On the now all familiar path of prominent leaders quitting ruling parties and throwing their weight behind the opposition, former Botswana president, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, looks likely to be relegated to the Southern African country’s dustbin of history after the governing party retained power in recent elections.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), in power since independence from Britain in 1966, defied projections by doomsayers and infighting to retain power and increased its dominance in Parliament to 57,77 percent of the vote. This was from 46,5 percent.
Incumbent Mokgweetsi Masisi, was duly declared the winner of the election.
While it represented the 12th straight time BDP secured a win, the victory, with an increased margin, the ruling party’s success was a slap in the face for the former president, Khama, who in the run-up to the poll had infamously resigned from the ruling party.
This was a culmination of a rift with Masisi, his handpicked successor who came to power last year in April.
In the wake of the fallout, emanating from Masisi’s resistance to his predecessor wanting to wield influence despite the lapse of his reign, Khama threw his weight behind the new opposition, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF).
While his former party, co-founded by his father, Sir Seretse Goitsebeng Maphiri Khama, in 1961, his new political home at BPF secured a meagre 4,27 percent.
It was anticipated the ruling party’s prospects in the just-ended poll would be eroded by Khama’s recent stunts.
“The Batswana have spoken. By voting immensely for the governing party, they have rejected Khama. BDP’s win despite him calling for Batswana to reject it is his political epitaph,” said analyst, Eric Setlhare.
Khama’s quitting of the BDP and his calling for the electorate to do the same represents a radical shift in a political career that began in 1998 at his appointment as deputy to then-president, Festus Mogae.
Ten years later, he would succeed Mogae as the president, a position he relinquished with Masisi’s coming to power.
Eric Mosweu, a political expert based in Gaborone, said Masisi had by quitting the ruling party and campaigning for the opposition, joined politicians such as former Zimbabwean leader, Robert Mugabe (now deceased), and ex-Tanzania Prime Minister, Edward Lowassa.
After his resignation in 2017, ahead of 2018 presidential election, Mugabe shocked many by endorsing the candidature of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Nelson Chamisa, ahead of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa.