In his address to the BDP followers in Kanye, President Ian Khama mentioned that it was not unconstitutional of him to request some people to forgo their constitutional right to stand for party positions. Fair enough. I concur, it has never and it will never be unconstitutional to make a request. Why would it be when the word request means to ask politely? Perhaps the President should have gone further to mention that it is also not unconstitutional for people to turn down his requests. I am saying this because after Kwelagobe chose to turn down Khama’s request it appeared as if he had committed a hell-worth sin. As far as I understood events leading up to the Kanye Congress, first the President made his request. Kwelagobe only came in when he turned the request down. After Kwelagobe turned down the President’s request, then came an order, which came in the form of a choice. Under the order those who chose to stand for party positions would lose their Cabinet positions and those who chose to remain in Cabinet would not stand for Central Committee positions.
Faster than the speed of sound Kwelagobe was dropped from cabinet because he had chosen to stand for party chairmanship. The logic behind this arrangement soon became suspect when Lesego Motsumi was allowed to remain in cabinet even as she was running for the position of Secretary General. While we were still wondering if Motsumi’s immunity was a result of her gender, which was never the criteria when the request and the choice (between cabinet and party) were brought forward, we got hocus-pocus for reasons. At some point we would be told of how she was spared because she does not lead any faction. Before we could even digest that notion, we would be bombarded with recitations of how our president was dying to have women in positions of leadership. The President’s reasoning was that cabinet ministers were over stretched in performing cabinet and central committee duties simultaneously. He argued that the BDP had a pool of equally capable people who could serve in the central committee. What a noble and wise gesture, I thought at the time. The President also put his weight behind women candidates apparently to prove his desire to have women take over leadership positions in the party. Again I thought, what a gentleman we have in our President in that he can open the door for ladies.
The Kanye congress came and left Khama and his favoured candidates with egg in their faces after the whitewash at elections. After losing out, the women candidates blamed fellow women for their loss. As it has become the norm, the media was not spared either. The women candidates complain that other women did not vote for them as they had expected.
Well, that could be true but the fact of the matter is Khama’s women lost because they deserved to lose. They are the architects of their own downfall. I monitored their campaign in the run up to the Kanye congress and to say their campaign was amateurish and trivial would be an understatement. They advanced embarrassing and repugnant reasons as to why they deserved to lead the party. The women did little if anything at all to sell themselves to the party faithful. Even those who supported them didn’t have any reasons for that. It was painful to hear grown up people admit they will be voting for Mma Seretse only because Khama said she should be voted for. God blessed people with brains but they have chosen to relegate their fate, even when they can determine it themselves, to Khama. In the “A” Team’s loss, Khama started the own goal. It was clear his campaign strategy would boomerang and hurt his team adversely. His campaign was full of contradictions, intimidations and mudslinging. Never for once did he display signs of someone brought in to bring peace and stability into the party. Well, he tried albeit too late to tone down, especially on the eve of the congress when he announced he was ready to accept and work with whoever wins the central committee elections.
Some people praised him for finally showing some impartiality. As for me, I just laughed because I could read his statement was prompted by the realization that his preferred candidates were not going to get the nod from BDP delegates. I could read between the lines that the animosity was far from over. After all he had made it clear he didn’t want to work with Kwelagobe. All this time as he blundered, I wondered why if I could, Khama could not read the pulse of the BDP followers. It was clear people wanted Kwelagobe and his team for what they stood for. It was clear that people were going to vote for Kwelagobe because of his track record. Kwelagobe always talked of why he deserved the vote and never for once did he try to portray Mma Seretse as a worthless democrat who should not be voted for.
Kwelagobe knew too well that the election conundrum was for BDP members to solve. You see, Batswana of today are politically literate. Gone are the days when it took someone’s surname to attract votes. Gone are the days when people spent their time talking bad of their political opponents instead of stating what they will bring if elected. Khama and his chosen disciples lost it the moment they started advancing reasons why Kwelagobe should be rejected while ignoring to tell us why Mma Seretse should be voted for. Instead of selling Mma Seretse as a capable woman (and she is), Khama chose to dedicate his energies in auctioning off Kwelagobe as a boarded machinery no longer useful to the party. The upshot in Kanye truly proved him wrong.
Kwelagobe’s age and health, which Khama anatomized in his campaign, was a non-starter. If anything, such insensitive utterances only managed to secure Kwelagobe sympathy votes. In the face of being degraded by fellow democrats, Kwelagobe chose to play avuncular. Delegates wanted to prove that you don’t embrace someone when they’re in their prime life only to fire them when they get old, especially in the case of Kwelagobe whose entire prime life was spent in the party and not in the army or law school.
Mma Seretse got excited and bumptious from the presidential support and chose the route taken by his master in her campaigns. She entered the mudslinging fray and in the process derailed from politics of substance which would have proved her mettle. It appeared she had been fooled to believe the President and her gender was all she needed to triumph over DK. At some point I shed a tear for her. Here was an articulate, hardworking and fearless woman acting dumb. I mean, how do you explain it when someone goes on to assert that because someone was given twenty seven goats for a previously held position then they don’t deserve to aspire to serve in another portfolio? How do you allow your supporters to place an advert in newspapers and address you as madam chair when you are not one yet? The congress had not even started. Talk of counting the chicks before they hatch.
It is unfair for Mma Seretse and Mma Motsumi to blame their loss squarely on women voters. Being women didn’t guarantee automatic votes from other women. Their accusations are unwarranted and uncalled for because what they are basically saying is, they should have been voted simply for their femininity disregarding their attitude and aptitude, which are essential factors in any selection of leadership. It’s a shame for Mma Seretse to start blaming the media for what she terms failure to point out she was the first lady to stand for chairmanship. Who needed to be reminded? The BDP delegates wanted to vote someone who could remain calm and call for order and resilience in the face of the storm. They wanted someone who respects every democrat’s constitutional standing in the party. They wanted someone who stood forward and said what they can do for the party instead of diagnosing other people‘s health. They found that person in Kwelagobe.
Kwelagobe came across as a unifier. I couldn’t help but admire his humility when he hugged and laughed with Nkate. Yes, the one who attacked him in the newspapers prior to the Kanye congress! Kwelagobe is a seasoned politician who doesn’t hold personal grudges. Not all of us would be humble and magnanimous enough to embrace our “enemies”. Perhaps what the losers ought to learn from this election is that a campaign is all about you and not your opponent. At the end of it all, no one but democracy won the day at Kanye.