WARNING: This article may contain strong or offensive expressions occasioned by frustrations of a political nature. Do not read if you have a sensitive spleen.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has never stopped telling the whole world that Botswana opposition political parties cannot be entrusted with state power because they are led by a bunch of immature boys who are power hungry and abundantly conceited; a caboodle of over-rated and over-confident amateurs who relish basking in the limelight of their newly found fame.
However, many of us who are eager for political change looked up and pointed to the West saying that the industrialized countries are making manifold progress under their Young Turks. We defended our young leaders with unsurpassed vigor for we believed in their transformational leadership capabilities since young people are traditionally adventurous, enlightened, progressive and by and large unencumbered by old-fashioned doctrine of the fear of change.
And so we conveniently laughed off the BDP’s repeated hymn as unintelligent and instead put our undivided faith in the young leaders as pioneers of the long awaited regime change.
The umbrella initiative confirmed our faith in the Young Turks and propelled our hopes to unprecedented levels. Perhaps we allowed ourselves to be overwhelmed by the umbrella euphoria that we forgot that talks of this nature required strong-willed leaders not just some pretenders who thrive on their exaggerated worth.
The excitement with the umbrella blinded us so much that even self-confessed traitors and turncoats deserting the BDP were hailed as anointed liberators. We trusted everyone who sung along with us and believed without any iota of doubt that we shared the same vision.
We thus, stupidly I guess, believed that leaders of the three main opposition parties will always take decisions that put the interests of the many ahead of their own.
In the process many of us invested so much goodwill, so much energy and so many resources to defend these leaders even when at times their comments bordered on the absurd. We did not want to express thoughts that ran counter to their sweetened public pronouncements. In short, we held tight to the fart and any little escape was perfumed to ensure tranquility where little existed. When Spencer Mogapi of the Sunday Standard reminded everyone that leaders of the opposition were no angels after all, they went for his throats and in the process confirming his observations and the BDP’s suspicions. His only crime was to make public what many of us had always known but sought to cover up at all costs. By this time a few things that had remained hidden in the boardrooms were beginning to escape like an embarrassing fart that gives no warning whatsoever.
Many of us with an abundance of patience set back and trusted that our leaders would steer clear of slum politics of mudslinging for they were competently clear about the challenges ahead. Unfortunately, we were proved wrong and turned into helpless morons who could even celebrate their abuse to the extent of coaching their abusers to squeeze where it would hurt most.
After it was announced that the talks have collapsed, we remained hopeful and trusted our learned leaders to step back a while and sober up. Indeed this was an opportunity to prove the BDP’s merchants of doom that they (opposition leaders) are sufficiently schooled, mature and dependable by handling the crisis like grown up people who could be entrusted with state power.
Instead they competed in confirming the BDP’s suspicions that they (opposition leaders) are a bunch of baby-face crooks that have gate-crashed their way to leadership positions. Like veteran delinquents, they competed for space in overstating their innocence and bashing each other like glue sniffing street urchins lacking basic etiquette.
Tragically, some even swore by the God of thunder and lightning that they will not surrender any of their constituencies whilst others proclaimed that the talks have virtually collapsed hence the need to work out a different cooperative scheme like a pact, which basically meant that they were not ready to compromise.
At this point it occurred to me that it is possible that all along some people were negotiating in bad faith. How come they adopt such hard line positions so soon after it was made public that the talks had failed?
Did they prepare press statements seeking to clarify reasons that led to the collapse of the umbrella project before the talks were officially pronounced dead?
No one expected the negotiations to be a stroll in the park yet we trusted the leaders to be receptive, unassuming and humble so that they are focused on the bigger picture. Good leaders admit faults and surround themselves with great advisers not some disorganized pickpocket-like-drinking buddies.
I expected the leaders to set example of self-restraint and avoid making unpleasant remarks about negotiating partners that only helped to confirm their immaturity and defense of self-interests. Most followers light their candles from the torches of their leaders so that when leaders become hysterical, their followers automatically catch the infection. There are no quick fixes to the challenges of life. Life teaches us that short term fixes are not the best of options. I thus expected the leaders to calm down and seek ways to re-group before proudly telling us that relationships have broken beyond repair. I honestly did not expect them to make decisions based on unleashed emotions like political bandits.
The umbrella option appeared like what is called the low hanging fruit that anyone could grab, yet political negotiations involves tough choices and herein is challenge.
The clarion call is loud and clear: wise up or shut up! Many of us feel betrayed and used especially after dedicating our entire adult lives to serve opposition politics. The general membership of these opposition parties and their sympathizers should flex their muscles and use their collective powers to impel these fellows to go back to the negotiating table or resign their leadership positions because the manner in which they aborted the umbrella project seems to suggest that they have given up on themselves. We cannot just fold our arms when a few privileged angels-turned crooks expropriate from us what we have come to consider as our only source of hope for a prosperous and truly democratic Botswana.
I am nobody to judge them but the truth is that they have let us down and should they fail to re-launch the negotiations, many will never forgive them. They have a choice to redeem themselves or maintain their rigid positions to ensure the talks are finished, klaar and risk being thrown onto the scrapheap of politics.
Moncho Moncho’s observation that, ‘though the talks broke on account of constituencies’ allocation, this was just a tip of the iceberg. The real issues are mistrust, egocentrism and self preservation by mainly political parties, inexperience and to a less extent personal interest’ (Sunday Standard, 22-28 January 2012), captures the real obstacles, trivial as they are. I still strongly believe that these gentlemen did not give their all to the project and I refuse to accept that the project has aborted.
Their ability to recognize ethical dilemmas; to summon all the treasures of wisdom and resolve their petty squabbles would set them apart from decorated village idiots who cannot put an end to a stupid fight over a broken old toy gun. ‘A man who qualifies himself well for his calling, never fails of employment’ (Thomas Jefferson) and I trust you will not fail even if the BDP demons temper with your mental faculties.