Political parties contesting this year’s general election are on the last lap towards the finishing line in launching their candidates and appealing for votes. They are in a desperate situation requiring desperate measures to woo voters to their corners in recognition of the reality that their very own members are, or may not be enough to make them cross the finishing line. It doesn’t matter the character, chequered or not, of the potential voter. It is a common thing that political parties always brag to say they have recruited a high-value individual notwithstanding the baggage of whatever nature they may be carrying and bringing to their new political homes. What matters is that important vote.
I am taken aback by members who claim to belong to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) yet they believe they do not require Lt Gen Ian Khama’s overtures to help them defeat the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) as he has publicly declared. Their argument, politically flawed as it is, is that he was a bad, vindictive and corrupt leader during his administration for all manner of transgressions one can think of. Fair enough. But there is another side of the coin. I have always argued that Lt Gen Khama is a very influential figure in the body politic of this country who could be an added advantage to political parties across the board. And that is why, before he fell out with his erstwhile political party and its current leader, he was suggested to be the chief campaigner of the BDP in this year’s general election. Some BDP members acknowledge that they will struggle to mount a solid campaign without Lt Gen Khama.
It is against this background that I argue that the UDC will be foolhardy and suicidal to reject Lt Gen Khama’s overtures because of his past. Politics, like war, has shown that there are casualties of one form or the other perpetuated by the influence of the leader. But in an election year like this one, all else is not considered until perhaps post facto. One leader departs with casualties while the incoming does the same during and when he departs. As I write, there are bulela ditswe (primary elections) casualties particularly from the ruling party and the Botswana National Front whose concerns have not been addressed. These are the casualties of poor leadership. The point I am making is that, may be and just maybe, there could be a few politicians who are clean. Most of them have a baggage of one sort or the other.
There is a school of thought that with the arrival of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) at the UDC, the latter would be home and dry to win this election. I don’t thinks so. It is indeed a fact that the former has added some impetus into the latter. If the UDC was still intact with the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and the current Alliance for Progressives (AP) still under the umbrella, I would agree that this type of UDC would pose a real threat to the BDP. BMD and AP have created a gap that should be filled. The Khama factor and the expected numbers brought by the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) fill this gap. UDC members who are opposed to Lt Gen Khama do not seem to appreciate the gap created by the numbers that migrated with both the BMD and AP respectively or are in denial of this fact. Or, they may not be the authentic members. However small these numbers could be as suggested, they are still crucial in this election. Bear in mind that in the First-Past-The-Post system Botswana uses, a party stands to lose a constituency by just one vote.
It is reasonable to suggest that not all members of the UDC are ready to embrace Lt Gen Khama and what he stands to bring to them. Yet they will be just too happy to embrace a Member of Parliament or Councillor recruited from the BDP or any other political party for that matter. This brings into sharp focus the question of political literacy of those against Lt Gen Khama. Are these members schooled in the ever changing dynamics of politics particularly in an election year where numbers, more than anything, matter? And that the excess baggage carried by individuals like Lt Gen Khama do not politically matter. Has the leadership of the UDC conveyed a telling, coherent and unambiguous message to their members as to the benefits of political mileage Lt Gen Khama could add to their cause? If the message has not been conveyed, I wouldn’t fault the rank and file members but the leadership. In the meantime, political parties who are alive to the meaningful influence Lt Gen Khama could add to the UDC are busy sending the message that is gaining traction to the effect that it is hypocritical for the UDC to embrace Lt Gen Khama yet it has threatened to arrest him should it take power. The UDC does not appear to be rebutting this message. To their detriment I should say.
Lt Gen Khama has made the situation easier for the UDC because he says he is not joining it-he belongs to the BPF. This dispels the fear that he could bring some instability of some sort in the event the UDC wins the election. He has made it clear that his immediate mission together with that of the BPF is that of removing President Masisi from power. He refers to President Masisi as an ‘outgoing President’. Looking at the political events as they unfold right in front of those who care to watch and listen, it would appear political parties on their own may not out-rightly be able to win this election. The BDP dominance of the political landscape it has enjoyed since independence appears to be coming to the end. I would put my head on the block to say that the instability currently consuming the BDP may render it to seek election cooperation from other political parties not with the UDC. And if it did that, it would be perfectly entitled to do so as a way of winning the election.
Should the UDC not take advantage of a political opportunity of a life time Lt Gen Khama presents to it, it will with respect, be foolhardy and suicidal. It may live to regret it. Like I have said above, the arrival of the BCP, though suggested as a game changer for the UDC, may not necessarily have been such. The expulsion of the BMD and the founding of AP has created a gap which I believe, Lt Gen Khama and the BPF politically speaking, are willing and ready to plug. If the BDP or any other party had the opportunity to use Lt Gen Khama as the UDC has but appeared to spurn it, I would still hold the same view. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise. Judge for Yourself!