Who will succeed Merafhe as VP?
Thursday, 12 July, 201252 years in the service of a dynamic country like Botswana is no joke. So as much as one cannot help but breathe a sigh of relief that the Vice President Lt General Mompati Merafhe is retiring, it would be difficult not to appreciate that he has been a fruitful citizen of Botswana.
The relief at his announcement that he is leaving has nothing to do with his exemplary service to Botswana. It has to do with desperation to salvage the statesman’s stellar reputation. In his latter years Merafhe was better known for his gaffes than for his good deeds. Indeed the VP was becoming a divisive character doing very little to complement President Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s weaknesses. In effect, an asset to Botswana for so long, Merafhe was quickly becoming a liability and he could not be demoted as that would have been an insult to one of Botswana’s great sons.
The issue of who now replaces him is already rife and below are some of the candidates that one feels stand a chance to be VP.
Another of Botswana’s great servants the current minister of Foreign Affair and International Cooperation would be ideal as he has a long history in the civil service has a strong understanding of pertinent international issues and would in actual fact complement the travel shy Ian Khama. Politically, however, Skelemani is a non starter…no political mileage is gained by appointing him. He is a clear Khama supporter but is quite inconsequential as a political weapon. He is a top performer in all he does but he does not appear to hold political clout that would be critical to Ian Khama, as such it is unlikely that he’ll get the nod. He would be a brilliant VP though if he gets the job
Another capable candidate with a fairly good record of service. Ordinarily Ndelu should be the next in line and indeed has the makings and stature of a president. The downside is that Seretse is similar to Skelemani in that he does not make much political sense. No political mileage gained from having him there. With the likelihood that his charges could be reinstated hanging over his head, he is a potential embarrassment to the President and the ruling party who at this point of governance need fewer scandals as elections are fast approaching. From a public perception point of view Seretse would be a PR disaster as there exists a view that top posts are being given to Khama family members. In the absence of all these, Seretse would actually be a brilliant choice for VP.
An ardent “Khamarite” and his right hand man. He has defended the President even when it was impossible to do so, has worked closely with the President and there appears to be some cheminstry between the President and Masisi. There is no obvious reason why Masisi should not be the Vice President though one would need to consider that he really does not come across as a statesman. He appears to lack experience in governance at this level and given that he is a relative new comer, he may not be ideal. Masisi as a VP would be a fairly anonymous sort of character and likely to parrot everything the President says. Hardly what you need in a VP.
Another good administrator, very astute and articulate. No doubt Venson Moitoi would be a decent enough VP. That she has an appreciation of modern politics is an understatement. Her friends of the BDP strategy which mobilized young vibrant professionals to help with the BDP PR strategy has worked wonders and should have her in the president’s good books. WikiLeaks Reports though that she might have expressed a little less confidence in the president prior to him taking over the presidency might however mean she is not a very trusted person as far as the President is concerned. A woman for the position would certainly work for Khama who most people view as less than enthusiastic about empowering women in politics. She is the least likely to get the position.
The veteran MP is not exactly what comes to mind when you consider a VP, not that there is anything wrong with Rre Kwelagobe just that he has been such a fixture in the national assembly that you consider him the Godfather of sorts. If he is not President, it comes out all wrong for him to be vice President. Kwelagobe remains a much venerated individual across party lines and has the sort of fatherly demeanour that would go a long way in helping in the much needed healing process here in Botswana. It is impossible that he will be made VP more because he appears disinterested than because there is any compelling reason for him not to be made one.
A name that is generally being bandied about for the talented politician. It is hugely unlikely though that President Khama would go for Ntuane. Not because he will be inappropriate. Ntuane in all respects is possibly the best candidate given his youth though he has experience in politics. Ntuane though would be a bad choice at this point for the President. Though he is not likely to publicly express it, Khama has mellowed down and shows some tact dealing with problems within the party. He does not appear too keen to steamroll dissent as he did a few years back, in fact, he appears to be really committed to healing the wounds in the party and bringing in Ntuane now would not be wise politically. BDP members who have been with the party through thick and thin would not take too kindly to a person who left the party getting such a plum job so soon upon his return. It would also give the impression that he was lured back into the party with that position suggesting that the party is short of pedigreed MPs. Ntuane may yet get the position, maybe even after 2014 but he is not getting it this time.
A safe choice. Better than competent administrator; has experience in Governance and politics. Kedikilwe’s appointment would also have sentimental value in that it comes across as a befitting send off for a man whose service to Botswana and the BDP is right up there with that of the out-going VP. Kedikilwe’s appointment would also help heal the defeated and disgruntled Barata Phathi faction. Regardless of the angle you approach this, PHK is the best man for the job especially that everyone appears to have accepted that it needs to happen. It is clear that the BDP lacks the necessary pedigree for BDP at the moment and given that PHK is leaving in 2014, he affords Khama an opportunity to assess his options for post 2014. With strong reports that some of his right hand men are positioning themselves for parliamentary seats, 2014 could see the president’s horn running over with oil….he could be spoilt for choice really. PHK is a sensible option politically and otherwise more so that there will be very little noise about the appointment. Noise is after all something that the President will want to avoid with elections so close.
The President is known for playing cards close to his chest and often doing the unexpected. That has earned him the moniker of maverick but with elections so close, playing political poker may not be the best thing for the president. A “safe” appointment like Kedikilwe obvious as it is would be as politically astute as his other underhanded, understated and unusual tactics. While it would be no surprise for the President to surprise us, it is unlikely that he will.