I must say, I take considerable satisfaction in the way the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) factional skirmishes are unfolding.
Many analysts and commentators had argued that since the BDP is the government of the day, its internecine factionalism could extend to the government and thereby destabilize the country.
Fair enough but this is just one side of the coin which unfortunately has been overstated and blown out of proportions to create public pessimism and hatred for factionalism.
I don’t derive pleasure from unrest of whatever proportions, but for the record, let it be known that society can also get positive benefits from a combination of petty and meritable factionalism. For many years compromise as a negotiation process has been used to smother BDP’s factional rivalry. It is not my immediate business to fault the BDP for adopting this approach to settle internal disputes.
But they need to understand that some things cannot be compromised all the time every time because they cut to the core of a group’s survival. In such instances, a compromise is just a temporary victory since it merely bottles up emotions rather than attend to the real issues ÔÇô the causes of the problem. Compromises by their nature diminish the stature of party members (in the case of the party) or the stature of citizens since in such occasions the leadership of warring factions makes concessions that put their interests above those of the nation.
Significantly, compromises implies intra-elites trade-offs which often fall a little short of auctioning citizens and the country to parochial interests as was the case when former President Mogae caved into Khama’s demands at every turn.
It has always been speculated that Khama had agreed to join active politics only after being promised that he will have everything his way.
Compromises are often flawed and archaic and the refusal by Barata-party to accept Khama’s peace pipe in the build up to the Kanye congress was the best the country could hope for.
Apparently Barata-party rejected Khama’s peace efforts not because they wanted to wage a campaign of sabotage of party activities but rather because they knew that the peace offer was insincere and a ploy to weaken their control over their own lives. Their hard-line position stems from their experiences with past peace offers where the monkey was judge in the affairs of the forest.
It is now public knowledge that for a considerable period President Khama has devoted his energies exclusively to fan the fires of factionalism, obstruction of party unity and sabotage of national progress. The result has been virtual stagnation and regression that is mischievously blamed on the recession.
Thus, Barata-party’s hard-line stance is a principled one stemming from deeply held non-negotiable values against autocracy, a leadership of a cult and exclusionism. This principled stance resonates well with my conscience hence I crave for more of the factionalism. For far too long we have taken our democracy for granted.
We believed were we the best in Africa and perhaps that we shall remain so until the second coming. And the reason for this was simply that we hardly questioned some decisions, were too timid with a frightening carefree attitude.
When new democracies surged forward, we remained motionless and in some cases we moved one step forward and two steps backward. This we did by among others, amending our national constitution to accommodate the evil practice called automatic succession.
At the party level the governing party adulterated and corrupted its constitution by giving its president unfettered powers. Few protested as the political leadership went berserk, teaming up in their determination to turn democratic Botswana into a living death.
This went on and on until the state president became a super cult, omnipotent and virtually untouchable; an invincible individual who interpret friendly criticism as disrespect and a challenge on his resolve; an individual star performer who want to work only with his chummies who constitute a political clique that seems to doubt its belonging to the human race.
After all, ‘a cult requires unthinking fools for the rank and file. But that is not all. In order for a cult to exist, it is not enough for a leader to have personal followers ÔÇô every leader has personal influence more or less ÔÇô but a cult leader has to be a cultist himself. He has to be a megalomaniac who gets revelations outside the realm of reality.
A megalomaniacal cult leader is liable to jump in any direction at any time, and all the cultists automatically follow, as sheep follow the bellwether, even into the slaughter house’ Speech by James Cannon at the Open Plenum of the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party, 1953). Thanks to the BDP factionalism, we now know that our national constitution is answerable to the state president, that it is porous, satanic and a recipe for a dictatorship.
We now know that the BDP constitution is the most archaic and outrageous piece of legislation of modern times. The BDP internal fights should be seen as a test of our democracy, in particular President Khama’s democratic outlook especially after loudly stating that he is a democrat. Factional wars are a part of the arduous task of rebuilding a genuine and vibrant democracy and no one should waste our time with the nonsense called compromise which short changes citizens and insult their intelligence. The factional war should be allowed and watered to come to full flower for I have confidence in the victory of the righteous. This BDP factionalism is creating favorable conditions for the development of meaningful and everlasting democracy.
Of course these squabbles are irritating and to some extent distracting the nation from tackling national challenges but we need to appreciate that genuine and lasting democracy will not fall from the sky. We need to fight for it (not using weapons of mass destruction but resorting to active disobedience) and the BDP factionalism is an omen for the beginning of the long road to victory.
I pray that President Khama continue humiliating elected members of the BDP Central Committee so that they become stronger and determined and have no time to rest in their fight against autocracy, at least before victory has been secured and guaranteed. They remain our only and last hope. If it is true that Botswana never fought for her democracy, we have to learn very quickly and salvage the little that remains and we have to do it via the ruling party’s factional battles.
The BDP factional rivalry is one way of getting back our freedoms and so we need to pray that the factions harden into permanence and degenerate into gangs that will ultimately fish out enemies of democracy. Our experiences since April 2008 are rich in lessons and it will be ill advised and a waste of time to plead for more time to acquaint ourselves with the new administration.
Yes this is a lesson for Batswana to give power to institutions not individuals, to believe in our capacity to cause progress and make this country a better place to live, a lesson for us to develop an impulse for positive change. The essential thing is that the erosion of our civil liberties has been well orchestrated, coordinated and is no longer kept hidden.
The struggle for a people centered leadership in the BDP, for a leadership that account to the masses is a fraction of the national struggle and exactly for the same reasons.
To hesitate to get involved in whatever way is to run away from responsibility and confirm disloyalty to ourselves and render ourselves unimportant and dead while pretending to be alive.