In case Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi was celebrating a recent pledge by the SADC region to support her campaign for the AU Commission head position next year, she should start worrying. She should simply abandon this dream, as recent developments do not put Botswana anywhere near leading the AU Commission writes Mmegi Staffer, BAME PIET
The Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi is a big dreamer, and brave one at that, which she should be applauded for. She has attempted her luck at what many Batswana would not have thought possible – leading the African Union Commission at a time when their President has shown no interest in the affairs of the organisation. During his reign as the then Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation between 2009 and 2014, Phandu Skelemani used to refer to AU proceedings as chaos and a circus.
That was the time when the AU chairperson was none other than King of Kings, Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, a long-time dictator who died in October 20, 2011.
Gaddafi’s dream was to expand his ‘kingdom’ to the rest of Africa and he campaigned under the pretext of a need for Africa to unite. Back home, in his neighbourhood, Gaddafi was a thorn on the side of many. He was accused of fuelling conflict in his neighbouring states by sponsoring rebellion governments in Chad, Uganda and others.
In July 2010, Skelemani attended the Heads of State Summit in Kampala, Uganda. He shared what he witnessed with the local media and whoever else that cared to listen. His message was that the proceedings were a sham, or rather, a circus.
He may have been right at the time, but his remarks were undiplomatic. As the President’s advisor on foreign issues, Skelemani’s remarks might have been interpreted differently by his boss who thereafter never bothered to attend any of the AU Summits.
Venson-Moitoi’s dream is in vain and her predecessor’s utterances may have contributed a lot to the current state of affairs. She cannot expect circus men and women to proudly put her in power to lead them. She cannot expect to be a leader of a circus organisation unless she thinks that Africans ‘forget quickly’.
As regards to a Reuters News Agency interview with President Khama, this was the last nail in the coffin.
Despite his failures, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe still commands a lot of influence in the SADC region. Yes, some Zimbabweans dislike him with a passion, they do not believe that the 2013 presidential elections were credible, and that the results were not a true reflection of their wishes, but he is the President nonetheless.
Ruling parties and opposition alike still believe that Mugabe is Africa’s true liberator from the Western former colonial masters.
Whether it is true or not is a debate for another day. It is therefore unthinkable for Africans to treat Botswana with any iota of respect if its leader has got the guts to insult other Heads of State, but cannot sit with them to make such utterances from the same table as they and in their faces for that matter. Perhaps, some regard him as British because of his maternal links.
As for President Ian Khama, he too knows that there are Batswana who dislike him with a passion, some do not believe that his party should be in power, but they appreciate one thing – respect for the rule of law.
The first-past-the-post electoral system that Botswana adopted prior to independence is what continues to be in place to this day. The ruling party was voted by a minority and they are in power with close to 60% of the seats in the National Assembly. They continue to make laws because they are the ruling party that benefitted from this skewed and outdated system.
Venson-Moitoi should be uncomfortable with all these aforementioned issues that are obviously known in the SADC region and beyond. She should be even worried that her boss, who is supposed to sweet-talk his counterparts is now publicly telling them to step down and that they have failed.
As Minister of Foreign Affairs Venson-Moitoi is the country’s chief diplomat or public relations and marketing officer, whilst the President is the chief executive officer of the country. Any public display of disturbing behaviour by Heads of State can be interpreted as a reflection of the country or citizenry.
Venson-Moitoi will forever regret the days when she was defending the President in Parliament, when he was criticised for not attending world gatherings. It would appear they are back to bite her. For him such gatherings are talk shows, whilst other Heads of State see these meetings are an opportunity to market their countries.
Oh yes, Venson-Moitoi was minister when Botswana refused to ascend to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), which was a platform for African governments to review each others’ practices, exchange ideas and network. When we celebrated our golden jubilee last week, we tried to invite Heads of State to have a share of our birthday cake, and they showed us the middle finger. We could not attract a single Head of State, except for King Mswati III, who is a party animal.
Lo and behold, this week the Kenyan government added more woes for Venson-Moitoi’s campaign when it submitted the name of foreign affairs cabinet secretary, Amina Mohamed to be the next head of the African Union (AU) Commission, who also happens to be a woman.
“I see that Amina is doing well. We have nominated her to be the AU chairperson,” a Tuesday East African Standard report quoted President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Mohamed will face Agapito Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea, Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal and Botswana’s Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.
Very little has come out of Khama’s mouth in praise of Venson-Moitoi that has reached the international media, not even a single interview from his darling Reuters to take her chance.
This is a woman who has defended the President in every platform she has been accorded. She even supported some unconstitutional Bills to protect her master, whose concept of one ‘good turn deserves another’ is foreign in Venson-Moitoi’s case.
After all this, we all know that other regional blocs that have declined to support Venson-Moitoi have a valid point. Southern Africa was represented by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, therefore the region should give others a chance to lead, perhaps that is Khama’s position.
Venson-Moitoi should throw in the towel and save the country the embarrassment. Also funds set aside for her campaign must be diverted to better use in other needy projects such as building houses for the poor.