BPF, Khama boycott Masisi inauguration
Conspicuous about their absence from the presidential Inauguration on Friday, former President Ian Khama and his younger brother Serowe West MP elect Tshekedi Khama, shocked the nation about their conduct.
Many were left wondering if political difference can be so entrenched that the Khamas would ignore such a magnanimous occassion in the history of Botswana, in a democracy pioneered by among others their own father -first President Sir seretse Khama. But the answer came from the party they recently formed- Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) after leaving the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) due to personal differences with Masisi.
“The BPF and its patron former president Khama will not be attending the event as we believe grand election fraud took place in this election. We are also against use of the BDF to mobilize people to attend as well as the extravagant nature of the event which is not in line with our known modesty for all past presidential inaugurations. We are also against aggressive efforts being put into trying to get people to attend the inauguration never before done, to give the impression of a popular president for the benefit of visitors, hence the use of the BDF to try to draw people and live screening,” BPF spokesperson Justice Motlhabani said in a statement.
The 2019 general elections which were the most anticipated of any generation saw the Botswana Democratic Party affirm their grip on power. The 38 of the 57 seats wins in the national assembly by BDP meant that, President Dr Mokgweetsi keabetswe Masisi was given a five year mandate as the leader of the country. While the BDP won the 2019 general elections it also made history by losing some of the constituencies which has been its strong since independence hold to opposition.
Several factors contributed to the success and failures of both the ruling and the opposition parties. All the parties ran their campaigns with manifestos that promised to change the lives of Batswana. The UDC which had the most attractive manifesto one of them promising voters 100000 jobs in one year, AP promised a new Botswana, BDP an electric vehicle and BPF vowing to remove Dr Masisi.
However all these were overshadowed by one factor, the institution of Bogosi. Bogosi has always played a major role in the election outcome especially in constituencies in the central district where the paramount chief or Kgosikgolo Bamangwato Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama had a hand in influencing the results. Central district and Serowe in particular has been the BDP stronghold since independence. In the Sefhare Ramokgonami constituency Khama was able to convince the people to vote for opposition hence the win by UDC. The other constituency where Khama was able to play his Bogosi card was in Bobonong, Mahalapye, Shoshong, Tonota, and Serowe.
Besides being a popular figure in Botswana politics, he was able to gain sympathy votes for his party and opposition due to his ties to Bogosi. Batswana are very close to their Dikgosi than the politicians, because they believe they are chosen by God to lead them, the respect that the people have for their royals surpass even the respect for president of the country.
The influence of Bogosi resulted in people moving to BPF and other opposition parties.
When interviewing one of the elders who is a staunch supporter of Kgosikgolo Khama as to why she left BDP for BPF, she said it was the right thing to do as Khama is her chief.“I was simply following my King; it was not a hard thing to do. In the old days a chief will seek a place and settle, and his people followed him to that place, when he felt it was time to move on from that place to another place, his people also followed him there, and following my Kgosikgolo to BPF was just following a custom that has always been there” she said.
When analyzing the results and voting patterns for this year elections in an interview Daniel Orufheng who is a political analyst said the win for BPF and opposition party UDC in some parts of the central district especially Serowe should not come as a surprise. “That the loss of BDP in this constituencies traditionally seen as BDP was attributed to one root cause, the BDP lost Serowe in 2019 from the same reason it lost Kanye in 1969, and Maun in 2014. The answer was contained in, Batswana’s immovable loyalty to their king. Modern politics with its vast resource power has been able to uproot and erect many incredible creations, just not this tiny factor, people’s loyalty to the king” orufhele said.
Khama’s fight with the current president Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, due to what he said was Masisi undemocratic rule and being drunk with power swayed votes from his former party to BPF. Lt Gen Khama always said in his rallies ‘Masisi oa re twaela’ ( Masisi is disrespectful to us), and he encouraged people to do the right thing and vote out Masisi. Most of the people had no idea what the current president was being disrespectful on, but the simple fact that those words were uttered by their chief, they did not need any explanation, ‘mahoko a kgosi a agelwa mosako” (chief’s word is unquestioned). They sympathized for their King, their king was being victimized and disrespected hence the popular slogan ‘E Seng Mogo Kgosikgolo.’ This on its own eclipsed the people’s ability to vote for the party that they felt will improve their lives. The people were now forced to fight to protect the image of their bogosi which they felt was under attack from the current president. Their votes were cast as a weapon against their Kgosikgolo’s ‘enemy.’
The change in voting patterns especially in the central district may only be credited to the influence of the Bogosi to the people. Orufheng a political analyst said “These elections trends, and evidence from other historic events unrelated to the elections, but which occurred in these same particular royal lands, establish the difficult proposition that modern history itself was consistent in its show that in any conflict between people’s loyalty to ruling party/ government and to their king, the people have consistently voted for their king, for good for worse.”
At the end the vote in the central district was not based on the parties’ ability to move this country forward and change the livelihood of their people. The people have always opted to fight for the integrity and respect of their Bogosi, even if it means settling mediocrity.
“2024 elections results and those subsequent shall not be different determined, at least in parts and regions wherein royalty was strong” Orufheng said.