. Solving national problems, Khama would get a D, in fact he will get 5Ds.