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The 2014 general election: revolution v counter-revolution


The emerging resistance movement for democratic restoration, economic revival, clean governance started with civil society resisting both the formation of the DIS and the new media regulatory structures in 2008. It gained momentum with the Barata Phati faction sweeping the BDP’s central committee election at the Kanye congress in 2009 (the same faction that later established the Botswana Movement for Democracy-BMD actually defeated President Khama’s all women team!), and with Secretary General Gomolemo Motswaledi taking President Khama to court that ended with the former’s recall.

The resistance movement gained ground with the expulsions and resignations of Motswaledi’s supporters that led to the party split in 2010, with the public servants strike that ended with calls for regime change in 2011, with the all-inclusive negotiations among opposition parties that ended with the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

The release of Margret Nasha’s book Madam Speaker Sir that ended with the Khama regime preventing her from observing the South African elections in early 2014, was followed by the widespread suspicions that Motswaledi’s fatal car accident was staged by some public security forces working with Israeli consultants.

The revelations concerning the possible existence of a hit list of opposition candidates facing assassination during the political campaign added its weight to the resistance movement, followed with a public media blackout on Motswaledi’s hugely attended funeral in Serowe, by former Presidents Masire and Mogae openly criticizing the Khama regime of intolerance and of diverging away from the rule of law that Botswana was known for, all culminated  into a showdown in the October 2014 general election.

The self-declared forces (represented by the UDC) of the restoration of democratic rule and good governance, stood against the BDP under Ian Khama that was portrayed as intolerant and as champion of authoritarian rule, and against the opposition BCP that was portrayed as betraying the struggle in favor of the BDP.  


In some strong sense, the 2014 election was not a normal election. Coming from the resistance movement for democratic restoration, for economic revival, and for clean governance, the forces of resistance (civil society, public sector unions, private media, social media, and opposition political parties) unleashed revolutionary energy, aimed at sweeping away BDP rule that had perceivably become authoritarian, militaristic, corrupt, arrogant and unable to take the economy forward.

True to Skocpol (1979)’s ‘states and social revolutions’ that tied revolutionary success to international support and to defections in the military,  the revolutionary coalition for democratic restoration, for good governance and economic revival, was able to attract international sympathy and support.

With international assistance from the southern Africa region (Khama’s foreign policy in the region characterized by his stand off against Mugabe’s heavy-handed electioneering in Zimbabwe in 2008 was unsettling to say the least and was opposed by most ruling parties in the region) and from overseas (his threat to arrest  President Al Bashir of Sudan in case he visited Botswana, his seemingly deliberate absence from AU summits of head s of states, his uncharacteristic support for the International Criminal Court-ICC, and his government’s public sparring with the American Government over comments concerning the arrest of a newspaper editor), revolutionary energy that expressed itself through the UDC and equally through the public sector trade unions,  private media and social media (particularly Facebook), mounted a spirited campaign that took President Khama by surprise and Botswana by storm.

Hugely organized group launches were organized for UDC candidates with glamorous tents from South Africa and elsewhere, with glamorous presidential buses, and with privately owned helicopters chartered to transport the UDC leader in order to help him look presidential, were deployed.

A private radio station, GABZ FM (with support from trade unions and from the American and British embassies) organized constituency debates and presidential debates revolutionized Botswana’s electoral democracy, were aired nationally and were attended by UDC and BCP candidates and were boycotted by the BDP. In contrast, the privately owned newspapers made a sustained attack on the alleged corruption practices of the DIS boss, disabling him from leading his spy agency into helping President Khama’s campaign.


Realizing late that revolutionary energy had been unleashed to sweep away his rule and facing regime change in the face, President Khama abandoned his earlier position of normal politics of keeping a low profile, re-launched all BDP parliamentary and council candidates across the country and made second and third visits to many constituencies and wards, transported his supporters in army helicopters and flew all over the country, employed public facilities to clear bushes to create open spaces for his political rallies, danced and rode bicycle in opposition strongholds, made no attempt to restrain some of his activists who had resorted to violent means (including house break-ins and mugging) to intimidate opposition candidates.

In short, President Khama mounted a counter-revolutionary campaign spiced with threats of war should his party lose, talks of him going to prison should the opposition win, the hiring of Israeli consultants for unspecified clandestine works, the use of army helicopters to visit several constituencies a number of times, targeted verbal attacks on certain UDC candidates, the use of threatening telephone calls by unknown callers, the use of dances and bicycle rides.


Unbeknown to Khama, an organized faction within the ruling party engineered (through rigging and other means) the loss in the party primary elections and in the general elections, of important people (particularly those with military background to prevent them from being considered for position of vice president), and the emending of parliamentary rules to require booth for the secret voting in Parliament for the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Vice President.

Thus, President Khama was facing revolutionary pressures from several fronts: from a broad-based opposition coalition enjoying regional and international support (including from ruling parties in the region), from the private media, from social media, and a revolt from within his own party from an organized faction that wanted to influence who becomes vice president. But at the end of it all, the counter-revolution was partly successful and President Khama was re-elected to start his second term as president.

While President Khama’s ruling party survived and won the elections (it actually lost the popular vote and a number of seats previously held by ministers), the opposition BCP was swept away by the democratic revolutionary current and by the counter-revolution.  


The BCP never saw the revolutionary current. Neither did it see the counter-revolution that actually reversed all previous BCP gains. As a result, it never prepared for either. Being outside both, the BCP saw a normal election in which it (BCP) was destined to win power alone and to embarrass the UDC coalition!

When the whole nation was either in the democratic resistance movement of the UDC or in the counter-revolution of the BDP, the BCP’s darkened vision saw normal electioneering in which the results of the 2009 election could be relied upon to make ‘safe’ predictions of its win, in which its president could ‘safely’ walk out of Motswaledi’s heavily politicized funeral in Serowe, in which it could create artificial distance between itself and the UDC in constituency and presidential debates, in which it could deploy its president to traverse the country campaigning for his candidates in the ‘safe knowledge’ that his constituency was safe, in which it could deploy one presidential bus to drive around the whole country.

In short, the BCP organized for a normal election, not for a revolutionary current nor for a counter-revolution, both of which threatened its existence. The BCP was swept away partly by the revolution that it refused to join, and partly by the counter-revolution that rode on its back for survival. The BCP became a victim of circumstances which its visionaries failed to see and which its policy makers failed to prepare for.

Humbled by the humiliating loss of constituencies and wards, the BCP has woken up, not to join the revolutionary current, not to fight the counter-revolution, but to fight lies! Seeing neither the revolution nor the counter-revolution, the BCP has unleashed its activists to attack the UDC, the private media, the social media, and the public sector trade unions! With the BDP-controlled executive shifting the counter-revolution against Parliament, BCP is provided with a rare opportunity to join the revolution, or miss another chance presented by history and risk being swept away completely. In contrast, will the UDC survive if it promises to work cooperatively with the Executive championing counter-revolution? It is in order for the UDC to be cautious in cooperating with the counter-revolutionary forces.

Zibani Maundeni is professor of political science at the University of Botswana
 

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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