Thursday, August 6, 2020

This constitutional review a la carte is deeply offensive to people who had hoped Masisi would be different

It is important to state upfront that the proposed Constitutional review as gazetted by Botswana Government is neither a knee-jerk reaction nor an afterthought.

Rather, it is a well-thought-out strategic response by a governing political party that has watched with shock and helplessness as its turf is being aggressively eroded by an upstart organization, the Botswana Patriotic Front.

It is not particularly clear why this review is being treated as an emergency.

What the proposal lacks in sincerity it seeks to make up in public interest.

This is self-serving. 

Quite explicitly, the review goes against the general spirit that President Mokgweetsi Masisi stood for ahead of 2019 General Elections.

More to the point, the proposed review goes against an undertaking he made at the time to allow for a comprehensive national review of the entire constitution.

Now he’s opting for a piecemeal review – choosing and pricing those sections he wants.

This a la carte constitutional review is not what was promised the nation.

For Masisi and indeed for the BDP, it is now safety first.

An impression is being created that people are against this particular review.

That is not so. Not at all. People are against political chicanery and political dishonesty.

A BDP emergency should not be made a national emergency.

People voted for Masisi and his BDP in 2019 because he, more than any of the other contenders he was more progressive on the issue of tribal neutrality and tribal equality.

Now it would seem like he no longer sees that as a pressing issue. He has trained his sights on securing himself and his party a shiftless majority at all cost.

Make no mistake Batswana are annoyed by defections and floor-crossing.

They belie a shocking lack of principle on our politics.

But for Batswana stopping floor-crossing is no more important than reviewing the entire constitution.

This is particularly true for people in North West, North East, Okavango, Tonota, Bobirwa, Tswapong, Barolong, significant parts of the Central District and the Tswapong areas.

There are political theatrics at play here.

The haste and the lightning speed with which this review is being rushed through parliament makes it clear that it is an exercise done out of self-preservation. 

That is bad enough. 

The fact that no explanation has been proffered why this review is more urgent than everything else makes it totally unpardonable. It is a clear demonstration that the nation is being taken for granted, and its wisdom being underestimated.

In parliament the review will certainly pass, not without unintended consequences.

To pull this piece of law off the shelves without taking up the reigns to make a legible explanation to a public that expects more is a non-starter.

Strictly on the altar of timing, the proposed constitutional review is a high stakes gamble by Masisi personally. Not least because there is a price to be paid for the clear gap between his piecemeal accelerationist implementation of this law and the broad overarching review he promised and now rightly expected by the public.

The Botswana Democratic Party might emerge superficially stronger from the proposed review, but certainly not any more united.

Prospects also look less bright for the president, personally.

The net effects are that his personal image is most likely to emerge from the whole exercise with a huge dent. Trust deficit is key unintended consequence of the law.

As was to be expected in Botswana’s deceptive politics, the hurried and hasty implementation of the review has been spun as long overdue, even though in reality this review sidesteps people’s aspirations for a broad and comprehensive review of the Constitution that was promised as part of the electoral pledges.

Across the board, the public has grown wary of politicians. They simply cannot trust them.

We need more sincerity in our politics, less showboating and certainly less grandstanding.

For once Masisi appeared to bring in a fresh breeze of hope.

And for that he was given a rare but clearly qualified vote of confidence. 

Having won an election, he is now going native.

He appears to have interpreted the election results as a blank cheque, which it clearly was not.

The public wants a president they do not need to second guess, much more importantly the want a president they can take at his word.

The BDP is trying to make a virtue an exercise simply hatched out of plotting, scheming and political dishonesty.

Explaining and justifying this stand-alone proposal vis-а-vis the wholesale constitutional review is even as we speak almost impossible to do.

Not even a talented frontman and immensely gifted salesman like Masisi can do it.

This is because the review addresses the symptoms and disregards the causes; a bad metaphor for a leader during the time of a pandemic.

In dealing with the electorate, our leaders should learn to always play their cards openly. And to be more upfront with the people they lead.

Playing cards from the bottom of the deck and from under the table is a short tactic that invariably erodes the integrity and credibility in the eyes of the public.

This is characteristic of African politics.

Masisi should not give an impression that he would love to cling to power at all cost.

That is not the same Masisi the voter would remember from last year’s General Elections. 

The man they voted for was generous and self-effacing.

At the time he was bullied – or so we thought – by an aggressive predecessor who did not want to leave the scene.

The review might stop a BDP hemorrhage. But it certainly sets the stage for a next political act.

And when that time arrives the BDP will look back at this particular review with conviction that it was ill-advised.

That is because party politics are not stagnant.

Today’s beneficiary might be tomorrow’s loser.

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