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Home » News » General » Khama bids BDP farewell

Khama bids BDP farewell

Publishing Date : 06 September, 2017

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA

President Lt Gen Ian Khama delivered his valedictory remarks to Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) faithfuls yesterday, marking the beginning of an end of era of his presidency. 
 

In less than nine months from now, Khama will be heading home after accumulative 20 years in the presidency, first tenure as Vice President and later as president.  When he returns from the ongoing Tonota Congress, Khama will head into obscurity as he leaves heir to the throne, Mokgweetsi Masisi to enjoy the spotlight.
 

It was during the same time — 10 years ago that former President and BDP leader Festus Mogae made a boastful statement that, “Batswana now know that there is still no alternative to this Party. It represents competence, experience and an unwavering commitment to develop Botswana for the benefit of all Batswana. No amount of malicious propaganda will deflect it from this noble goal.” The remarks were made at an elective congress in Molepolole in 2009.
 

Two years later, to prove legitimacy of Mogae’s proclamation, BDP strolled into one of its easiest victories since the 1994 general election, increasing its popular vote to 52 percent and garnering an impressive 45 seats in the process. Perhaps the most impressive thing amidst those stats was kicking opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) out of its traditional strongholds in Gaborone. BDP then took control of Gaborone City Council (GCC) for the first time since 1984.
 

Juxtaposing BDP fortunes in 2009 against its main rival, BNF, the latter was going through one of its most turbulent times in recent history. Since 1998, BNF has been a party torn apart by factions and instability. Although BDP was having its own shares of infightings, its victory then proved it is a party whose end was decades away.
 

Fast forward to 2014, BDP’s fortunes changed with the blink of an eye. Two events, inside and outside the party led to a situation which would change the fortunes of the BDP forever — the splitting of BDP and the creation of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). In 2014, BDP’s popular vote fell below 50 percent for the first time in its history while the opposition on the other end gained an unprecedented 20 seats in parliament, UDC accounting 17 seats while three others belonged to Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
 

It was Mogae who had conceded that if the BDP popular vote was to drop below 50 percent, the party’s mandate would be undermined. “A scenario where we win the majority of seats but fail to command a comfortable majority in the popular vote is not a good one. Let us face it, it would undermine our mandate. Although in other countries it is not uncommon for a party to win elections sometimes with numbers as low as 30 percent, our opponents seem to think our 52 percent gives them some hope and even reason to celebrate,” he had said.
 

Khama’s legacy at stake
 

When President Mogae bypassed frontrunners for the second in command throne; David Magang and Ponatshego Kedikilwe, it was on the back of Professor Lawrence Schlemmer’s recommendation. The Cape Town based political consultant was engaged by the party after the 1994 general elections to offer prognosis of the party in the lead up to the 1999 general elections.
 

The 1994 general elections had dealt BDP a heavy blow and had leaders’ substantially bruised egos of its leadership. For the first time in years, the prospects of losing power to opposition party became real. Schlemmer’s recommendation would catapult Khama from the army to the country’s number two position. The report had recommended that BDP, which was riven with factions, bring someone with a strong personality and appeal within its fold to help unite the part. At that time the description duly fit Ian Khama.
 

Almost 20 years since his grand fashion arrival in politics, a lot of questions are hovering around as to whether a man who was brought in as messiah has succeeded. By the time he leaves office next year, BDP would have hit its lowest popular vote in history, and also had an offspring—something which was peculiar to the ruling party and ubiquitous within opposition parties since independence.
 

The BDP split resulting in the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) will remain a centre of debate in many years to come. BMD is part of the Umbrella for Democratic, a coalition of opposition parties ready to battle it out for power with BDP in the 2019 highly anticipated elections. 
 

Khama will be looking at protecting his legacy and avoiding a situation where the party would lose power immediately after his leadership. The economy has stunted in the last few years and did not fully recover from the 2008 global economic crisis. Unemployment fuelled by job losses has added strain to Khama’s legacy and he has very limited time to reverse the situation.  
 

Enter Mokgweetsi Masisi
 

Masisi will be sworn as president on the 1st of April 2018, becoming the fifth person to assume the office. His ascendance will be coupled by the desire to reverse the ill-will the party has gained since 2009 general elections. The split, as per admission of various leading figures in the party has badly hurt the party.
 

Masisi will try to avoid the ignominy of being the last man to be BDP state president. For the first time, BDP faces a united opposition front, with BCP having joined the UDC bandwagon. It is generally believed that if BDP could be having any advantage in the coming election, it would mostly be its financial strength, in terms of prospects, BDP would face another alternative government in UDC. Not only is UDC enjoying surging good will from the citizenry, its leadership in Duma Boko, Ndaba Gaolathe and Dumelang Saleshando proves to be equally capable.  

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