Would the VP shed off the bolope (sycophancy) tag?

SHARE   |   Friday, 22 July 2016   |   By Adam Phetlhe
Masisi Masisi

His Honour the Vice President is on record to have publicly pronounced that he is a lelope, a tag with political implications particularly that he is a few years away from occupying the highest office in the land. Political statements generally make or break politicians and this one is no different. It is expected that whatever he says in private or public should be in the context of nation building, promotion of accountability and transparency, good governance and such like virtues. These are some of the virtues which define a “fit and proper person” to be the fifth President and bolope is certainly not one of them.  But what is a sycophant? A sycophant is “a person who acts obsequiously towards someone important in order to gain advantage”. The advantage referred to here could be ascending to a high political office, gaining an unfair advantage to promotion at the workplace and generally gaining such an unfair advantage for personal gain after acting obsequiously (acting obedient to an excessive degree) towards someone important.

His Honour the Vice President is an educated citizen; highly gifted in public speaking to sway voters in his favour, an attribute that is desirable in politics but which most of his competitors seriously lack. His rise in politics is “colourful and decorated” within a fairly short period from an assistant Minister, full Minister and ultimately the Vice President. Given this colourful and decorated rise, I am still to understand and appreciate why he decided to attach this undesirable tag to his political career when everything and anything is going his way. If this was a political jab at opponents, it is almost like “cutting off the nose to spite the face” that is, doing something intended to harm others yet it turns out to harm you instead. By declaring himself a lelope, His Honour has arguably and potentially set the tone to his Presidency that those who desire to serve in his administration will have to act obsequiously towards him because this will be the underpinning criteria. It also means that this tag will be cascaded right down to the civil service and perhaps the entire nation. Who else will be prepared to be left behind since requirements to make it to public or any other office will be so easy and worth no effort to achieve and if this view is flawed, how else does one contextualise it? 

Writing in his article in 2009 titled “Sycophancy - the evil to our democracy now”, a lecturer at the Regent University College Seth Nketiah observes that “…this cherished democracy has taught us how to put on line people placed on responsible positions in our bid to fight poverty, ensure social cohesion, facilitate the development of our social services, ensure the freedom of speech of the citizenry, cater for the vulnerable, ensure the rights of everyone, and above all sustain the peace of our society”. With bolope as the buzzword, we cannot achieve what Nketiah describes above. He continues “They (sycophants) will be happy to go this way than to be honest and straight forward enough to speak their minds no matter the cost. For them putting up a debate on an issue against the powers that be is not in their dictionary….Today there exists a thin line between loyalty and sycophancy to such an extent that the two seem to be synonymous with each other. People no longer mean what they say and what they mean”. Onyango Ochieng Jr, a political and communications consultant, writes in his article “Sycophancy the willing undertaker of our political lost glory” that “Interestingly only a few have openly condemned this canker worm gradually, but steadily, getting engraved in the psyche of some people-consciously or otherwise - whilst trading their sense of honour, candor and integrity on the alters of achieving egotist gains”. These articles consequently pose the question: Are sycophants fit and proper persons to be entrusted with the highest office in the land? Before this question is answered, let me state that I am using the phrase fit and proper in the context of political expectations from those who occupy this office by the citizenry.

Given the above argument, it goes without saying that the consequences which accompany sycophancy are devastating because there will be no merit and competency to drive state institutions and programmes. It will be more of the law of the jungle than anything else. Those who intend to challenge His Honour for the presidency of both the party and the Republic will arguably make a solid case against him on the basis of his bolope tag which by any account, is not expected or desired least from a number-two-cum-number one citizen. A lot of spin has been attempted to play down the impact of bolope presumably on its implications and consequences but it may be too little too late. Politicians are generally known to stick to their guns and also very difficult to be swayed hence my doubt that His Honour could shed off his bolope tag.  We will forever miss the turn to the famous Road to Denmark; the destination of which reportedly provides a stable, peaceful, prosperous, inclusive and honest society. But we can never travel this road because like Tomichan Matheikal said “History is replete with blunders written by sycophants”. Because of the overwhelming negativity of bolope, His Honour shouldn’t be entrusted with the office of President.

Much as we collectively condemn tribalism as a catalyst to nation breaking, we should in the same vein condemn His Honour for calling upon us to embrace bolope. The Sunday Standard dated 23 September 2015 reported a video clip attributed to His Honour, which according to the newspaper, went viral with the following: “I am not bootlicking at Domkrag, I also bootlick royals. I wonder where your future lies if you are not a bootlicker, who is going to save you”. If this is true, it is not only frightening but mind-boggling as well. Bolope is not an “attribute” consistent with the highest office in the land.  

Adam Phetlhe   
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