For close to twenty years now, Ian Khama has literally occupied the space of a rain maker inside the Botswana Democratic Party.
For a political party to allow itself to be dominated by someone so innately anti-political is to say the least perplexing. Under Ian Khama, the BDP has become intuitively contemptuous of its most talented members, many of who have since chosen to walk away as happened during the split that sired the BMD. Feeling unappreciated as to be unwanted, many other talented members have chosen to disengage and go underground. And yet many more have simply become disinterested thus rendering the party unable to count on them, much less call on their services. The dearth of talent inside the party became much more glaring during the campaign leading to the recent General Elections.
Officially the BDP bewailed what they said were Julius Malema’s bad behavior, yet saw nothing wrong loading President Khama’s campaign entourage with a clutch of uncouth and crudely inexperienced boys and girls whose conduct made Malema come across as an angel. It has been said, and I agree that the nation would have accepted it as innocuous and morally inoffensive if the military aircraft turned BDP campaign wagon in Ghanzi had in it respectable party members of a higher moral rectitude accompanying the President other than that lot whose mere presence in that aeroplane was rightly perceived to be an unpardonable affront to the sanctity of an important national asset such as the Botswana Defence Force.
To many outsiders the decay inside the BDP started to get more apparent when amazing levels of mediocrity started to file their way into positions of power, including and especially at the party executive; the Maun cabal became the final death knell . But nothing better puts into perspective how far down the tube we have gone as a nation than the recently unveiled cabinet of ministers. Today’s cabinet is of a much inferior quality than that which had in it people like P.K Balopi, K.P. Morake, P.S. Mmusi, G.K.T. Chiepe and Archie Mogwe ÔÇô and that was a cabinet that served over twenty years ago.
Today’s cabinet appointments underscore the leader’s reprehensible fondness to allocate jobs to allies rather than to the best people available ÔÇô a trait that by the way goes back to his military days, and taken to new heights on his first day as President on April 2008. A former cabinet minister said to me that he tried but could barely recognize a single face among the new comers in today’s cabinet. “In fact I never got to meet many of them even at party level during my days as an activist,” he said in disgust. A lot has been said about the BDP’s slip to below the highly symbolic 50% threshold share of the popular vote. Reality is much worse than that. The party is itself in a perilous position.
The court questioning the Standing Orders of Parliament was itself a desperate attempt by the leader not only to divert attention but also to fake internal unity and create a facade that he was still in charge. It however had the net effect of laying bare not just the extent of internal disunity but also the leader’s growing insecurities which now border on paranoia. Then there is his relationship with the media which has now effectively become irreparable. Khama’s crackdown on the media, unsurprisingly parroted once again in his State of the Nation Address highlights the man’s deteriorating moral authority. He blames the private media for all the mistakes that emanate from his unquestionably lowly emotional intelligence. Why, for example would he see nothing wrong with insulting the United States government after an ally expressed disgust at the incarceration of a leading newspaper editor? Some people had thought that BDP’s terrible showing at the polls would bring about a shift towards a policy renewal going forward. Those people, we now know have been badly mistaken. And there is more than enough evidence for it: Eric Molale has been promoted to become Minister for Presidential Affairs.
Carter Morupisi has been promoted to become Permanent Secretary to the President. And Mokgweetsi Masisi has been promoted to become Vice President. Outside the intelligence security axis which by the way has itself long degenerated into a political liability, these are the three most influential advisors to the President. And as we all know, they also are the Unholy Trinity that brought this country on its knees through their impetuous disregard for the public service; Molale as the then Permanent Secretary to the President, Masisi as the then Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration and Morupisi as the then director for public service management.
We are doomed; thankfully we are no longer a one party state. With his enhanced stature, Masisi is likely to become more bullish and more ferocious in his attacks of detractors. His combative and instinctively confrontational style of politics might see him through what promises to be a parliament of brick and fire, but only up to a point. The trouble for the party and also for the government is that he is not a big stage politician. He is also not known for refined retail politics. His style as consistently shown in his interaction with the media is that of cut and run. At the level of Vice President this is going to complicate relations. But then as is the case with beloved master he does not give a damn.
As a parting short and also in fairness to him, Masisi has often exhibited glimpses of intellectual pretences. Under the new arrangement his new sparring partner is going to be Duma Boko. But as we saw on a number of occasions, Masisi was often skinned alive by Dumelang Saleshando, who by all accounts is a cut below Boko when it comes to intellect and erudition. With Masisi’s ascension, the Umbrella for Democratic Change has not for the first time been dealt another free opportunity to prove they are a match for state power. Politically, we are headed for more fascinating times.