For the longest time, a view has been propagated that Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) recruits opposition politicians to be rewarded with ministerial positions. For the longest time as well, the BDP has vehemently denied it. As fate would have it, recruited opposition politicians have been the biggest beneficiaries of cabinet appointments since the immediate past general election in 2019. The consequence of rewarding opposition politicians with ministerial positions would predictably have brought some discomfort albeit muted to the tried and tested members of the BDP who feel they are unnecessarily overlooked in preference to the new recruits. While recruitment of political opponents is part and parcel of politics across board, rewarding the recruited with mouth-watering appointments is bound to bring conflict within the party because those who were there before expect the same appointments.
As at the conclusion of the 2019 general election and the subsequent appointments to cabinet, three recruits from the opposition were appointed to full ministerial and assistant ministerial positions in the highest office in the land. These are Minister Kabo Morwaeng and his assistant Rre Dumizweni Mthimkhulu who probably against their own expectations, wouldn’t have imagined to be appointed to the most senior ministry in the Republic on account that it is located in the Office of the President. Next in line to benefit from being recruited from the opposition is Minister Annah Mokgethi who was also rewarded with a full ministerial position. Minister Tumiso Rakgare also benefitted by being rewarded with a full ministerial position. Councillor Lotty Manyapetsa was rewarded with a position of Deputy Mayor at the Gaborone City Council. Mid-way through the term of President Masis’s administration, Rre Pono Moatlhodi was recruited whereupon he was rewarded with the position of Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. Rre Mabuse Pule who had occupied the position immediately after the 2019 general election was moved to cabinet as an Assistant Minister to make way for Moatlhodi. The latest beneficiary owing to recent cabinet reshuffle is Rre Aubrey Lesaso who is now sitting in an Assistant Minister’s office with all its perks like others. Before this group’s windfall occasioned by being recruited from the opposition, Rre Bagalatia Arone who was also recruited from the opposition bloc, was appointed to a full ministerial position. All in all including Arone, six recruits have from the 11th and 12th administrations have been appointed to cabinet. Do these individuals have any special skills not readily available in the tried and tested members of the BDP that would have stood them head and shoulders above them to get the nod for cabinet positions?
Nothing fundamentally instructive suggests so. All professional skills held by Mokgethi and Mthimkhulu as the stand-out recruits to the rest by virtue of being lawyers, was readily available in Hon Dow and Hon Kgafela who are the ‘original BDP members’. So they couldn’t have been recruited for anything special that was not readily available at the BDP. The recruits couldn’t also have been recruited for winning their parliamentary seats because looking at how the BDP dominated and whitewashed the opposition in the Gaborone and the surrounding areas at both parliamentary and council levels, any other BDP member would have comfortably won like the recruits did. Because there are no exceptional reasons for them to have been appointed to cabinet positions other than being rewarded for joining the BDP, it safe to conclude reward for joining the BDP from the opposition was and still is the only reason.
It will be remembered that immediately after the BDP primary elections leading to the 2019 general election where most of the President’s trusted Ministers lost, he was quick to pronounce at a function held in Francistown that the winners were not cabinet material. The appointment of the recruits in the context of the said pronouncement gave credence to the President strong belief that there was no cabinet material in most of those who had beaten his Ministers hence him appointing a good number of the recruits into his cabinet. In return, the President is assured of blind loyalty from the recruits wherein it is almost a crime for them not to mention his name whenever given the opportunity to speak at any forum. Notable among the President’s high volume praise singers are the two recruits at his office-Morwaeng and Mthimkhulu and Rakgare. Check this out. The President has reshuffled his cabinet a few time since the 2019 general election with none of the recruits ever dropped or reshuffled to other portfolios. They are almost guaranteed that they are in their positions for life given how they have not been affected by previous reshuffles. This state of affairs speaks volumes: it is a clear indication that the President has his full confidence in the recruits than in his ‘original party members’. It is not that they are immune from being redeployed or dropped because they are exceptional performers in their portfolios but rather that they display unparalleled blind loyalty to the President-an attribute that is desirable in high stakes politics. With that said, the next question is whether they will successfully defend their constituencies in 2024?
This question should be answered in the overall context of whether the BDP will do well in 2024. The recruits between themselves, currently hold six parliamentary constituencies with two in Gaborone, two in neighbouring Mogoditshane and Molepolole and the other two in Shoshong and Tonota. The last two were won on UDC ticket which may significantly work against the BDP on account of their previous voters in 2019 deciding to turn against them for what they will say was more of betrayal than probably anything else. The other four will on one hand, be decided largely by whether the opposition is properly organised while on the other, whether the BDP is still attractive as it was in 2019. The BDP’s trump card still remains the President with his charm offensive that perfectly worked for him in 2019. I am afraid that charm offensive seems to have deserted him on account that I hold the view his approval ratings have significantly plummeted. The recent by election results in which the BDP was hugely humiliated by the opposition is one example that the President’s charm offensive is significantly weakened. Otherwise the very people who voted the BDP then should have done so in those by elections. Further to this, the BDP has been on the back foot on account of the opposition since parliamentary proceeding were broadcast live on television. To be brutally honest, the BDP is continually exposed for its appalling levels of deficiency in objectively debating issues of national importance. I don’t have to repeat these issues because they are in the public domain. The long and short of the point on constituencies held by the recruits is that they are at high risk of losing them. By implication, the BDP is at the risk of losing six constituencies from the word go. I hope I will be proved wrong.
All I am saying is that the long held view that the BDP recruits opposition politicians with promises of reward of some sorts has been conclusively confirmed by the unprecedented number of appointments to cabinet positions. No amount of spinning however hard spinners attempt to do so, will change the conclusive confirmation. Never in the history of the BDP except during Masisi’s administration (and I stand corrected) has it pushed so many recruits to cabinet positions way over its tried and tested members. More crucially to these appointments is the fact that a ministry located in the highest office in the land is manned by recruits from the opposition. While this is not politically wrong for the President to do so because these individuals are properly elected Members of Parliament and therefore eligible for cabinet appointments, it stands to breed discontent albeit muted as already said in the general BDP membership where a valid point could be made that newcomers particularly from the opposition are unfairly favoured over them given that they bring no exceptional skills/experience to justify ‘skipping the queue’. A precedence has been set where other recruited politicians would have a ‘legitimate expectation’ that they be promised high ranking positions as rewards. Time will tell whether the BDP will uphold and sustain the said precedence going forward in its quest to recruit more opposition politicians. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise as always. Judge for Yourself!
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