Observers are not in one accord as to whether or not President Ian Khama has failed his party. One school of thought says that Khama managed to root out factions in the party while another insists that he divided the party even more.
Political observer, Lawrence Ookeditse thinks that Khama has succeeded in either reducing or uprooting factionalism in the BDP. “The BDP is more stable now. This he achieved partly by incorporating Ponatshego Kedikilwe, who led a faction, into the executive when he made him his Vice President. As it is, the BDP has got no standing factions,” said Ookeditse. As far as he is concerned, Khama cannot be said to be a liability to the BDP. “I admit that he contributed to the poor performance of his party but he saved it from total collapse.
The BDP, which was already in a terminal decline when he came in, could have lost power had he not joined politics,” added the academic. Ookeditse blames part of BDP’s poor performance at the polls on the “natural element of fatigue,” by which he means that, many people are tired of the long tenure the BDP has had in office. Ookeditse says that part of the reason why the northern part of the country voted the BDP is because of Khama’s influence. “When he came in, the party needed someone who could attract loyalty like him. We also need to understand that his tiff with the workers emanate from the fact that his government could not increase salaries for its employees due to the recession.
It was not entirely his fault. However, it appears Khama was a solution for a particular time and for a specific problem. Times have changed and Lawrence Schlemmer (consultant hired by BDP who recommended the roping in of Khama) would probably not recommend Khama for the current problems,” he said without explaining. Ookeditse however feels that, going forward, Khama should manage his relationship with the workers differently. “The most obvious approach is of course to engage them,” he said adding that Khama also needs to engage the media more meaningfully because the reading public makes decisions on whom to vote on the basis of what they read,” added Ookeditse. The BDP, he said, needs to reform in a big way if it wants to stay relevant.
The political scientist said that Khama has alienated too many people as leader of the BDP and President of the country. “This was a different election altogether. The BDP was supposed to lose but won because the BCP collapsed,” said Professor Zibani Maundeni of the University of Botswana (UB). Like Ookeditse, Maundeni accuses Khama of having contributed to the decline of the BDP although he saved it from total loss in the election this year (BDP scraped through with a reduced popular vote). Maundeni believes that the decline of the BDP will continue. “Nothing and nobody, not even Khama can stop it. The BDP is running for the last time,” he said adding that what compounds the problem is that Khama seems not to have learnt much from the mistakes he has made in the past five years.
“The appointment of hard-liners such as Eric Molale to the post of Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Ruth Maphorisa as Head of the Department of Public Service Management (DPSM) and Carter Morupisi as Permanent Secretary to the President is an indication that he remains on the warpath with the workers,” concluded Maundeni. Another UB political scientist, Dr Bashi Mothusi is adamant that Khama has failed in his mandate and that he has become a liability to the party. According to him, the birth of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), which happened under Khama’s watch, has cost the party in that it lost some of its young and intelligent leaders. In his view, the poor performance of the BDP emanates from the formation of the BMD which has joined ranks with the Botswana Peoples’ Party (BPP) and the BNF to form the UDC. When asked whether he considered Khama to have become a liability to the BDP, Mothusi’s answer was categorical.
“Yes, he is a liability to the party,” he stated. His take is that, Khama’s leadership style has resulted in the marginalisation of the two factions, the A-Team and Barata Phathi, which factions his predecessors- Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae- had carefully and skilfully managed. “He aligned himself with a new faction, which is loosely referred to as “Tenderpreneurs.’’ He is now captive to this group which is made up of people who only want to protect their business interests.” Mothusi suggests that BDP members should encourage Khama to step down the same way they did with Masire in 1998.
“But we must bear in mind the fact that the majority of BDP members are very afraid of him. It will therefore take a few brave men and women to persuade him to step down or to challenge him for the position of the leader of the BDP,” he pointed out. Dr Mothusi does not believe the BDP will perform any better in the next election with Khama at the helm.