Mmegi Online :: Tsogwane’s mettle to be tested
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Last Updated
Friday 22 February 2019, 14:15 pm.
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Tsogwane’s mettle to be tested

There is no doubt that Vice President (VP) Slumber Tsogwane vanquished his opponents during the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) primary elections last year with a huge margin. He defeated the democrat who came after him with 3,932 votes. Tsogwane is a very important member of President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s coterie, but odds seem stacked against him if the 2014 general elections results are used as a yardstick. Staff Writer LEBOGANG MOSIKARE reports
By Lebogang Mosikare Fri 01 Feb 2019, 13:55 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Tsogwane’s mettle to be tested








FRANCISTOWN: President Masisi pulled a shocker when he nominated Tsogwane as Botswana’s second citizen shortly after he ascended to the presidency.

The BDP legislators who hold a majority vote in the August House thereafter endorsed Tsogwane as VP. Masisi’s move to nominate Tsogwane left a bitter taste in the mouths of many BDP veterans, who thought that they were better candidates than Tsogwane to become vice presidents because they have worked hard for the party for a very long time during calm and turbulent times.

Some political commentators were even of the view that Masisi would break the record by nominating Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi to the coveted position of VP because of her astounding record both as a politician and administrator.

Venson-Moitoi also had support from some women inside the BDP circles.  Venson-Moitoi’s backers within the BDP circles were trumpeting the gender balance issue saying that it was high time that a woman was appointed the country’s VP as a show of support that women also have the capability to become leaders.

Venson-Moitoi will, however, have a tall order to climb since one of the BDP’s most influential organs, the Women’s League, endorsed Masisi’s candidature for the party’s presidency.

Masisi would later defy odds by settling for Tsogwane as his VP.  In the midst of all this, there was another narrative that Masisi had struck an agreement with his predecessor Ian Khama that he would appoint Khama’s younger brother Tshekedi as his VP in return of Khama’s favour to appoint him (Masisi) as his VP.

The narrative that Masisi was supposed to have endorsed Tshekedi as his VP recently gained more currency after former president Festus Mogae told a local publication that Khama had struck a deal with Masisi that he (Masisi) will appoint Tshekedi as his number two. According to the interview that Mogae gave to The Voice, Masisi deliberately omitted to read a part of his speech that he would appoint Tshekedi as his VP once he ascended to the presidency after Masisi was voted as BDP chairperson during the party’s elective congress in 2017 in Tonota.

But that did not happen hence the current impasse between Masisi and his former boss Khama.

Analysts are of the opinion that if the Khama-Masisi stand-off is not handled maturely and properly, it has the potential to further reverse the electoral fortunes of the BDP, which reached historic lows after the 2014 general elections.

After Masisi defied expectations by nominating Tsogwane, he and Khama went for the jugular and they are currently not seeing eye-to-eye hence the formation of a new BDP faction dubbed New Jerusalem. Khama is believed to be the power behind the throne in the New Jerusalem faction and he has publicly stated that he supports Venson-Moitoi’s candidature for the post of president of the BDP.

It can arguably be said that many within the BDP were unhappy about Masisi’s choice of Tsogwane as his VP. They are of the view that Tsogwane is a political

lightweight in the BDP because he does not have massive grassroots support within the party and is not a charismatic person.

While there is no doubt that Tsogwane resoundingly trounced his BDP colleagues during the BDP primaries, the 2014 general elections parliamentary results seem to not favour him.

During those elections, Tsogwane garnered 5,790 votes followed by Sam Digwa of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Tjiliga Letsholo of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) who got 5,549 and 622 votes respectively.

Only 241 votes separated Tsogwane and Digwa in 2014.  Tsogwane may have an uphill task to complete since the BCP is now a member of the UDC if unforeseen circumstances do not conjure up against the UDC.

Statistically, the odds will now favour the UDC to win the constituency since it would now have 6,171 votes - 381 votes slightly higher than the BDP’s votes although the UDC margin would still be minimal.

However, past experience has shown that the

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difference in the votes cast may count for nothing since a lot of factors may come into play.

For example, the UDC amongst its various problems has a pending case at the High Court that was launched by the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), which is challenging its expulsion from the UDC.

Political pundits are of the view that the case may negatively derail the UDC from swiftly canvassing for votes therefore dissipating the public goodwill the UDC attracted during the 2014 general elections.

If we also factor in the point that Tsogwane is now the VP and enjoys massive access and use of State resources than he previously did as a Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, this may somehow put Digwa to the sword. Tsogwane has and is currently making a lot of visits to his constituency (Boteti West) ever since he was appointed VP last year.

He recently visited the constituency and held a community leadership workshop in Rakops.

However, some of Tsogwane’s adversaries hold the conviction that his multiple visits to Boteti West on official capacity are nothing but a political gimmick to legally use State resources to campaign because he is standing on shaky ground. In the past, opposition activists have complained that former president Khama was using State resources to campaign for votes for the BDP in the run up to the 2014 general elections. For example in July, 2014, Khama shocked the nation when he openly campaigned for the mayor of Francistown Sylvia Muzila during a Kgotla meeting at Block 3 in the Francistown South constituency much to the chagrin of Wynter Mmolotsi of the UDC and Vain Mamela of the BCP.

Also, in the run up to a by-election at Goodhope/Mabule constituency in 2015, the opposition accused the BDP of using State resources to campaign for its candidate, Eric Molale. The BDP, however, denied the accusation.

In the midst of these allegations (whether credible or not), government’s official response to the claims is that the President, VP and members of cabinet are entitled by law to use public resources whenever they visit their constituencies or any other place outside their constituencies whenever on official duty.

Repeated efforts to contact Digwa were not successful.

Commenting about Tsogwane’s chances of retaining the constituency at the general elections this year, a political science lecturer at the University of Botswana (UB) Leonard Sesa says that it is definite that had the UDC and BCP worked together during the 2014 general elections, they could have toppled the BDP out of power.

“In most constituencies throughout the country, the combined votes of the UDC and BCP exceed votes obtained by the BDP. But at the same time, the political dynamics of that time are now totally different. By then, Tsogwane was just a minister but by virtue of his position as the VP now and the benefits that come with occupying that position, these circumstances certainly give Tsogwane an upper hand over his competitors to retain the constituency during the upcoming general elections,” Sesa said.

He further stated that Tsogwane’s position, as the VP will arm him with more political ammunition and gravitas.

“At the same time, the UDC has many problems that it is currently grappling with unlike before the 2014 general elections. This is, however, notwithstanding the fact that the BDP is also facing its internal problems that it has to solve urgently. Despite all these problems, the BDP still has an upper hand. Also, in the midst of the BDP’s recent problems, Tsogwane has been quiet. This will work very well for Tsogwane before his constituents because he is not tainted by whatever political hurdles that are currently bedevilling the BDP,” Sesa said.

The UB pundit said: “Tsogwane’s elevation as the VP has given him more stature before his constituents, which may negate the combined efforts the UDC may come up with during the 2019 general elections.”

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