It amazes me why the opposition in Botswana still choses to engage in clean politics. It is startling that after losing to the unscrupulous, corrupt and wicked Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) for over four decades they still harbour hopes that with time voters will become rational and listen to their voice of reason and that the BDP will abandon its cheating habits. After every general election and/or by-election, the opposition tells their members and sympathizers that lessons have been learnt from the humiliation at the hands of the crooked BDP and that the future is bright.
However, things have remained virtually the same with the BDP registering huge victories on the back drop of rented voters and spooks. Whereas the opposition’s membership registers shows massive growth, election results point to a miserable future. Why is the opposition consistently failing at critical moments in spite of their huge membership and past experience?
Understanding the nature and dynamics of Botswana elections should be the first step toward winning elections. Letlhakeng West Parliamentary by-election should have provided the opposition with very useful lessons amongst them being that the outcome of elections in Botswana is largely shaped by quantity of junk food available for the grubby voters and stupid stuff that passes as promises. It should be remembered that the BNF which contested the by-election under the UDC threatened to challenge the polls but quickly chickened out noting the lack of concrete evidence to convince the courts that indeed the BDP cheated big time. It seems a hard fact that the BDP cheated but they did so without necessarily violating the law governing elections. For instance, they established temporary feedlots to stupefy voters with abundant cookies and secured a win. This should compel the opposition to change their tactics if they desire a favourable outcome.
The opposition should ask themselves why scoundrels, unapologetic fraudsters and hardened brainless walking dead politicians often make it in politics. They must try to understand why morally bankrupt, deceitful child molesters and incorrigible womanizers seem to appeal to voters. They must seek to comprehend why reasonable voters could knowingly cast their votes for dangerous nocturnal creatures that seduce us only to screw us at some later stage. Finding answers to these questions would help the opposition to understand local elections and play the game accordingly.
Of course it is commendable for the opposition to endeavour to engage in a clean campaign, specifically in terms of providing voters with information about their so-called alternative policies and ideas. This is generally meant to allow voters to make informed decisions but typical Botswana politics transcend hyperbole. Local politicians need to appeal to voters who are most likely not to be interested in policy issues but more in silly banter and unfettered lies. It should by now be clear that there is nothing inherently wrong in making puerile promises because voters would not care to hold you accountable. The BDP has been making absurd promises since 1966 but have never been punished for their bizarre lies. Nevertheless, there are a few sane voters who would be interested in what political parties promise to offer, but these are very few and largely already decided all the time such that there is no point in going on and on lampooning BDP policies and presenting sound alternatives. The truth is only a few people care about good policies while the majority are just nit pickers.
Agreeing that a majority of voters who are key in deciding the outcome of elections are dumb, the opposition must develop a strategy that will appeal to these odd but hugely significant voters. Nevertheless, this constituency of voters has its voting mood in a state of constant shift largely because they are gullible, ignorant, vulnerable and desperate. Departing from this premise that these voters have strange and weird political preferences, opposition parties must devise multi-faceted tailored strategies that could induce these na├»ve voters to vote for them. Such strategies do not need to be ethical or sensible for as long as they are a winning formula. This means that the opposition should be willing to lie in order to score considerable political points. Invariably, this requires the ability to speak in parables and use flaccid phrases that would mean different things at different times to different people to fool voters.
It is a fact that politicians would do anything to win a political contest and it is true that voters prefer candidates who promise favours, however ridiculous. Thus, it does not make sense for the opposition to accuse the BDP of cheating when most voters don’t give a damn. Perhaps this is why Professor Mark Brandly of Ferris State University remarks that ‘candidates with moral integrity are at a severe disadvantage’. What it means is that successful politicians necessarily have to subscribe to open deception which explains why President Khama could unashamedly claim that the opposition is brewing a civil war or that if the opposition is voted into power, they will discontinue welfare programs like Ipelegeng, backyard gardening and so forth to deliberately starve poor people to death. This also explains why President Khama likes to declare that people who criticize him are unpatriotic and willing to harm Botswana. This is fear mongering and it has been said that fear trumps logic. Indeed many of President Khama’s claims are patently false and absurd but still many voters fall for them. Mark Brandly also comments that ‘a candidate that is averse to being deceitful is at a disadvantage and is likely to lose the election’. In his book, ‘Democracy: The God that failed’, Hans-Hermans Hoppe holds that politicians are selected for their proven efficiency as morally uninhibited demagogues in which case democracy assures that ‘only bad and dangerous men will ever rise to the top of government.’
My essay is a candid challenge to the opposition to innovate and change their tactics if they wish to remain relevant and seriously challenge for the crown. The issue should no longer be how to stop the BDP from stealing elections but how to do it smarter by bribing voters while claiming to be holy. Mastering this art requires deception, manipulation of hard facts and a thick skin that insulates against that compassionate feeling of pity for those you are screwing. After all, a majority of voters are rationally ignorant and need not be well informed about policy issues.
Use the trick chaps or be damned for good!