As the nation draws closer to the political destinies of would-be Members of Parliament and Councillors respectively as would be decided by the election results in October this year, these candidates are currently and painfully asking themselves: should they contest this election on Lt Gen Ian Khama’s slate or on that of His Excellency the President Dr M.E.K. Masisi? And at the core of this question is whether by aligning or not with either slate, would such bring political joy when the Independent Electoral Commission announces election results on that fateful day or night. If the fallout between Lt Gen Khama and President Masisi that has become a matter of public discussions let alone a catalyst to the election candidates’ uneasiness had not emerged, these election candidates would not be as worried as they currently are. A bit of context and background is inevitable to do justice to this conversation.
Following the much publicised fallout referred to above, explosive accusations and counter accusations have become a daily political menu from which consumers are spoilt for choice between Lt Gen Khama and President Masisi. Some of President Masisi’s supporters felt and still do, that his predecessor wants to rule from the grave and such like arguments. Lt Gen Khama’s supporters felt and still do as well that President Masisi is highhandedness in dealing with those he perceives anti him in all manner of respects. From these opposing but compelling positions, the battle lines were truly drawn up to this point. The BDP Kang congress with the top of the agenda item being the election of the BDP President where Lt Gen Khama supported Hon Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi was the next stage to further harden attitudes between supporters of Khama/Venson-Moitoi on one hand and President Masisi’s on the other. Events leading to this congress were so telling that the BDP was evidently divided right down the middle with some party MPs members suspended and the other summarily expelled.
Subsequently, Lt Gen Khama resigned from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) with the founding of the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) which is now registered as a fully-fledged political party. It is argued by some that BPF may turn the politics of the BDP on its head. One is waiting to see if indeed this is the case. Lt Gen Khama addressed two well attended meetings in Serowe which arguably set the political scene with respect to which slate election candidates would identify with. A lot of soul searching presumably and predictably ensued owing to a particular candidate’s locality and their loyalty to either Lt Gen Khama or President Masisi. On one hand, a candidate would come to terms with the reality that Lt Gen Khama could just be their lucky charm going forward or that and on the other, President Masisi holds all the winning cards in the event the BDP prevailed in the election. Amongst these are other political and corporate positions up for grabs even if one fails to win as an election candidate. Serious consideration will be given to this view in favour of aligning with President Masisi.
There are whispers in the dark that some BDP election candidates have moved along with Lt Gen Khama to join the BPF. While some of these whispers suggest that only those who lost BDP bulela ditswe (primary elections) are the ones following Lt Gen Khama as a result of their disgruntlement, it cannot, conceivably, be ruled out that some winners of such bulela ditsewe cannot, or may not jump ship to follow him. Election candidates in the predominantly Lt Gen Khama’s chieftainship area would think twice whether to remain aligned to President Masisi yet stand the possibility of losing for betting on the wrong horse. And this is premised on the argument that the Khama magic will work wonders for candidates he supports particularly in his area of traditional influence.
It is anticipated that the BPF will collaborate with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to boost the prospects of defeating BDP candidates. By any measure, the BPF/UDC proposition on paper and in traditional and historical BDP stronghold is attractive and somewhat compelling and therefore too good to be ignored by election candidates in this area. I must concede that some regard this (Khama magic) as some wishful thinking and an overrated view. In fact, President Masisi himself dismissed this magic in the Weekend Post report dated 02-08 March 2019 titled ‘Masisi questions Khama’s magic’ by saying amongst others that ‘BDP would have lost power in 2014, only saved by BCP.’ Fair point. Or, would they feel they are betting on the wrong horse with respect to Lt Gen Khama? It may very well be so on the understanding that in most cases, it is not easy to defeat a party in government (though history has shown that it is possible) because such party holds all the levers of power that could be used to its advantage. Further to this is the widely celebrated view by some, accompanied by the goodwill to President Masisi, that he is what the doctor ordered to turn the fortunes of this Republic. That said, what calculated risk would an aspiring MP or Councillor in the Serowe hinterland, notwithstanding the competing appeals between Lt Gen Khama and President Masisi, take for his political survival? Your guess is as good as mine.
One other point I need to mention is that because election candidates are torn between the two gentlemen, the BDP could face some challenges flowing from election candidates who would have won the party’s bulela ditswe but decide to follow Lt Gen Khama. This without saying, would force the BDP to quickly find other individuals to fill those vacancies. And this would lead the party to hand picking somebody to fill that vacancy given the time constraints and the ugly after effects bulela ditswe have continued to produce in the BDP. This approach has somewhat proved unfavourable and unattractive in Hon Guma Moyo constituency for example where the constituents rejected it citing bulela ditswe process as the only transparent way to get a candidate. Now if this scenario obtained in other areas where election candidates would be attracted to Lt Gen Khama if the whispers in the dark are anything to go by, it could pose an administrative nightmare for President Masisi which could by extension, further compound his situation as an attractive ally for political survival by election candidates.