Friday, March 26, 2010

Botswana Democratic Party Splits

One thing you can say about news in Botswana since President Ian Khama took power- it is always exciting. Hardly a day goes by without a new breaking story that leaves us frantically texting and calling and Facebooking each other. Last week it became official that BDP Member of Parliament Botsalo Ntuane and BDP stalwarts Sidney Pilane, Kabo Morwaeng, and Ndaba Gaolathe were issued letters suspending them from the party for questioning the path it is taking under Khama's leadership.

On the weekend the suspended group (dubbed Barata-Phathi) held a meeting deemed illegal by Khama's faction of the party. At that meeting, they decided they would form a new party of their own. In an attempt to stop the splitting of the ruling party, President Khama sent a delegation to the meeting asking Barata Phathi to list their grievances. The list produced was long and a bit pie-in-the-sky including such things as a review of the Constitution and the powers it awards the president of the country, the rejection of the recent recommendations from the task force on moral regeneration, and a demand that the law on declaration of assets for MPs be passed and implemented before the end of the year.

The split of the BDP, if it goes down the middle, could be a good thing for the country. It's important to have a strong, healthy opposition to maintain a strong, healthy democracy. If instead, as I suspect, it takes only the voices of sense in the party, and the bulk of the membership remains firmly behind President Khama, it will do nothing more but confuse the members of the electorate who see things in the country veering in the wrong direction. Who should they vote for- Botswana Congress Party (BCP), the only sensible opposition party, or the new Barata Phathi Party? It will do little more than divide an already divided opposition vote and leave the BDP even more firmly in control.

Why couldn't Ntuane and friends find a home at the BCP? That way the opposition would be strengthened. I think it may be more about positions and power than patriotism. I'm not optimistic that this new move will change anything but it certainly sells newspapers so that's a good thing.

10 comments:

Moroni said...

Never a dull moment in our little Botswana anymore, is there? Well I am glad to hear there is at least one other Motswana who sees things the way I do. Most people celebrate the split of the BDP without wondering as to its consequences. They assume (without any justifcation really) that Barata-Pathi will split the BDP vote (in direction proportion to their current holding within the party) without affecting the oppostion vote (in particular BCP). This assumption is mostly unfortunate. Winning congress (made up of mostly elitists) is one thing, the national elections quite another. The people who voted them, mainly voted them not on the grounds of their abilities or issues but because of their colours (to wit red,black and white). These are the people most of whom couldnt care about the bourgeois concerns. As long as the president continues touring the country shaking hand with the great unwashed, we the commoners couldnt care if our civil liberties are threatened. Or that the general state of our democracy is in decline. Could it be that we never had those rights anyway? All those who cry in protest, are crying for what they would lose. What about the poor and huddled masses of our country? What is it they had BEFORE that they are now losing? Now that they have formed a party of their own, Barata-Pathi have to start canvasing for support like all other opposition parties. They will no longer be able to ask for "lifts" on OK1 and OK2 (presidential and vice presidential jet respectively) to garner support from a population of 2million dispersed over the country the size of texas. No more organising official duties in Maun, so that they can ride along with their ministerial/cabinet colleagues ( or HE and VP helicopters) for meetings in Gumare. Their greatest challenge is going to be the same as that of the other oppositions: raising money to compete with a party that is bankrolled not only by De Beers (and Debswana) but also by welathy individuals like Satar Dada. It is the lack of funds that is going to test their mettle. It is just possible that they might not have that big an effect on BDP, but rather cannibalise the opposition votes. Maybe i am a cynic but then as the saying goes the cynic is the idealist who has been disappointed. We have had our hopes raised before. So I feel we are justified to be cautiously optimistic. It would be great for our country for the BDP to be greatly affected by this split and we remain eternally hopeful but...

Lauri said...

Moroni, did you see President Masire on BTV news at 9? It is absolutely shocking the way the BDP is using the state media for their internal squabbles. I was disgusted x 10.

I don't know, each day that passes with its new bit of news makes me sadder and sadder. You make a point about the masses, perhaps they haven't see the full benefits of democracy, again BDP is likely to be blamed if the whole Nchindo story is allowed to come out and the money lost from diamonds because of greed is truly revealed; money that might have been used for employment and social programmes. But nevertheless, if the country is moving in the direction that is seems to be- the poor will again bear the fullest weight of a totalitarian state.

Helen Ginger said...

Sometimes it seems politics has gone crazy all over the world. It certainly has here in the U.S., too.

Helen
Straight From Hel

GutsyWriter said...

I see that you are well aware of what's going on in Botswana, unlike what I said in my blog post about the lack of news in the U.S., which you kindly commented on. Even our new health care plan is not understood by most of us.

Moroni said...

Well Lauri, I missed the greatest abuse of our national assets. I did however get a front row seat on (Tuesday?) when Tebelelo Seretse was interviewed during the Setswana bulletin. That was not fun at all. Not only was this person (who has no claim to any national office) abusing state media to further a partisan position but it was also grossly biased. They didn't bring in a member of Barata-Phathi to present an alternative view. Bryan Dioka was at best fawning over her, not challenging her in any way. If anything he was there to help the (A-Team/BDP) cause. Anyway i would like your take on the matter of this new party. Suppose that (miracle of miracles) Barata-Phathi form their own party. And that a sizable number of their MPs join them (i.e enough to make the BDP a minority in parliament) what do you think Ian would do? Does he dissolve parliament and call fresh elections (don't you just love the Westminster system ?) and risk losing the government or just wait it out and risk a motion of no confidence? I mean if he calls elections and the combined opposition MPs are more than 29, they can form a coalition and elect a new govt of their own. Alternatively if he waits it out, Barata-Phathi gain traction nationwide (and where they might have lost in snap elections might now actually see them become more established). And what is more if that happens he is at the mercy of what he would probably consider his enemies (The combined opposition). They can block any motion or bills in parliament including the budget, render the govt useless. At anytime that they feel they are ready they can move a motion of no confidence on his govt. That would force him to either resign or once again call fresh elections, to seek a new mandate. Neither situation seems tenable to him. of course he could try to entice some of the Barata-phathi in to staying with him. But at what cost? What if they want the vice presidency and key cabinet positions? Alternatively he could form a coalition government with one of the opposition parties. But would they (the opposition) go for that? Wouldn't it be suicidal on their part in the long run? Plus such a move would be transparent. It would be obvious to both parties that at the earliest opportunity one would dump the other. Even if they go for it, wouldn't he risk backlash from his own party? I mean as vulnerable as he will be, any party that goes into a coalition is going to demand not just VP position but in all likelihood that all of their MPs become cabinet ministers. And the constitution is clear. There can't be more than 16 members of cabinet (or such number as prescribed by parliament -i believe). Who does he drop along with his VP? In the words of Alice thing are getting "curiouser and curiouser".

karen said...

Interesting post, and comments. I well remember somebody predicting a similar drift, around about when Mogae stepped down... Nothing politicians ever do really surprises me in the end, somehow!

Lauri said...

Moroni- As the news at the end of the week filters through to my Mahalapye ears, it looks more and more as if no break away is going to happen. Listen, despite Bo-Ntuane's howling he grew up, bred and fed by BDP. I see the President giving in to a few things on the lengthy list and it all drifts away.

Next most likely scenerio- Bo-Ntuane (I think the only MP that will go) make their own small COPE like party that is basically inneffective and an annoying distraction.

The least likely scenerio is that the party splits in half taking a big chunk of the MPs. Quite frankly- I'm scared if that happens. I don't think those in power are going to allow that.

keipone said...

kea go utwa lauri. But im afraid these guys fa ba dira phoso ya go boela ko go ian hei i don know..he's going to expel them rit away.it is actually his plan that they must go. He cant wok wit them.this guy is smart.those other barataphati should leave the bdp enmass so that he calls fresh elections.he will win again and it will be end of any remaining freedoms. Shuu....baratapati shud think very hard.1 mistake and they shud go to excile.doomsday!_wise stex

Moroni said...

http://www.sundaystandard.info/news/news_item.php?NewsID=7358&GroupID=5

Lauri said...

Keipone- It definitely is time for Barata Phathi to act and it does seem as if they have lost their backbone.

Moroni- As the article you linked says the Barata Phathi moderates (and to some extent even the BDP moderates who may not take kindly to Khama's hardline stance) will be the deciders. If they give in and go back, there'll be little left for the new party and Bo-Ntuane will be left out in the cold le Motswaledi and all will be little more than a storm in a tea cup and the country's democracy will be poorer for it.