Suggestions have been made in the aftermath of the recent Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) bulela ditswe (primary elections) by some in our midst that those Ministers who lost should be fired from their ministerial positions. Very compelling reasons in my view have been advanced for this proposition. That said, these Ministers would also present compelling reasons should the President Rre M.E.K. Masisi ask them to show cause why he shouldn’t fire them. At the end of the day, it would become a double-edged sword for him. Firstly and politically, it could further contaminate the already contaminated political environment in the BDP brought about lately by the Rre Ian Khama factor that seems to be destabilising it. They could potentially shift their allegiances from the President which he badly and desperately requires. Secondly, replacing close to ten or so ministerial positions could greatly weaken the BDP’s numerical strength in parliament in that these Ministers could out of sheer frustration of being fired from the executive tend to work against the party in many ways imaginable. Remember the permanent interests of politicians unless it doesn’t apply here.
A question should be posed at the outset: what is the message of the bulela ditswe results? The message is simple-BDP members have unequivocally sent a vote of no confidence in the Ministers who have lost for various reasons. One could be that these Minsters have poorly represented their constituents in parliament or that they have poorly performed in their ministerial portfolios. Whichever could be the case, BDP members do no longer want these Ministers as their Members of Parliament. On the compelling strength of these propositions if at all, a strong case for their removal could influence the President to do so if he thinks along those lines which I want to believe he doesn’t.
But then one important point not to lose sight of is the following. While these Ministers have lost in their party’s internal process, they still have the full mandate of their constituents acquired from the 2014 general election. This mandate ends when parliament is dissolved to pave way for the 2019 general election. Between now and the dissolution of parliament therefore, they remain Members of Parliament from which they are still Ministers. Alive to the precarious circumstances they now find themselves in so far as their political careers are concerned, they could still try to salvage something from the remaining period by upping their game in order to endear themselves to the President for appointment to some public office post the current 11th parliament. They could choose to be the bootlickers (malope) of the century that far outweigh the President’s by pitching their voices the loudest in praising him at any given opportunity. This will of course depend on whether the President is amenable to such overtures. On the basis of the foregoing, it could be argued on the other side of the coin that it would be grossly unfair for the President to fire them on the basis of the results of the bulela ditswe. It is important to note that technically and constitutionally, nothing has fundamentally changed to influence the results of the bulela ditswe to be the basis for their removal. That said, we should recognise that Ministers serve at the singular pleasure of the President.
By retaining the vanquished Ministers in cabinet after becoming President together with appointing new ones, this is by any measure a tacit endorsement on their wherewithal to exercise the functions of public office at executive level. Recognising the humiliating turn of events occasioned by the results of bulela ditswe and the subsequent removal from the ministerial position if it were to occur, these Ministers would understandably feel somewhat ditched if not downright betrayed by their President when they needed him the most in their time of grief and soul searching. Bear in mind that some of them like Minister Ngaka Ngaka have only just tasted the luxury of ministerial office after 1 April 2018. But this is politics where you are as good as you were the previous day yet you are not the next. Politicians themselves will attest to this given the passage of history with its attendant outcomes. Some of them would have watched this movie yesteryear when the actors are now their victims. A profound sense of déjà vu one could say.
The President seems to be his worst enemy through the comments he reportedly made at the Business Week Conference in Francistown with respect to the winners in the BDP bulela ditswe. The Midweek Sun newspaper dated September 12, 2018 reports him to have said that “To tell the truth, some of the people who beat them cannot serve the country at the level at which these men have served and sadly the constitution compels me to choose my cabinet from Parliament”. The Voice newspaper dated September 14, 2018 carried similar comments. One should be blunt and say that these comments are highly offensive to the winners and presumably the BDP to have come from none other than its President; are divisive; almost validate the narrative that most of the President’s preferred candidates lost and that he does not respect the voices and choices of his own party members. I argue that even if the President looked upon the winners as it appears to be the case, he should have kept it to himself because I want to believe that he is expected to know the consequences of these comments.
Going through the names and the pedigree of those who beat the Ministers with my eyes closed, these individuals match or even beat them. Their only sin I want to posit and cautiously so, is that they were not in the President’s slate, so to speak. The unintended consequences from the President’s comments are that and like I have said above, that the already contaminated political environment in the BDP is likely to shift to the next gear. Surely neither the President nor his party needs any further contaminated political environment for obvious reasons.
When all else has been said and done, political expediency is always uppermost in the minds of politicians. The President is no exception. He is facing an election next year together with the opposition and whose value as a credible competitor to turn the tables is not yet clear due to its own internal shenanigans. With the Rre Ian Khama factor already ruffling feathers in the BDP and inescapably to its detriment, the President wouldn’t want any further issues that could rock the boat enroute to next year’s general election. Firing Ministers who lost in the bulela ditswe elections at this late stage would be highly politically suicidal. Besides, it doesn’t look like with respect, that he has any reservoir in terms of cabinet material in the existing Members of Parliament. The few that could be available may, if history is anything to go by, not be in his good books in which he could be left with no other option but to rely on the saying: ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.’