Botswana: 'Khama Popular, Not Influential'

Pressphoto

- He is not influential politically -Dipogiso

- Yields immense power on tribesmen -Sesa

- He lacks the discipline he preaches -Ntirang

PHILLIMON MMESO &

TEBOGO MMOLAWA

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Serious doubt has been cast on the character and influence of former President Ian Khama on political decisions by electorates, as the 12th general election billed for October 2019 fast approach.

Not only has the question of Khama's ability to sway political outcomes divided opinion among ordinary citizens, political analysts also disagree on how his relocation to the opposition ranks will influence the outcome of October general election. The political landscape has changed dramatically after Khama decamped to the opposition and formed Botswana Patriot Front (BPF) after stepping down from the presidency and promising to use his influence to end 53 years of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) rule.

He cited lack of internal democracy within the BDP and constant harassment by government and being denied to use state resources especially aircrafts as stimulated in his retirement package.

Khama who is using his position as the paramount chief of Bangwato to rally support have seen his politically rallies attracting multitudes of people especially in the central district where he is regarded as kgosikgolo.

Main opposition party, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has taken the advantage and riding on Khama's magic especially in the central district in order to win constituencies.

Political analyst Leonard Sesa is adamant that Khama has a lot of influence in the political and might help to cause political upset to the BDP in the coming elections. "We cannot underestimate Khama's influence especially the grassroots who still revers him and his kgosikgolo factor will lure votes to the opposition," he observed.

Sesa says Khama's alliance with the opposition will significantly affect the BDP's voters' bank especially within the Central region where it is their stronghold. "He still has influence on some BDP parliamentary candidates who might be just using the party as a spring boat and later join the opposition after the elections," he said, adding that this could be the reason behind his decision to rush into collaboration with the UDC.

Put to him that Khama failed to garner enough delegates for Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi's campaign for the party presidency in Kang early this year against President Masisi, Sesa sees it in a different way. "Most democrats believe that had Moitoi not thrown the towel she was going to cause an upset at the Kang congress. Most people didn't want to be seen to be against the party leadership hence they endorsed Masisi. During the secret ballot they were going to vote Moitoi," he reasoned.

Not so, says another political analyst Kealeboga Dipogiso who insists that as far as political history is concerned Khama has failed to influence political events within and outside the party. He gave example of the Kanye elective congress of 2009 in which all people on his lobby list which was commonly known as A team was whitewashed by the Baraphati faction.

"Remember Khama was vigorously campaigning for the A team as party president and head of state as well as kgosikgolo to the extent of despising the then party chairman Daniel Kwelagobe saying he is too old and sick but his team lost," reasoned Dipogiso, adding that Khama's influence as kgosikgolo of Bangwato has not translated into political gains for the BDP but rather saw the party's popular vote declining.

"Yes as a Kgosigkolo he has influence because his subjects revere him and throng his meetings to get a glimpse of him but after that they return to their respective political parties," he says.

If Khama had that much influence, Dipogiso deposit that he could have long annihilated opposition parties when he came to power with everyone, especially Bangwato, joining the BDP but this has not happened. "If the UDC can win the 2019 general elections it will be because of their preparedness not because of the influence of Khama," he reasoned.

Signalling a wave of defection, a lot of council candidates have resigned from the BDP especially in Serowe West to join the BPF to show solidarity with Khama.

Khama's performance

Khama assumed the party leadership in 2008 taking over from Festus Mogae who retired as both party and country president.

In the previous elections (2004) BDP garnered 44 parliamentary seats and popular vote of 57.73% with Khama as the only unopposed candidate. The BDP went to the 2009 general elections pregnant with an offspring after the 2009 elective congress which saw Khama's lobby lists defeated and suspension of party secretary General the late Gomolemo Motswaledi from contesting the elections as candidate for Gaborone Central.

BDP got 45 seats with popular vote dropping to 53.26% with main opposition party Botswana National Front (BNF) getting 6 seats and popular vote of 21.94%. The following year after struggling with labour, the BDP gave birth to its political offspring, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).

It was the first time in its history that the BDP split and this shook the party to its core.

In 2011 there was a public sector strike which saw opposition parties uniting and forming Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in 2013 to try and wrestle power from the BDP. The BCP would later pull out of the alliance, seriously denying the UDC a clear win.

The 2014 were the last elections for Khama as head of state and stakes were high with public sector unions endorsing the opposition. The BDP saw its popular vote taking a nose dive from 53.26% in 20009 to 46.45% resulting in 37 seats from 45 seats of 2009.

UDC did well garnering 30% of popular vote with 17 parliamentary seats while BCP was humbled with 20% of popular vote and 3 parliamentary seats.

Lacks discipline

Taking a jab at Khama when addressing a star rally in Francistown West constituency last week, specially nominated Councillor Botho Ntirang said during his term the former president always emphasised the importance of discipline among Batswana. "He even came up with a road map which had 5Ds being democracy, discipline, dignity, development and delivery. Discipline was part of Khama's road map but today he is doing the opposite of what he was preaching while he was still the head of state," Ntirang charged.

Ntirang joins a string of BDP politicians who have launched a multipronged onslaught of Khama, criticising him for trying to rule from the grave and raising trivial issues against their party and its president Masisi.

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