Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The two faces of Otsweletse Moupo

Making sense of Botswana National Front leader, Otsweletse Moupo, is like putting together pieces of a jig-saw puzzle scattered by a careless hand- Writes SUNDAY STANDARD REPORTER.

When the looming battle for the Botswana National Front (BNF) presidency is finally lost and won, it will be interesting to see which Otsweletse Moupo emerges from the dust.

There is Otsweletse Moupo the brave and resolute leader who laughs in the face of danger and never shies away from a fight. The dragon slayer in whose his trophy chest is the skull of Botswana’s most revered politician, Dr Kenneth Koma.

Then there is another Otsweletse Moupo, described by the University of Botswana lecturer, Log Raditlhokwa, as a helpless, sterile Marxist who is unable to respond to challenges and has been held hostage by a coterie of University of Botswana lecturers.

The two faces of Otsweletse Moupo are grit for the campaign mills of the two BNF camps, wrestling each other for control of the party’s highest office.

His legal career, first as a public prosecutor then also a private attorney does not recommend him. But from a young boy in shorts who frolicked on the dusty streets of Radisele – hardly a dot on the Botswana map – to leader of official opposition in parliament, Moupo has not done badly.

From his trade mark laughter to his carefree dress sense, everything about Moupo is a lightning rod of controversy. His most generous media profilers have presented him as an easy going down to earth leader with a big heart who laughs in the face of danger. When the BNF was shuddering at the thought of challenging revered leader, Dr Kenneth Koma, for the party presidency, Moupo stepped up to the plate and emerged at the winning end of the bruising dust up. To those who remember him from the time he was a member of the history club and one of the best debaters at Moeng College, his rise to the top of opposition politics did not come as a surprise: He has always had the makings of a leader who can keep his head when everyone around him are losing theirs.

With the party leadership wearing long faces in the face of scathing media reports that he was stranded in London, Moupo’s contagious laughter provided the cheering comical relief.

Then followed media criticisms, with one columnist dismissing him as lacking innate ambition to steward a political party in opposition towards state power.

“His leadership style has put the BNF back into a defensive posture from where they are fighting at every front, sadly, not to take over power, but rather to regain relevance and credibility in the eyes of the public.

“Moupo comes across as a lost man, unaware of what is expected of him, oblivious to the required public relations protocol, thereby lending a totally underserved second chance to the ailing BDP, not only to rise from the dead, but also to regroup and regain its strength as to be able to stand again and fight back,” wrote Sunday Standard Deputy Editor, Spencer Mogapi.

The happy go lucky political leader who says things like “well, I have just changed my mobile number. I do that every now and then,” however riles his detractors who complain that “his lethargy and lack of social competence make it difficult for him to reach different segments of our society and market the BNF. A huge movement like the BNF cannot afford a shy and unconfident leader who lacks a sense of urgency….has very little understanding of the psychology of good looks. He needs to be “fixed” so that he can project a presidential image. Most professional negotiators and investors cannot take him seriously in his looks. A modern leader should not look like a ragamuffin. He should exude assertiveness, seriousness, and a sense of power, poise and polish. Again, he should minimise the laughter that undermines his professionalism.”

The clean shaven chubby checked Marxist would probably be as comfortable with a Mills and Boon romantic novel as he is with Das Kapital – a loyal and obedient student of Trotsky. In a recent interview, he betrayed his romantic side when he related how he used to write colourful letters to his wife with envelops decorated with coloured pencils.
When Moupo counts his long time friends, he begins with Akanyang Magama and Elmon Tafa.

They are the fond memories of his early active involvement in the BNF youth wing. When he counts his biggest detractors in the BNF, he is also likely to begin with the two party stalwarts. Magama and Tafa are believed to be behind the campaign to topple Moupo from the BNF presidency.

But critics insist that, together with his long-time comrades, Moupo has never really been able to outgrow the high school debating club attitude which is still very much in force in the BNF today, thereby making it difficult for outsiders to even take the party seriously – at least not as an alternative government.

This is what University of Botswana lecturer, Log Raditlhokwa also said about him: “Moupo pretends that he is fine, and that the problem only lies with his critics. He is obviously not fine. He is still unable to respond rapidly to challenges and ample opportunities. He remains a helpless hostage to a sterile Marxist dogma. He is failing to network with and enroll civil society groups and other critical agencies in the BNF “programme”. He is failing to supervise BNF MPs and coordinate their performance. Consequently, even though the BNF has 12 MPs, their performance is negligible and lackluster. Without sound leadership, their strength and intelligence will not emanate and flourish. They will continue to work at cross-purposes and disappoint the electorate.

The BNF people should figure out what is specifically wrong with Moupo and remould him. He lacks proactivity, creative vision and significant ambitions for the BNF and the nation. His lethargy and lack of social competence make it difficult for him to reach out to different segments of our society and market the BNF.”

It would be interesting in the few weeks (depending on the outcome of the ensuing BNF power war) to see how true are the predictions by Log Radithokwa that Moupo is no longer fit to retain the positions of BNF presidency because “his Marxist credentials are history and can no longer be used to work for him.”

It would also be interesting to see if Moupo retains many of the attributes recently praised by Tafa as a mentor whose love for socialism forced him to write and attend Study Group sessions while still under the employ of the Attorney General, or whether the golden boy has gone grey “with a deplorable lack of political charm that is necessary and demanded by the increasingly cosmopolitan electorate that he represents in parliament.”

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.