Months before Botswana Democratic Party primaries, the headlines in local papers began to tempt us with tales of which incumbent MP was in eminent danger and about to be dethroned or the battle for a particular political borough by party heavy-weights versus new-comers/non-performers (or as I recently heard one political player describe his/her opponent) “non-entity”. Harsh language, but then politics is a harsh game.We watched the fiasco that unfolded in Francistown West, and how BDP utilized “any means necessary” (using all available tactics so as to get the resultthey desired) to get their way.
Even before primaries were held, we read of and heard tales of party members reporting on one another/lodging formal complaints with respect to opponent contravention of party primary by-laws (de-campaigning and so forth). Other stories with regard to party primaries that were eye-catching includedaccounts of would-be/supposed fist-fights, so-called insider stories of plots to remove the not-so-popular and the customary faction fighting we’ve come to expect from the ruling party.
It made for titillating reading, though I know of many who were unimpressed to read that Cabinet had forced the President’s hand and demanded leave so as give their all to politicking for their party primaries. The people’s concern? The national and international issues that require(d) the time and attention of this super-groupthat were certainly not going to take leave at the same time. If we utilize and apply His Excellency’s 5 Ds to BDP’s just past party primaries, the national sentiment appears to be that instead of the democracy, development, dignity, disciplineand delivery the people were promised, BDP’s primaries were a testament to what is becoming the norm, the anti-thesis of the Ds, autocracy, regression, ignominy, chaos, lack of control, indiscipline and poor to non-existent outcomes despite the proceeds poured-in.
We had no choice but to pay attention to BDP’s party primaries even if we’re non-partisan. Firstly because primary elections are a dress-rehearsal for the wider general election that is to follow; allowing us the voting public a fore glance of what is to come with regard to candidate behaviour (what he/she says and does) and the freeness, fairness and credibility of a political party’s internal electoral processes or lack thereof and the level of political sportsmanship within a party’s structures ÔÇô we see what the candidates will or won’t do to win.
It allows the electorate to rate and review the candidates because their performance, whether as a prospective or incumbent MP, office bearer or business person, former civil-servant or private sector employee is going to come up and be scrutinized (or at least it should). The primary is a glance into who is politically aligned with whom(be it other political players, factions within a party, business interests and other social/national/international bodies). And finally the primary election is thepenultimate narrower of the field of candidates before an election for office. The primary and pre-primary election process is a vetting procedure. And the questions it allows us to ask and the processes and behaviours it allows us to see include whether a political party will allow those with criminal records to stand for office, should law-makers be law-breakers?
It will indicate if a politician or his/her people will stick to debating the issues or whether they’ll attack one another on a personal level, using information that is harmful but certainly not relevant with regards to performance.It’s an early indicator of the state of our political and electoral health because it is via the media; broadcast, print and radio ÔÇô that we’ll see what the electorate has an appetite for; rural poverty eradication policies perhaps? How a candidate thinks service delivery can be improved?Or shall we re- visit the who is smearing and maligning whom and trying to bring about their ruin or even who is sleeping with whom and getting caught with their pants down? Should a political party not hold a primary election that too says something to the voting public about a party’s commitment to democracy; that they’re indifferent or so arrogant that they’ll force whomever upon the electorate. So if we evaluate and measure the BDP and their handling of party primaries along those lines, what do the answers tell us about the political health of this nation under their rule?
We’ve become used to allegations of certain types of misconduct and illegality during primary elections and BDP’s primaries did not disappoint; we’ve been regaled with allegations ofvote buying – voters given money or other rewards for voting in a particular way, or not voting, bussing – voters being driven in large numbers by bus into targeted constituencies (constituencies in which they were not eligible to vote), state media bias, fraud with regard to ballot counting and deception involving the ballot boxes themselves, manipulation of the voters rolls and for me personally, the ultimate show of depravity, previously unheard of in Botswana’s political history is the political petition, signed by members of the citizenry long deceased!This time as Africans say, “BDP showed us things…”While now and again, such allegations are/were merely a sign of poor gamesmanship or a final attempt to discredit one’s opponent, the pervasive and widespread nature of these allegations indicate at more than something being not quite right.
The extensiveness of the duplicity, deception, deceit, dishonesty and derailment with regard to the democratic process that occurred before (the new 5Ds), during and through-out BDP’s party primaries, indicate something sinister at play within the ruling party. Even BDP’s remedies to these situations has been undemocratic; which has to leave the electorate wondering, do we want to elect a party of cheats and malcontents back into office? And the ruling party should be reminded, of remarks they have made with regard to elections in other states, where they condemned and decried such goings-on.
The world was watching what just occurred, ambassadors sent their reports to foreign capitals, foreigners told their friends, relatives and business associates outside, our SADC neighbours took mental notes and corporations re-thought about investing in Botswana. BDP primary conduct was more than cause for concern; it should have us all agonizing with regard to what BDP’s behaviour and conduct during party primaries heralds for this country’s political, social, economic and democratic future.