As the battle lines to fight to 2019 General Election begin to take shape, the Opposition parties have less than 12 months to get their act together. With more than half a dozen opposition parties joust with their internecine struggles, the likelihood of a united front to face the BDP continues to fade and once again the potential for an alternative Government is unlikely.
However, while Botswana’s Opposition parties have been characterized by constant splits and re-alignments, the BDP has remained united since the first elections way back in 1965. That may change if the rumblings coming out of Tsholetsa House are to be believed. The split between the Masisi and Khama camps shows no sign of healing, and early next year there may be an open battle for control of the party, and with it the seat of Government.
In 1997, when the party faced a similar internal struggle, and fears it may lose the 1999 elections, mining interests backed plans to bring, now former President, Khama into the party as a unifying factor. This decision was based on the advice of the late Professor Lawrence Schlemmer, a discredited South African academic who promoted the “Big Man” theory of leadership in Africa. As one of the early backers of Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s InKatatha Freedom Party, Schlemmer argued that the BDP’s success in the 1999 elections hinged on Masire stepping down and bringing back the Khama dynasty in the form of his oldest son Ian.
When the late Dr Masire did indeed vacate office before the end of his elected term, his Vice President Festus Mogae automatically took over, and brought in Ian as his Vice President, and BDP scored a resounding victory in the 1999 elections.
It took another eight years before Schlemmer’s grand design came to fruition and Ian Khama followed in the footsteps of his father and became President of the Republic.
Is the same scenario being played out behind the scenes, as Khama heats up his challenge against political light weight President Masisi? Are the same hidden mining interests again seeking to put a “Big Man” in the Presidency?
Africa’s colonial powers, backed by commercial interests – be they the British, the French or the Belgians, realised that the quickest way of taking over a territory was to suborn the traditional leadership backing traditional sitting Chiefs, or putting their own puppets on the historical thrones of Africa.
In post-colonial Africa, big business has again put its weight – and money – behind the “Big Men” in Africa and, for example, backed Mobutu Seso Seko in overturning Patrice Lumumba the democratic leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo. When Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame emerged as leaders in war torn Uganda and Rwanda, global business and international finance agencies pumped billions of dollars into their economies, as they implemented foreign business friendly policies. A blind eye was turned to the increasingly autocratic rule and erosion of civil and human rights in these countries.
Closer at home, the emergence of Jacob Zuma as President of South Africa gave “state capture” a whole new meaning, as the Gupta’s saw an opportunity to suborn the Government behind the backs of the traditional king makers from the mining and banking sectors which had indirectly controlled both the Apartheid, and ANC governments which followed.
Is this scenario playing itself out behind the scenes for control of the BDP in Botswana post 2019, and the seat of Government? Is this ultimate battle for Khama Crescent?