Thursday, April 9, 2020

The nation should rally behind blacklisted MPs against cabinet

Crude attempts by cabinet to turn parliament into a lapdog have to be resisted.

It is a moral obligation for all citizens of goodwill to rally behind back-benchers in the face of growing threats by the executive.

In fact, not only is it a moral obligation, it also is a policy of self interest.

This past week, the Botswana Gazette ran a revelatory piece about what could be the beginning of a change of relations between cabinet and ruling party back benchers.

The story says some MPs could actually be on the brink of having party disciplinary code invoked against them.

The paper goes on to name the list of those MPs and advances the reasons behind the impending disciplinary action.

A few years ago, President Mogae called some of them a “cabal.”

True, no action has been taken against them, but the whole thing is a psychological strategy well played out to make the MPs aware of the possibility of disciplinary action against them.

With such fear lingering somewhere in their psyches, MPs are bound to behave in line with the whims of those hovering atop of them wielding the stick.

The result will be inevitable: self-censorship among the back-benchers.

That is akin to rule by fear.

Now, that is really worrisome.

It is basically a replay of the script read out by President Festus Mogae in a widely publicized interview with state owned media outlets two weeks ago.

Growing evidence indicates that leading figures inside cabinet do not appreciate any form of robust debate, least of all from within their party.
It is exactly because debates from parliament have recently grown robust and independent that such cabinet members have become irritable and irascible.

That also is regrettable.

In all this, the two leading personalities are the president and his deputy.

But in this particular case we should exempt the president because, by all intents and purposes, he is the man on his way out.

Certainly, the MPs are closer to the electorate than the president; firstly because they have been directly elected, but also because, unlike him, they are not about to retire.

So they still care a lot about what the population thinks and says about them.

That said between the President and his deputy, public focus in the unfolding threats should remain with Vice President Ian Khama, who, barring a tragedy of immense proportions, will assume the harness April next year, if not earlier.

Khama has a huge task ahead of him.

Other than bringing credibility and integrity back into politics, there are a number of essentials he still has to learn.

He still has a long way to go before grasping even the most elementary principles of a parliamentary democracy.

He still has to learn the importance of living with dissent and differing views.

It is important that he appreciates the simple fact that a country cannot be run like a military base.
It, therefore, is not in his personal interest to be part of a brigade that is so obviously pulling him adrift instead of assisting and coaching him on the virtues of tolerance and truth-telling.

It would be irresponsible as to be criminal for the public to sit back and watch as their destinies are decided and dictated by a cabinet that is growing increasingly unpredictable and out of tune with the public mood, bent on using parliament as a rubberstamp of their suspect and probably venal decisions.

It is curious and shameful that instead of encouraging and promoting debate within their ranks, the high command of the ruling party in the form of central committee would even have in their agenda an item that basically boils down to throttling the independence of the back benches.
Vice President Khama enjoys the rare readiness of people from across the political spectrum to give him a chance.

But even before his ascendancy to the top post, worrying signs are beginning to emerge.

Very little is known about Khama’s mindset.
Although he has the potential, he does not strike me as a visionary.

Instead, he comes across as impatient and not given to detail.

He seems to be under a horrible grip of those surrounding him, whose biggest shortcoming seems to be the desire to tell him only what he wants to hear.

What he should, however, appreciate is that although he enjoys a rare readiness of those around him to listen and obey his commands, such attitude is set to dissipate if upon assuming state power he is found out to be just another human being with shortcomings never before anticipated.
That is why he should upon taking office not take too long to deliver on the huge public expectations that rest on his shoulders.

Taking too long to deliver would immediately corrode the public respect and love for him, which, by the way, borders on worship.

It is in Khama’s interest to start preparing his ground by way of getting himself used to divergent views as early as now.