Saturday, April 4, 2020

Why we do not need automatic succession

One searches in vain to see anything that resembles Botswana’s automatic succession arrangement in the western democracies, including in the countries that we like to mimic.

The differences become more profound when put beside the fact that in Botswana a president is not a product of a popular election.

To understand how we ended up in this messy situation, one only has to remember that politicians always like to put their personal interests ahead of those of the country.

In coming with this arrangement, former President Ketumile Masire did just that.

The arrangement is inherently undemocratic.
Deep inside, he must be regretting he ever designed such an arrangement.

Things are not going the way he would have imagined when Masire retired ten years ago.
Like politics, human nature never works neatly.
Giving one person such huge and far reaching exclusive powers to determine the destinies of a whole nation is a folly.

Again, the situation becomes even more unpardonable when one gets to think that in Botswana presidents are not products of an election.

The current President will attest to that.
Proponents of automatic succession like to play up fears of uncertainty and instability in case of a death of an incumbent.

That has been Masire’s drumbeat.

The former President likes to say the amendment was necessary to induce certainty.

More than anyone, the man knows this to be patently untrue.

That is an illusion.

The footwork was introduced specifically to favour Festus Mogae and shield him from potential contests from people like Ponatshego Kedikilwe and Daniel Kwelagobe, against whom Mogae stood little chance inside the ruling party.

Although he was to ascend to the presidency, the man never had any foothold inside the party structures and parliament.

It’s true that after the departure of the first president, Masire faced stiff competition from people like the late Mout Ngwako.

It’s clear he never liked it, or forgave those who gave him that competition; real or imagined.
Hence his brash move to have the constitution changed in favour of automatic succession.

Rather than induce certainty, automatic succession actually has the potential to bring about chaos and havoc, especially if in the hands of unpredictable and vindictive individuals as is the current President and his Deputy.

We cannot usefully expect Mogae not to favour the system.

He is the first generation beneficiary of this undemocratic system.

So it would be foolhardy of us to expect him either to discredit, speak ill of or let alone do away with it.
The situation though is different with Ian Khama. Though he is going to be a beneficiary of the system he has never really needed it to ascend to the top position.

His popularity is solid.

If anything, the automatic succession juggernaut may prove a serious irritant for Khama in the sense that he may need to have a Vice President(s) who he does not necessarily favour or want to become his successors as president.

Given his administrative limitations and lack of grasp on international geopolitics, Khama may want to rope in a person of Kedikilwe’s caliber as his deputy.

Those who know the tempestuous character of the two men’s relationship would attest that for all the convenience Kedikilwe would bring to Khama’s presidency, the automatic succession may hang over Khama’s head as he makes an all too important decision of who to appoint as his deputy.
That is regrettable.

It, therefore, is in Khama’s personal interest to declare immediately upon coming into office that he would do away with automatic succession.
He does not have to give reasons.

All he will need is to have the courage of conviction that Botswana has to move with the times.

Beyond that all he would have to say is to lampoon automatic succession as an unwelcome, regressive and undemocratic relic from the past which was created whimsically not to benefit the country but only two people’s interests of two people.

By so doing Khama would not only enhance his standing in the eyes of a nation that doubts his democratic credentials, he will also be able to cast wide the net of people who he would need to support himself without unnecessary worries of who his successor would be ten years down the line.

Under the current system, it is regrettable that Khama could actually position his younger brother to become president if he so wishes.

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