The switching of political parties has increasingly become the dominant feature in the Botswana political arena. We continue to witness political defections of activists from one party to the other with surprising alacrity. This article endeavors to analyse this experience of political deviance in conjunction with the theory of prevailing politics in Botswana. I have written this article in reminiscence of revolutionary political study circles of the International Socialists Botswana.
The jibe of this article is to a relative extent, preoccupied with the individuals who held key leadership positions during their reign in the opposition and also played active role in frontal attack of BDP political ideology. Their energetic function in the legitimisation, championing of opposition politics and contestation of the BDP rule portrayed them as individuals who had conformed to the opposition out of morality and social conscience, and not coercion. Such individuals attracted accolades like party firebrands and political stalwarts whilst in the opposition. It would seem to me that to be showered with such praiseworthiness, one would have gone through a thorough initiation of political consciousness for his or her in-depth clarity regarding fundamental ideological differences between adversarial parties i.e. BDP vis a vis Opposition.
On the contrary, we are experiencing a different situation. The then political deviants have switched their political conviction as if they had never pioneered opposition politics. They behave as if the social and economic underpinnings of the poor and disadvantaged have all of a sudden evaporated. The former so – called opposition “firebrands” have chosen to ignore the appalling misery and poverty affecting the majority of Batswana. Whilst, it has been established that the BDP uses utilitarian power (use of money) for its recruitment drive, it is also evidently clear that the opposition activists have become calculative on incentives they perceive to gain for having to jump into the BDP bandwagon.
The truth is that these political defectors have been blinded by their opportunistic greed and immorality that they are so determined to worm their way into the BDP`s ruling liberal social clique to the extent of even being used as ‘victims‘ to be saved and liberated by the BDP ‘superior’ leadership. In return the BDP “superiors” fashionably use these economically-marginalised ‘peasants to robotically propagate the BDP government palliative programs which are only useful in curing the symptoms of poverty and not the root causes of poverty. Yet the socio-economic status of majority of these opportunistic defectors has not changed much. The only jobs these poor “ignoramuses” can find include; mowing the lawns of the privileged, picking up their garbage, unplugging their sinks, transporting and delivering so many of their expensive lifestyle furniture, being nominated as specially elected councilors, getting appointed as campaign managers and serving as public - rally rousers.
This new political sensibility ultimately expresses and celebrates a paradoxical lifestyle of self interest. Defectors to BDP from opposition are victims of opportunistic ignorance. In their inquisitive spirit of idle curiosity, they juggle political interests for economic goals. By abandoning sympathy of the poor in preference of ascribing themselves to the ruling class, these former opposition leaders have been ‘mystified’ into conforming enthusiastically to a political system that exploits and their instincts have been contaminated by their vile selfish-interests.
The main reason why we are experiencing this hype of political deviancy is that our politics has become stagnant and is going through a process of degeneration and pollution because all parties are trying to find the cheapest way of galvanising the electorate. The increasing lack of political education and clarity across parties, especially over where they stand on fundamental economic issues and the well being of the electorate at large, suggest that they have all succumbed to the temptation of playing for short-term gains. Sadly, Botswana politics have been subjected to cheap phrase-mongering “election” cry for winning common people votes.
For a fact the BDP state does not have much that it can deliver to the masses. BDP is a party which is not truly serious about using the state as a means of improving the well being of Batswana. The party has failed to ensure ample economic opportunities for Batswana to live a happy and a poverty free life. Its perverse backwash of welfare colonialism has specialised in sustaining poverty and preventing personal autonomy of Batswana. After half a century of its rule, majority of Batswana are either unemployed or underemployed, underpaid and overexploited. The BDP leadership has demonstrated how violent and cruel they are. Their use of police brute force to donkey - whip young graduates with ‘sjamboks’ for their rightful demand of job security, and the closure of Tati Nickel and BCL Mines in the most unscrupulous fashion, are recent cases in point. In a nutshell, BDP`s empty slogan “DOMKRAG” accurately defines its identity.
Conversely, the Botswana opposition lacks the utmost thoroughness in giving true answers to the concrete political crisis brought by BDP. It seems the compulsions and imperatives of finding alliances (UDC+) have become the only alternative driving choice rather than considered political convictions of opposition parties. Some of the leadership in the opposition are allegedly questioning and considering to turn their back on their party`s best instincts, and willing to sacrifice their party`s long-term political and economic interests for short-term gain. In essence they seek to uproot working class politics from opposition. By so doing the opposition will have resolved to launch a ferocious ideological offensive against the oppressed and to assert that capitalism is a natural and permanent form of society. This does not augur well for Botswana politics.
The abandonment of working class politics by opposition will be to drift into the morass of unbelievably disgraceful confusion in the preference of bourgeois democracy. The working class does not only possess a numerical muscle in terms of voting power, but they are the most oppressed and enslaved people under BDP rule. Their miserable condition is the most justification for regime change and therefore it will be disappointingly and flippantly scandalous in the increasing monstrous oppression of the working class by BDP if the Opposition can choose to be opportunistic.
Truth of the matter is that the Opposition describes its politics in a liberal pompous fashion and most of the time without content. The political agitation adopted by opposition exposes its fear to break irrevocably with the petty - bourgeois democracy and therefore countering BDP in a spirit of sentimental romanticism. Practically, the opposition seems to have accepted that BDP must be overthrown but emotionally being attracted by its predatory bourgeois democracy and its perpetual exploitation of the poor. Yet to prune politics to such an extent means to reduce it not only to opportunism, but to ram it into public`s perception in the most shallowest form and therefore imperceptibly falsifying the opposition core political programme: social – democracy.
This character of politics has consequently resulted in the opposition adoption of the tactics of despair in providing alternative solutions to the prevailing conditions bedeviling the masses. The approach has blunted and vulgarised the politics of opposition in that they now push to the foreground and extol what appears to be the same BDP political agenda – the neo-liberal utopia. To put it in Karl Marx words “such a panegyric is by no means a mere impulse, a mere declamation, or a political sally. It is a folly of despair.” This has consecutively caused the state of Botswana political arena to smack of nothing but venal political opportunism and atrocious vulgarism. No wonder all parties across the political divide do claim to be in alliance with tenants of social – democracy.
The failure to adopt the revolutionary boldness by Opposition will cost them a prolonged struggle against the BDP because it now increasingly becomes difficult for the electorates to gauge the difference between opposition and BDP. This even creates a potentially disastrous uncertainty about the future of regime change. For it to appeal in a more resounding way, Opposition has to instill into the minds of the masses, that it is really capable of realising the interests of Batswana, especially the working class and peasants. Opposition politics should mark a new and qualitatively different stage of human development as the question of bringing about a new regime that is capable of serving the exploited instead of exploiters is acquiring practical importance.
This requires the opposition to introduce political education that will strip its members of every shadow of ideological ignorance. The opposition should demonstrate the stronger will, the greater organisation and the most skilful and resolute leadership to deal with the concrete crisis emerging under BDP rule so as to compel the electorates to recognise that indeed the “era of regime change” has set in.