This column will focus on things political, as well as social issues and democracy in general as it seeks to give commentary on leaders, government and governance issues, and most importantly, looking at life through the prism of the rulers and the ruled as they try to fulfil the social contract.
This week I will focus on the poor and the elite in an election. Elections are an interesting spectacle. They always give an insight into the nature and character of a society.
This year a lot of cattle will die. Feasts are being held, where meat is eaten large in amounts every weekend across the country. It is elections time as parties and candidates prepare for the General Elections. Interestingly in October we will have in Botswana, the poor voting while the elite rule. Period! There is no confusion about this at all. I will demonstrate this and you will realise and agree with me that this is indeed the status quo in this our dear Republic.
Just look at the people doing the legwork, the dirty work so to speak. Who does the house to house campaigns? Who organises the rallies? Who cooks for dignitaries gracing the rallies? Who sings at the rallies in the choirs?
Who puts on T-shirts, while the dignitary politician sits on the top table in suits? One thing about attire is that the clothes you put on will always mark you out from others. It is at these rallies that you realise that clear distinctions are drawn between the voters and the elite, whose right is to rule you and me. Take for example the well-designed T-shirt ya ga PPP, inscribed at the back ‘Ke tsamaya le botate’ in a telling message. This is a powerful message and the wearer is playing the role of a walking advert. But do you ever see the candidate wearing such a T-shirt? I am told that some years back, one BNF leader who was being introduced in sepolotiki sa ikgaratlhelo (struggle politics) could not bring himself to put on a T-shirt with screaming electioneering messages. At one point in Old Naledi he came dressed immaculately like one about to address a shareholders’ meeting; with the suit, shirts and golden cuff links and sharp pointed shoes; painting the perfect picture of a model petty bourgeois! Those who were there, say other comrades at the top table were smart enough to pull their man aside and give him the ‘right’ attire. A T-shirt emblazoned the letters BNF and the unity symbol was handed down to the comrade leader. He put it on, but however he was later heard muttering by those close to him; saying the T-shirt was dirty.
At one point Botswana Democratic Party treasurer, Satar Dada - one of the richest men in the land - tried to consolidate power by running for the Gaborone South seat. Now this is one of the poorest constituencies in the capital. He dug in his pockets; bought sneakers, blankets and even food and gave to the poor. That was his way of campaigning and he thought he will win. However he lost and since then never dared to try his luck again.
Political parties being non-profit making organisations, which are made out of volunteers, have to engage in a lot of activities to enhance internal party democracy. These are elective congresses, intra-party elections and many others. People have to travel long distances and spend a whole weekend or even a week at these activities. A large number of people sleep in classrooms as they are cheaper. These are the poor, who at times are unemployed or working less paying jobs. This class of people is the core in a party. In fact they are the party. They organise, sing, dance and even sleep in cold classrooms during party events.
Have you ever see an MP sleeping in a classroom at a congress? This rarely happens. This is not to suggest that for political leaders to prove their commitment to politics they should sleep in classrooms or not to dress in their designer suits. It is poor people who bear the greatest brunt of political campaigns and other party related activities. They do the most difficult task of canvassing for votes on behalf of the candidate. Thereafter when the elite man makes it to parliament – they become the forgotten lot as their man suddenly becomes too busy for them. They only get to be remembered again on the fifth year when another election battle looms. How sad!