Monday, July 6, 2020

Why President Khama is failing the BDP and the nation

In a book entitled “The Prince”, Nicollo Machiavelli states that men who become princes by virtue of their abilities are in a better position to execute their responsibilities better than those who obtain their positions through good fortune. He went further to state that men who become princes by means of a good fortune lack both the requisite knowledge and the means to keep their positions. Machiavelli believed that leaders of this calibre cannot withstand the challenges that may arise during their tenure as they ascend to their positions quickly and hastily.

It is against this background that one can argue that President Khama is failing the BDP and the nation at large mainly because he has never competed for any position as a public servant and as a politician (save for the party chairmanship that he contested and won in Ghanzi). People who know him well tell us that he started his career as a policeman and his father appointed him the deputy commander of BDF when it was formed in 1977. He became the commander in 1989 and joined politics in 1998. Some of the political heavyweights who served the ruling party and the government diligently for many years were overlooked and Khama was appointed the VP a day after retiring from the military.

He was brought on his terms and conditions. He brought his own people, made history by being the first VP to go on sabbatical leave for one year and unlike his predecessors, he did not have any ministry to head. Having served in the disciplined forces for more than twenty years, he is used to a situation where people simply obey his orders and salute him whenever they see him. He does not understand why civilians can challenge and oppose him because he has always been given what he wants. He does not understand why people complain when he unilaterally increases the price of alcoholic beverages; or when he appoints a secretive panel to investigate the activities of members of his party which culminated in their suspension; or when he flies military airplanes even though he is not a military officer. This is a man who has only been accountable to very few people in his life and strongly believes that he has to brush aside all those who do not agree with him.

Even though Khama expects people to treat him the way he was treated in the military, he fails to realize that it takes the military instructors six to twelve months of intensive training to change civilians into soldiers so that they can behave, act and speak in a manner deemed to be in line with the rules and regulations governing their institution. Almost all members of the BDP have never enlisted in the military and therefore do not expect their leader to do things the military way. They do not expect him to conceptualize discipline and apply it to them as it is done in the military because politics and the military do not mix just like water and oil.

The other reason why Khama is failing the BDP is his misplaced belief that he can use the party constitution to solve political problems bedeviling the party. Throwing the party constitution at BDP members who differ with him on certain issues can only stifle internal democracy and plunge the party into a crisis as it is currently happening. He has, without any doubt, inflicted pain and destroyed the political careers of some members of Barata Phathi all in the name of instilling discipline and exercising his constitutional powers.

I blame his advisors for failing to tell him that in politics he cannot do as he pleases even though he may be acting within the parameters set by the constitution. They have failed to advise him that in politics people are free to hold different views; that they can criticize their leaders publicly; that they are free to contest for political office and that most of the problems are solved through compromises. Both Masire and Mogae managed to keep the BDP afloat by relying on dialogue and compromises rather than the party constitution. They tolerated criticism and allowed people to freely debate issues as evidenced by the fact that the likes of Jacob Nkate could publicly advocate for the retirement of the former without any fear of being thrown under the bus. They never attacked people aspiring for central committee positions on the basis of their health and age as it happened before the Kanye congress. They never used their constitutional powers to reverse the outcome of a democratic process as it happened after the Kanye congress.

Lastly, the President is failing the BDP because he has a very weak central committee and a very weak Vice President. The current central committee is made up of individuals who cannot look beyond their noses. They cannot see themselves differing with Khama because he is the one who appointed them. Almost all of them were not endorsed by the BDP congress and therefore cannot claim to have been given the mandate to lead the party by those who attended and voted at the Kanye congress. They are self centered and can only advise the President to act in such a way that their political interests are not jeopardized in anyway. It is therefore not surprising that some of them are reported as having advised the President to call for elections to solve the crisis engulfing the BDP without thinking about the possible repercussions.

This problem is compounded by the fact that the VP is very weak. His outrageous public statements do not just embarrass BDP members but the nation at large. The oldman has simply gone past his sell by date. The more I listen to him, the more I become convinced that he is irrelevant to modern day politics. We all know that instead of debating national issues with the seriousness that they deserve, the oldman is still yearning for limelight and does not care about people who lose their lives at the hands of the security agents. All that he wants is for the country to be ruled militarily even though he claims to be a democrat.

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