Khama and the politics of anger
Khama outrage at Nasha signals a leader poorly attuned to the demands of political survival. Writes Joel Konopo*
The Office of the President is silted up with anger and disgust so much that it has taken the battleaxe to almost everyone; to the Chinese, to journalists, to the judges, to the lawyers, to immigrants, to unions and to the opposition. Anger may well be the watchword in President Ian Khama administration. But since when has anger ever amounted to a political or administrative position?
Since 2010 a lot has gone wrong at Domkrag where debate has been replaced by fear and backstabbing. Fast forward to 2014. The general election demonstrated the growing vulnerability of the BDP and, in Wynter Mmolotsi’s clairvoyance, Tshekedi Khama is struggling to adapt to the prospects of being Leader of Opposition in 2019. The BDP has been losing its trusted lieutenants over the past six years. The former Speaker, Margaret Nasha latest resignation offers a glimpse into the sour grape attitude of the BDP leadership. Take example of a disappointed Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi who upon receiving Nasha’s resignation letter made a wry assertion.
“We will respond to her with one line.” This kind of anger is dangerous when it occupies high offices. For Khama it was a blessing in disguise that Nasha, a member of 3H generation – hardworking, honest and humble – left the party she joined some 37 years ago.“Let her go,” he purred recently as he addressed BDP youth league in Mosu. After all, Nasha is power hungry and has “a career in losing elections.” She is thankless because she has been favoured with special nomination over the years. “Is that not women empowerment?” Khama wondered loudly.
But those who understand the dynamics within the BDP say the new leadership is poorly attuned to the demands of political survival. They argue that the ruling party has lost the capacity to define its ideological direction and has turned on its self. They say even the recently announced Economic Stimulus Package is a convenient, pre-election ploy of grabbing attention because government has failed to diversify the economy.
They argue strongly that it is not the no-blows-barred book “Madam Speaker Sir” published last year that piqued Khama. Nasha’s interventions in the running of the BDP angered Khama. At one point, she torpedoed a Congress plan to heap up ultra vires powers on Khama to allow him to punish members without following procedure. As Speaker, she displayed the tenacity to lead an independent parliament away from the clutches of the executive. But her decision to decline Khama request to review some sections of the Standing Orders after election in 2014 – to allow parliament to vote for Speaker and Vice President by show of hands – really rubbed Khama the wrong way because she says she received a summon from party lawyer threatening a law suit. Court papers where later altered to reflect that the Attorney General was suing opposition parties. The Attorney General and the BDP lost the matter and Khama then showed stiff opposition to Nasha reelection and backed Gladys Kokorwe.
At a UDC rally organised to welcome her, Nasha had quickly learnt to overcome deeply imbedded fear by BDP politicians to hold Khama accountable. “Small minds discuss people,” Nasha declared, outlining her carefully mapped out plan to inflict maximum pain in the attack of Khama. She then went for the jugular saying the Constitution was reviewed to make way for the Khama family who were born out of the country. “I can be president because I was born in this country and my parents were born in this country. I am a Motswana by birth and descent,” she declared, drawing a distinction with Khama who was born in the UK to a British mother. “I am an intelligent girl. I went to school,” she sent the crowd into stitches as she poked fun at Khama’s questionable academic credentials adding that the Khamas had a history of performing poorly at school. “When students obtained Grade A and B, they obtained J at Maruapula School.”
She later explained why she abandoned the ruling party, which, in her view, is consumed by anger and no longer respect the idea of having a constructive dialogue. Nasha offered a rare insight into the BDP inter-party politics explaining that her erstwhile party needs a little shake-up as anger is central to the running of the BDP. “You wake up one morning and cancel Tirelo Sechaba, the following morning you change your mind.”
She then moves on to relate an incident in which Khama decided that Ministers could no longer hold a position in the central committee. Party chairman, Daniel Kwelagobe clinged on to his position and abandoned his ministerial post. After the election, Nasha explains that Khama changed his mind. “This is a sign of government by anger.”
The office of president reacted with outrage expressing disappointment at her “reckless distortions” that apparently “insults the intelligence of Batswana.”
Hopefully Khama has learnt a crucial lesson that those who live in glass houses need not throw stones.
*Konopo is Managing Partner at INK Centre for Investigative Journalism.