By the time you read this article, the second consultative meeting of Lt Gen Ian Khama would have concluded in Serowe with his political future fully or partially determined. Whatever the outcome and whether partially or fully determined, the political trajectory of this Republic with respect to whether it will change the fortunes of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) for bad or for worse, will be on course. I am specifically mentioning the BDP in this political game changing meeting because of the historical attachment Khama has had with it by holding high profile positions therein. It couldn’t have come at a bad time when the BDP is fighting for political survival from all fronts: internal turmoil caused by the party fighting itself together with the potential threat posed by the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). With the inevitable Khama political involvement outside the BDP, the party’s fight to stay afloat may be just too much to achieve. It is safe to suggest that the first consultative meeting was very much a precursor to the second in which the ultimate outcome of this one could be as clear as day light is.
It is almost a given that Khama is quitting the BDP. There are a few options he could thereafter pursue: firstly, he could form or support a new political party as widely suggested or secondly, he could collaborate with the UDC to help it win some constituencies in the traditional BDP stronghold. The second option is viable because working closely with the UDC as the official opposition party with visible footprints in the wider Botswana could effectively help penetrate and weaken the BDP.
It is perhaps relevant to briefly discuss why Khama is at this point. It started with the fallout with his successor His Excellency the President Dr M.EK. Masisi after the change of guard at Tsholetsa House and at the office of the Republic’s president. None of the two gentlemen have come out in the open to tell the nation what the cause(s) of their fall out are. It is a matter of speculation. Consequent to the fall out, Khama has exhibited signs of a betrayed man who will fight to the bitter end to ensure that Masisi falls with whatever modus operandi is fit for purpose. Every one of us has an idea of how a person who feels betrayed by the other could behave whether reasons of betrayal are known or not. I am thinking Khama is in this position.
At the first consultative meeting, it was pretty much clear that a big chunk of attendees were in agreement that Khama should resign from the BDP. What was not clearly pronounced was whether or not he should form a political party or craft a political cooperation of some sort with the UDC to which he has come closer to its President as news reports suggest. This is the part I am eagerly waiting for which I verily believe will be the political game changer.
BDP in danger
Should the ‘overwhelming’ support that was reported in Khama’s favour at the first consultative meeting remain constant or increase further, this will spell doom for the BDP particularly with respect to the upcoming general election. This overwhelming’ support I want to believe, consists of voting persons whose vote will be prescribed by Khama. In the process, the historical BDP stronghold constituencies situated in Khama’s jurisdiction that have sustained the BDP since independence will be shaken and possibly collapsed. If the BDP loses some of these constituencies in the general election, chances of it retaining power through other constituencies elsewhere will be significantly reduced if not dashed. It is a fact that the BDP holds fewer constituencies outside the central district some of which were marginally won in 2014 thereby making them even more susceptible to be lost with the ensuing political dynamics in the BDP and the game changer possibilities.
Can BDP fight back
On the widely suggested narrative that the Masisi administration has won back the bodies and souls of many Batswana as a result of the many changes he has made so far, I am grudgingly attracted to this narrative. The immediate question I ask myself should be: are these changes in totality enough to materially repel the game changer given the many political dynamics playing themselves out in the BDP and in the public discourse? The political dynamics include the own goals scored by the party with respect to the events leading to the recent Kang congress where internal party processes appeared to be swayed in the direction of Masisi against his challenger Hon Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi; the recent suspensions and expulsion of some MPs. While these punitive measures against the MPs could have desirable and appropriate at law, they are somewhat suicidal in the bigger political scheme of things. I am afraid the game changer posed by Khama particularly in his area of jurisdiction, somewhat enhanced by his chieftainship advantage and coupled with the likely collaboration with the UDC, is reasonably too high and steep a mountain to climb for the BDP.
I have previously argued that Masisi has not yet made his own political constituency in the BDP as has Khama. I have also argued that Masisi has won party political positions he contested like the BDP chairmanship in Mmadinare in 2015 and Tonota in 2017 elective congresses primarily because of Khama’s influence and support. This cannot be fairly disputed neither can it be that Masisi is currently busy building his constituency in the party though it is still at the infancy stage. It would reasonably be argued that had Khama supported any other candidate who may have competed against him in these two party activities, he may have lost primarily because he did not have his own constituency in the party that may have ensured his success even if Khama did not support him. Coupled with this is that at around or immediately preceding these activities, it was reported that some in the BDP whether in cabinet or party caucus, had asked Khama to fire Masisi for reasons known to themselves. This has since been acknowledged by Masisi himself following his fall out with Khama. So in some respect, Masisi was essentially riding under Khama’s influence and support to keep his political journey on course. The point I am making is that with Masisi facing some sort of revolt in the party with his authority at times questioned and undermined, the BDP is somewhat and somehow incapacitated to mount a serious fight back against the game changer. Forget the artificial and cosmetic comments that the BDP is united post the Kang congress. It is in the political intensive care unit.
In conclusion and with the above in mind, I argue that whatever outcome obtains after the second consultative meeting in Serowe this weekend will change the political complexion of Botswana politics particularly with respect to the BDP’s chances of winning the upcoming general election. Nothing suggests as matters stand, with no convincing indication that the internal turmoil is getting any better, that the BDP will improve its dismal 47% popular vote of 2014. It doesn’t have the luxury of time to make any meaningful fight back given the political instability it currently experiences. The position the BDP finds itself in is by and large, out of its own making given the many own goals it has scored against itself. Some, if not all of them, were avoidable. If the AP and BMD were themselves not contesting elections and the BDP forged some collaboration with them, may be and just may be, the game changer could be strongly challenged and possibly defeated. Like they say, only time will tell. Judge for Yourself!