FRANCISTOWN: Without a doubt, Vice President (VP) Mokgweetsi Masisi is a busy man as he prepares to take over the reigns of power from President Ian Khama, come April 1, 2018.
Apparently, the issue of VP that Masisi is currently grappling with has historical precedents. He stands to draw lessons from his predecessors as he battles to determine who succeeds him.
In 1998, when former president, Festus Mogae took office he relied heavily on the late South African political consultant, Professor Lawrence Schlemmer’s recommendation to determine his VP and ultimate successor.
In fact, it was during the late former president, Sir Ketumile Masire’s tenure that Schlemmer recommended Khama as Mogae’s VP at a time when the BDP was losing grip to the opposition.
Amongst others, Khama, who was the then commander of the Botswana Defence Force,was considered more popular than most party leaders as he was not yet immersed in factionalism that was at its highest level at the time.
So, Khama was brought in to protect Mogae’s presidency and to try and resuscitate the dwindling fortunes of the ruling BDP. Until 2008 Khama apparently played his role of keeping Mogae and his presidency safe, but only to face many challenges during his own tenure as President.
In 2010 the BDP gave birth to the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and towards the zenith of his rule in 2014, the ruling party experienced a serious fall as it garnered 46.7% of the popular vote when it won the general elections.
Faced with many political challenge,s Khama appointed the late Mompati Merafhe as his VP. Merafhe’s role during the turbulent times in the history of the BDP was to protect Khama’s presidency at a time a faction of the BDP known as Barata Phathi was fighting for inclusion in both party and government against the dominant A-Team axis.
Merafhe’s role chiefly was to protect Khama against any invasion from within the party and led the verbal warfare against opposition in both Parliament and freedom square politics.
Whilst Khama concentrated on the administration side of things, Merafhe manned the political field and represented his boss at international assignments.
With two years remaining in his (Merafhe) term after he was forced to step down due to illness, Khama would rope in his former nemesis, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, a senior minister at the time, to complete the term that ended in 2014.
Kedikilwe, an administrator par excellence, was brought in to strengthen Khama’s administration. Kedikilwe, or PHK as he is affectionately called, is a gentle person who was brought on board to moderate Khama’s hard-line position for the benefit of the country.
In 2014, Khama was inspired by certain attributes to take Masisi as his VP. Upon his appointment, Masisi was hailed as, “combative and takes the war to the opposition whenever he is on the floor of Parliament”. Masisi is also an energetic and hardworking person.
Former BDP MP, Botsalo Ntuane once hailed Masisi as a, “Leader of the House, who will be more than a match for the opposition bench, many of whom are new to parliamentary debate”. Most importantly, Ntuane had said Masisi has courage, conviction and speaks his mind.
On the other hand, Masisi’s eloquence, rich Setswana and physical demeanour are qualities of a statesman. The million-pula question is whom could Masisi have in mind as his immediate deputy in the transition period. An ideal Masisi deputy must have a high degree of political maturity, someone who could be called upon to douse party factional battles as and when they emerge.
They should be a unifier, peacemaker or someone whose credentials are not in doubt at a time when opposition in Parliament has elevated its political game.
Masisi needs a VP who will have a cooling effect when political tempos rise and a neutraliser yet very efficient person on implementation of projects. In terms of numbers that continue to vote for the BDP, it’s apparent that women play a critical role and Masisi should acknowledge women for their important role.
Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation has become the cynosure of all eyes as a possible Masisi VP. As a senior minister, this is coupled with the fact that she has covered a number of ministries, including Local Government and Lands, Communications, Science and Technology, Trade and Industry, Education and Skills Development, amongst others.
Venson-Moitoi has every trait that qualifies her for the job of VP, more so that she is politically mature. Given her illustrious public service career, she has proven to be both intellectually and administratively solid.
Given her vast knowledge in administration, which has been tried and tested both locally and in neighbouring South Africa where she served as a consultant, Masisi might benefit from her wealth of experience and wise counsel on matters of governance in the transition period up to the 2019 general elections.
Masisi might consider Health and Wellness minister, Dorcas Makgato who also heads the party’s most powerful organ of the Women’s League in terms of membership numbers.
Makgato has golden hands and whatever she touches seemingly turns into gold. She is another powerful strategist who works more than a lot of her male colleagues in both the BDP and government. Women under her have been advocating for inclusion in both the party and government as majority of them are convinced patriarchy has only been an imagined stumbling block for them to shine on a bigger stage.
As the BDP Women’s Wing chairperson, Makgato sits in the BDP Central Committee and has been closest to the party’s decision-making body for sometime. She has also served in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry where she also excelled before she was shifted to the current portfolio.
Her performance in the Sefhare-Ramokgonani presents her as an asset since she humbled the opposition, where the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) represented by Kesitegile Gobotswang, knows her very well.
The only obstacle to Makgato’s rise could be her differences with her principal noted during the party’s elective congress in Tonota. The whole affair leaves Masisi with an option whether he will concentrate on their differences or will consider Makgato’s strength as the basis of his judgement.
University of Botswana (UB) political science lecturer, Leonard Sesa appreciates the potential that women politicians have in the BDP.
He, however, wondered why pressure has to be mounted on Masisi to appoint women when his predecessors never found it a priority to implement the SADC 30% quota.
Sesa considers it to be a step in the right direction if Masisi could deviate from the norm and shine by appointing a woman VP.
Whilst he respects Venson-Moitoi’s credentials, he is worried that in the past she has shown a desire to retire from active politics though she later reneged on the decision.
His contention is that there has to be continuity, indicating that Masisi has to appoint a VP who will serve much longer so that the two big offices could pull together.
“When you look at today’s dynamics in politics, a simple logic is that there should be continuity,” he explained indicating that Masisi’s VP should be someone who has an urge to further win the constituency for the party and serve the government diligently. Sesa’s ideal VP should be equally as energetic and result-oriented like Masisi is.
“If he were to choose a female politician to deputise him, he should look for an active one who can pull together with him at both party and government,” noted the political scientist.
If Sesa was to make his choice, he will settle for Makgato because of her performance in the constituency and her tried and tested service as a minister and more so her youthfulness as added bonus.