Sunday, June 11, 2023

Whispers in the deep and eloquence from the grave

It is, indeed, a trying time for the Botswana Congress Party. But then, it is a trying time for almost all political parties. Even though they won, all is not roses within the Botswana Democratic Party. My humble advice to the BCP is to let things settle down a bit because right now, their continued howling only serves to polorise their supporters. Their lack of grace in defeat confirms that the people were right in reclaiming those parliamentary seats they had given them in prior elections. There is just too much emotion; and emotions have a tendency to ignore reality. Almost everyone in the BCP is spewing a lot of vitriol which might not serve their party well in the long run.

Admittedly, being rejected by the people is a painful experience. I keep reading about BCP barbs being thrown at the UDC. BCP politicians are really pissed off and their anger is misdirected towards the UDC. The simple truth is that the people of Botswana made a choice. It is as simple as that and if the BCP has any gripes, they should go door to door and accuse the electorate of being foolish to have listened to “lies” told to them by the UDC. I wonder where the BCP was while those lies were being told. Be that as it may, this is not the time for the BCP to be making statements because they need time to simmer down, regroup and talk things over.

Last week, Dumelang Saleshando fended off many questions from the media rightly saying decisions would be made later. He indicated that he could not preempt the decision of his party’s congress and was going to wait until that time when the party would decide the next step. That was very mature. There is need to stop, take a deep breath and remove all emotion before making important decisions. It is clear that the people made a decision. The voters are not stupid and the BCP better remember that. The UDC did not vote for itself; it was the people who voted based on what they believed at the time.

There are important lessons to be learned from this and both the BDP and the BCP better sit up and take note. Politicians have a tendency to take people for granted and then complain when the people punish them for it. Although it won, the BDP performed dismally because people were not happy about certain things. The BDP must pay attention and identify those things that caused people to vote the way they did and then act on then in an honest manner. The BCP ought to do the same because there is reason why people who had made it “the fastest growing party in Botswana” humiliated them this time around by taking back the few seats they had given the BCP.

The BCP must be careful not to insult the voters for making a decision based on the behavior and performance of the party. It is the same voters whose votes the BCP will be asking for soon enough in council elections, by-elections and presidential elections. “If Batswana are going to punish us for refusing to be part of the lies (read: UDC) then they can continue to do that,” declared Chilyboy Rakgare, a losing candidate. But Batswana already did just that and they do not need anyone’s permission to do it. “We do not understand how one can vote Duma Boko and leave BCP out,” Elias Rantleru of Lobatse was quoted as saying. He should not ask that question but should, instead, find out who left out the BCP and why. It is this kind of failure to accept the reality of a people-driven outcome that might anger the voters against the BCP if they continue with this verbal onslaught. Lotty Manyapetsa also threw in a few barbs saying that Saleshando is not going anywhere. “Whoever has a problem with that should pack and leave.”

Manyapetsa should not worry about that because this last election showed that people indeed packed up and left the BCP and more will go unless the party brings itself down to the level of the people and stop whining like kids who have lost a packet of candy. This statement tells the BCP followers that a decision has already been made and that the rank and file will be called to just rubber stamp a decision made by some other people in their absence. Politics is about talking to people, patiently explaining your positions and getting them to believe in you and your doctrine. You strive for them to take your doctrine and make it their own. The people must own it so that they can fight to protect it. Giving orders to people in this manner only worsens a situation at a time cool heads are needed. Loyalty is good and important but it must be loyalty to agreed principles not to an individual. Party leaders are caretakers of the principles of the party. People create principles; principles do not create people. “If UDC seriously wants us to be part of the Umbrella,” added Manyapetsa, “they should ask Phenyo Butale or Haskins Nkagiwa to pave way for Saleshando that is when we will start negotiations.”

This is disgusting. Who paves the way for anyone except the people when they vote? Does Manyapetsa not understand how important a vote is to a voter and to the nation? This kind of mentality pervades African politicians everywhere and has manifested itself in many parliaments where a president demands the privilege to co-opt unelected people into parliament. Batswana are not amused that someone like Kitso Mokaila, who they rejected outright, still makes laws and sits in Cabinet after being made a Specially Elected Member of Parliament. If Manyapetsa wants an elected person to make way for a rejected candidate, why should Khama not raise Kitso from the dead? Where will it end? If such things are allowed to continue, what’s the use for elections then? The good thing about losing an election is that, apart from sobering you up, it gives you time to study not only where you went wrong but what you can do better than the other guys. Believe me, the UDC now has more to worry about than the BCP because the UDC has a lot to lose while the BCP stands to gain. But for the BCP to rise, these youngsters should be couched in speech and interpersonal communications because people do not forget easily. There is nothing more dangerous than words.

Besides, if Rakgare and Manyapetsa are allowed to continue shooting off their mouths like this, it will only make it harder for the long-suffering Taolo Lucas to clean up after them. “We must be calm and protect our party and the president when need arises,” said Lucas. “Let’s keep on talking politics of policies not the one which is driven by propaganda.” Tell the kids, Taolo! It all has to do with saying the right things to the people but in the right way. People do not want to be lectured or talked down to; they want to be part of it. Saleshando can learn more from those who criticise him than from praise-singers. That is how Gomolemo Motswaledi managed to both inflict an historical injury on the BDP and to soundly defeat the BCP, all quietly from his grave.


Read this week's paper