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Masisi blames Khama for BDP decline

Publishing Date : 04 March, 2019

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has said the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) could have lost power under the president of Lt Gen Ian Khama in 2014, had it not been Botswana Congress Party (BCP)’s decision not to contest under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ticket.


Masisi, who succeeded Khama as the leader of the ruling party as well as president of Botswana in April 2018 said his predecessors’ poisonous relationship with public sector trade unions had severe impact that the ruling party lost significant support — leading to a 46 percent popular vote — the first time below 50 percent since independence.


 “Just analyse a little bit what are the things which contributed to our decline in 2014 where we nearly lost the elections. Had it not been the miscalculations of the BCP as they always miscalculate, we would have lost. BDP would have been in the opposition,” Masisi contended.
“So it is only natural that when you come on board following this analysis you target those points that made people to run away from us. Labour relations was a big thing, particularly the labour movement [BOFEPUSUS] which were in my view stronger than the effect of opposition parties. So I had to deal with it. You sit down and you have to talk to people. They are people, and they are citizens of this country. You accept that you made the mistake but then walk on with them.


“Another issues was that, public servants salaries were suppressed for too long. I had a team that I gave the mandate to engage with the unions and whenever there was a problem during the negotiations I will summon everybody and tell them what to do. We reached an agreement and it is them [public sector unions] who pronounced the agreement.”


As part of normalising relations with the unions, government recently reached an agreement with public sector union to increase public servants salaries by 10 percent and 6 percent for the scales A-B and C-D respectively for the next two financial years. This was the biggest increment for public servants in the last 10 years, and the first which was applied in pyramid format as the unions have consistently suggest over the past years.


Masisi also indicated that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) was another major factor that contributed to BDP’s dismal performance in 2014 general elections, because it created fear in the society, including among cabinet ministers. “There was a lot of fear and anxiety. People were afraid of using their phones and they suspected everybody to be spy. You were all scared. Even ministers were scared and they told me.so I dealt with it,” he said. Masisi said this is the basis for his campaign to continue leading the BDP and the country after 2019 October elections.


He said the opposition in its current form has nothing to offer and he is confident that BDP will emerge victorious after the elections. The BDP leader however said, his decision to reverse some of the things which were leading to the decline of the party has rubbed others the wrong way, and he believes it could be the reason why for the first time in the history of the party, a president is challenged for the party leadership. “I sense a little bit of nostalgia from some of my colleagues. Some want to go back to the old ways of doing things,” he said.


Still at the media engagement session, Masisi warned about the dangers of changing party leadership on the eve of general elections. Masisi warned party faithful that removing him from party leadership would result in creation of two centres of power and would have negative repercussions on the party. Incidentally, Masisi last week told democrats at South East regional congress the same reasons against displacing him from power.  


"If by accident you decide not to elect me presidential candidate, I would still continue as party president and also president of the republic. I call central committee and I direct the party. This is what we call two centres of power,” he said. "In the time between, when you are out in the trenches trying to be understood on who you are, you will have little time to rebrand. Even the party t-shirts branded me will be put aside and you'll have to create new ones."


MASISI DENIES SETTLING POLITICAL SCORES USING STATE ORGANS

Masisi has affirmed that high ranking public figures who are subjected of investigations by various security and law enforcement organs will face the wrath of the law, and will have their day in court. Masisi said he would not protect anyone and neither has he influenced state law enforcement organs to settle political scores. In the wake political turmoil in the ruling party, several high ranking public figures, who served in Khama’s administration have been raided and arrested in connection with corruption activities during their tenure in power.  


Masisi however believes those who being investigated should not use the ‘political score settling card’ which he said it is becoming fashionable with particular section of people, urging that they should rather defend themselves in court if they are indeed innocent. “When somebody steals wheelbarrows and cement belong to Ipelegeng and is charged, why would those stealing huge amount of money not face the wrath of the law? Everyone must face the wrath of the law,” he argued.


MASISI TELLS OFF THE WEST ON BOTSWANA TOURISM


The recent pronouncement on the possibility of lifting hunting ban, has attracted negative media reports in the western media. However, Masisi has not taken kindly to criticism of Botswana for supposed ‘failure” to protect animals. “People sit in the comfort of where they come and lecturer us about the management of species they do not have. They want to admirer from distance. In their admiration of species they forget that we too, the people of Botswana are species,” he said.


“They talk as if we are trees and grass that elephants eat. I can smell it. It’s a racist onslaught. “ Masisi said the elephant management survey of 2011 indicated that Botswana’s carrying capacity was about 54 000 but Botswana’s current elephant population is about 130 000 and 70 percent roam outside designated parks.

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