The Botswana Gazette newspaper dated 19-25 September 2018 carried an interesting story under the above headline. The story is attributed to a source I presume, who is versed with the inner details of the advice. I was particularly surprised by the advice given that President M.E.K. Masisi stands to politicaly lose more than former President Ian Khama if he doesn’t fight back from the word go. The stakes are just too high for Masisi to unnecessarily play second fiddle to Khama. At this point in time, Masisi appears to be politically on the back foot if we agree that former President Khama is still fresh in the minds of many as he has just left office hence his influence. This influence it has been suggested and probably with some degree of believability is that it played some part in the outcomes of the recent Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) bulela ditswe (primary elections). The source admits this by saying “… We admit that while Khama is not bigger than the party, he is still a popular figure in the country.” This in itself would be an added advantage to Khama to which he is alive and would seriously exploit. I state from the beginning that Masisi should seriously counter every Khama’s moves because if he doesn’t, it will be politically suicidal where he may not be able to recover the lost ground.
Masisi I want to believe, is still trying to entrench his influence and authority both in government and the BDP after becoming President. I have argued before and still do so that politically speaking, he has been made by Khama given how he propelled him from a relatively obscure position in the party to become his Vice President and ultimately the President ahead of some who had long been in the party and government. I have also argued that Masisi would require Khama’s support as he begins to entrench his influence and authority in both government and the BDP because he doesn’t at this stage, have a solid constituency that he has himself built in the party. But with divorce papers on their relationship already served, it would require a miracle of biblical proportions to restore it. Consequently, it would with the greatest of respect be ‘foolhardy’ for Masisi in the unfolding political storm to leave everything to chance. In discussing this matter, I will rely on the newspaper source in so far as the rationale of the advice is concerned.
At the outset, it should be mentioned that there is an all-out-war between the two gentlemen and whose source is difficult to ascertain. The political space is pregnant with the view that Khama is desirous of politically supporting and promoting candidates who may not be in good books with Masisi as a way of getting at him and in the process weakening his political cloud. I have opined before that Khama is behaving like a betrayed individual who will not stop at nothing but to inflict maximum pain on the betrayer. While Khama could cause Masisi a lot of problems in the political space, the latter is solid and secure with the power and authority flowing from his position as State President. Should push come to shove, he may be tempted to use these powers to ‘sort out’ Khama. It could still be early days to see this unfolding. Keeping this paragraph in mind, let me interrogate the advice.
The Botswana Gazette source says that “….Masisi has been ordered by his seniors to rise above everything and be presidential but seems to be struggling a bit…the plan is to make Khama irrelevant… the source said the Permanent Secretary, Carter Morupisi has been given the authority and the freedom to respond fairly and firmly as he sees fit to Khama’s attacks and conduct.” While it is fair as expected for Masisi to behave presidential because he has to anyway, the opposite is the truth with respect to the added advantage referred to above. Khama is fully aware that he cannot successfully fight Masisi from the government side because of the executive authority vested in him. So in essence, Morupisi’s instruction to respond ‘fairly and firmly’ becomes inconsequential and cannot render Khama irrelevant between say now and the next general election unless Khama is effectively rendered politically irrelevant. There are reports that after he had initially put a ban on Khama’s coverage by government media, this has somewhat been relaxed to on a need-be basis. Morupisi cannot therefore render Khama irrelevant-politically speaking that is. Only the BDP through its Constitutional provisions could render him politically irrelevant.
There are reports that the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DIIS) is divided between, and almost rendered dysfunctional, by those still loyal to its former Director General and Khama respectively. “We admit that the Directorate on Intelligence Services is still infiltrated with some who may be serving former bosses but everything will be addressed and dealt with fully post 2019.” This is a dangerous view to put forward because by the time everything is ‘addressed and dealt with fully post 2019’, wouldn’t the damage emanating from Masisi’s quiet diplomacy if you allow me to call it that be achieved by Khama by then assuming he is the one infiltrating it? The DIIS is an important institution that should not be allowed room to be infiltrated because the consequences would be dire. Masisi should urgently confront this infiltration if indeed the DIIS is infiltrated.
If indeed this is how Masisi intends to deal with Khama, it is not only ‘amateurish’ but a display of some sense of serious weakness which gives more room for Khama to fight back. I hold a view (based on what politics has become) that politics is not a game fought on the principles of civility where clear rules of engagement are defined and are a prerequisite. Politics like the saying goes is a dirty game and the fatal blows thrown by both Khama and Masisi at each other pretty confirm the dirt therein. Masisi cannot therefore take the posture of a lawyer arguing his/her case before a full bench of judges at the Court of Appeal where civility and clear rules of engagement are a-must-observe or else you are doomed. The period between now and the next elections is very important for Masisi; is becoming shorter by the day where he must use every opportunity to show us what he is made of. Circumstantial evidence shows that Khama is seriously de-campaigning the BDP and in the process somewhat scuppering its chances of doing well in next year’s general election. Masisi is currently seeing off Khama’s term and is in the process, trying to create conditions for his own term should he win in 2019. It is palpably clear that there are machinations by Khama to render Masisi’s journey between now and 2019 very uncomfortable in many respects. He cannot afford to behave like a lame duck individual in the political space where Khama currently operates arguably with some degree of precision to hurt him.