Mmegi Online :: Venson-Moitoi does the unthinkable
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Last Updated
Wednesday 20 March 2019, 15:58 pm.
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Venson-Moitoi does the unthinkable

Hardly a year into the Office of the President and before his face could even appear on a P10 note, President Mokgweetsi Masisi is facing the biggest challenge to his presidency and it comes from within. His challenger to the throne, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi is firm and determined about her audacious quest to become the next ruling party president, which could see Masisi getting the shortest presidential tenure in the history of Botswana, Mmegi Staffer THALEFANG CHARLES writes
By Thalefang Charles Fri 01 Feb 2019, 13:58 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Venson-Moitoi does the unthinkable








SEROWE: Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) presidential aspirant, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s voice is calm and authoritative. She speaks slowly and exudes confidence that commands attention. Her words are punctuated with some silent pauses through her sentences, where her eyes would roll and wonder around while she seemingly chooses the right words to say.

From a small court clerk’s office in Mogorosi kgotla near Serowe, at the constituency ward where she says she won her toughest battle against a community that was drowning in alcohol abuse, Venson-Moitoi opens up to Mmegi about her race to be the President of Botswana.

Her decision to depart from the BDP’s long tradition of not challenging party presidents at elective congresses came “about few months before I wrote the letter to the party”.

This must have been around September and October last year and she says “a series of events” led her to jump onto the race.

“I decided that time has come that the BDP exercises clause in the constitution where the party should elect the president. We have been handed down the president by the president on the seat. I want to give democrats a choice,” she says.

She reveals that only one “bully” wrote to her telling her that it is not a good idea to run, but she shrugged it off. Venson-Moitoi says the recent comments by former presidents Festus Mogae and Ian Khama sharing their regrets in appointing vice presidents are clear examples of why automatic succession must be challenged.

“There is always the first time. As a democracy we had to get here someday. We cannot carry on with a system, which is being questioned and condemned by people who benefited from it.

“If the BDP is serious about running this country, it must trust the BDP members to choose the president of the party. Not just video makers who have their own interest to guard,” she says.

It is notable from Venson-Moitoi’s careful and guarded talk that the appointment of Vice President Slumber Tsogwane was a big factor that actually led her to run for the presidency.

Fresh revelation is that before President Masisi took an oath on April 1, 2018 to become the fifth president of Botswana, he approached Venson-Moitoi and promised to nominate her as the Vice President.

“The President asked me, ‘What would I like to do before I leave and this was before he took over. And I have said to him, the one thing I would like to do, is to be his Vice President. And he said that’s okay,” Venson-Moitoi said. So Mma-V, as she is popularly called in Domkrag, had the expectation that she would be the first woman Vice President of Botswana after Masisi took over.

“I had the expectation, yes, and being the longest Cabinet minister. And of course when he appointed somebody else I was little disappointed,” she said. She further said despite the frustration and disappointment of missing out on the number two seat, she respected Masisi’s decision. 

“Masisi appointed somebody who has been in Parliament as long as I have been, Rre (Slumber) Tsogwane, and somebody whom I respect. And I accepted. The President has the prerogative to appoint who he wishes. He [Tsogwane] came as a fully elected Member of Parliament, I came as a Specially Elected. Yes, I may have been the longest serving Cabinet Minister, but Rre Tsogwane was the longest serving elected member of Parliament, so in all consideration the President had his reasons,” said Venson-Moitoi. Venson-Moitoi says President Masisi was at least courteous about it as he came back to her and apologised for not keeping his promise.

“He [Masisi] came back to me and said, ‘I am sorry I didn’t do what I promised’ and I said, ‘Yes’”.

She said despite her disappointment she

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did not question the President.

Venson-Moitoi announced her decision to run when the feud between Masisi and former president Khama was still volatile. A day after she made the announcement, she was abruptly ejected from Cabinet. The sacking came with an abrupt press release signed by acting Permanent Secretary to the President Elias Magosi saying, “the President has dropped Honourable Venson-Moitoi from the position of Minister of Local Government and Rural Development with immediate effect”.

Venson-Moitoi was then described as a ‘Khama proxy’ and number two in the BDP faction called New Jerusalem led by Khama.

Khama publicly declared his support for Venson-Moitoi. Responding to assertions that she is indeed a proxy and Khama’s puppet, Venson-Moitoi was stern and contemptuous.

She said, “I worked in Khama’s Cabinet and I was always accused of being stubborn and rude to him. I was the only minister who dared to say ‘No’ to Khama. Batho ba le teng ba rapame, ba borolotse ba tshaba go mo ra ya ba re ‘No Sir’. So why am I suddenly the one person who would be pushed around by Khama?

“In Khama’s Cabinet people sat there lying low, for whatever reasons that they had, I lived my live, I have lived it in Khama’s times and now even in future, for this country. Twice Khama nearly fired me because I told him, “No” batho ba bobile ba tshaba go mo raya bare mong wame let’s not go that route.

“Ha ele gore Batswana bangwe, ba belaela gore ga kena thaloganyo ba akanya gore nna ke mpopinyana wa mongwe, then this country is in trouble,” she said.

Mma-V understands the Khama factor on her race. And she is hoping to milk it of what it is worth because she understands that Khama could get him votes.

She said she initially tried to be a mediator, but failed.

“I tried to intervene. I spoke to Khama and told him to back off, but he spoke to me the way he did. And I went to Masisi and asked him to call Khama to iron out their differences out. But I did not succeed and I realised that their differences are going to take a lot longer than we know to settle. And I could not walk away after I released this,” she said.

“Fate is a funny thing. Maybe we needed their squabble for this girl from Serowe to wake up from whatever slumber she was in. Maybe, I needed a trigger. Maybe they needed to fight for someone to realise that we need a break from automatic succession,” she pondered.

Venson-Moitoi questioned the party elders who are doing social media videos declaring their support for President Masisi.

“Tota mme le gone go rongwa mo go tweng ke go romilwe, ba ba dirang di video bone ba romilwe ke mang? They are supposed to be mediators. Ba rumilwe ke mang?” wonders Mma V.

“They [Masisi video endorsements] come from people whose interests are possibly questionable at best,” she said. On her government plans in case she wins and become the president, Mma-V does not say anything concrete or specific other than the usual rhetoric of ‘I will do things differently’.

She said, “I have a different perspective from President Masisi. All I can tell you is that my view of running it is different. I will do things differently. My focus is on 2036 and that is creation of wealth as anticipated in Vision 2036”.

Venson-Moitoi says she knows that losing an election is part of the race.

“If I lose I will remain firm in the BDP,” she said.

At the end of the interview, she got into a relaxed mode, flashed a rare smile akin to a strict parent, and begged to say some things off the record.

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