- What next after defeat for the duo?
- Masisi ‘s loss will create two centres of power
- Khama may turn into a rebel with seditious intentions
Botswana is a nation on trial. Away from her endemic struggles of unemployment, HIV/AIDS, socio-economic ills and the collapse of industries among many others, she on April 5th faces a rare political eventuality whose results may shake her core values of peace, stability and much-needed development as a president and his predecessor through a proxy, for the first time in history, lock horns in a contest which may leave the loser heavily bruised and dangerous, writes TEFO PHEAGE.
For the Botswana Democratic Party and the nation, 2019 is a year of many firsts. A president fighting with his predecessor or vice versa, a president facing an unprecedented strong challenge from a member, the neutralization and demotion of the once untouchable Khama family and a highly active former president ready to fight the state and ruling party by all means possible.
While the battle-lines are already drawn, the big question perhaps is: will the key protagonists, former president Ian Khama and president Mokgweetsi Masisi accept defeat? Masisi has already made an undertaking to the nation that he will leave in peace, but his undertones suggest otherwise. He recently warned the members that they should vote wisely because even if he is defeated at the upcoming congress, he will still remain the national president. Like Khama, Masisi has invested a lot in this war. For him, it is a lifetime political breakthrough; his endgame. History shall judge him badly as the first president to hold the office for under two terms.
For Khama, a defeat will be the family’s end. He told the recent Serowe ‘unauthorised’ gathering that those in power want to annihilate them. He paints a picture of an unimaginable Botswana screaming for help. Khama knows what power is and what it can do to an enemy. For the first time in history he feels so vulnerable and weak that he has committed to restore his power by hook or by crook. The warring parties, sources say, have already ruled out reconciliation on account of the many transgressions towards the enemy camp and are now setting their eyes on the congress where they shall find relief in power.
The contender, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi who is backed by Khama does not have much to lose-an unequal contender whose victory shall be a bonus of her unforeseen political exit package. Apart from reaching her political menopause, Moitoi had already announced her retirement before an enigmatic idea to contest for the presidency arose. She was always going home but now stands at the doorstep of the presidency.
While many say the Khama factor tainted her campaign, political observers argue that Khama was a necessary evil and perhaps her only hope due to his popularity and deep pockets. Elections have become so expensive in recent years and fighting a sitting president is even more so.
What’s in Masisi, Khama’s fall-back plan?
“I will not rest until stability in my country is restored ,” Khama told a South African publication. Khama is clearly resorting to what scientists and psychologists refer to as the paracosmic approach-a detailed imaginary world.
Psychiatrists Delmont Morrison and Shirley Morrison mention paracosms and “paracosmic fantasy” in their book Memories of Loss and Dreams of Perfection, in the context of people who have suffered the death of a loved one or some other tragedy.
Khama has already hinted some of his exit strategies; most pointing towards tarnishing the image of his nemesis’s government, at worst expressing signs of a delusional man. He clearly views his ‘mistreatment’ as a national crisis and threatens to go international over his complaints of Masisi. While many may take this lightly, the truth of the matter is that it will dent and reverse the gains made by Botswana internationally to position herself as a beacon of peace and Africa’s darling. Quite a hardened character, Khama will obviously not let go as he has done in the past on many contests he had with his detractors.
Some Political pundits worry that he may at worst transform into a rebel, aided by his military background and a solitary lifestyle. He has already shown an insatiable appetite to disobey authority and may likely be charged with seditious intentions-an intention to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the person of the President or the Government of Botswana as established by law.
Should he win, Masisi will be left with two taxing options. First to exert the law on Khama to curb delinquency and second to practice what he often preaches-peace, unity and reconciliation. For Masisi, reconciliation is the best option for it will deter Khama from joining forces with opposition or forging ahead to destabilise the BDP in the run up to the general election which are just a stone throw away. For Khama the endgame clearly is not the loss, but an enigmatic destination only known to him.
Unlike Khama, for Masisi the loss is the end game. Curiously a loss will herald a new chapter in Botswana’s politics. For the first time in history the country’s president will not be the ruling party’s president. This, observers say, will create two centres of power and may lead to instability in the country and party.
Masisi will obviously be a bitter president for the remaining period of presidency pending national elections. He has already issued a warning over this possible calamity to his party members. Masisi will be a lame-duck president and his office bearers aren’t always as meek as little lambs since they may no longer feel beholden to voters.
Besides, now freed from any obligation to court voters for another election, lame ducks have much more freedom to follow their own course and Masisi may turn to be a bitter monster as a result. Despite his promises that he will go in peace, history is replete with lessons that have shown that power once tasted is seldom let go.
Masisi’s loss just like Khama’s will also hurt the BDP and create much chaos within the ruling party, more than currently experienced. The party will need to overthrow him immediately, to stabilise itself and country and this may not go unchallenged, especially given Khama’s lack of popularity. Moreover, a dethroned Masisi may turn corrupt in his quest to amass as much power and wealth as he can before he is overthrown. It is not yet known whether he will attempt to bounce back once dethroned. For the Khamas, his downfall will be an early Christmas worth celebrating while for Venson-Moitoi it will be a classic case of political reincarnation.