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PHK: an emblem of Khama's new embrace

Staff Writer
FRANCISTOWN: Dr Ponatshego Kedikilwe was unanimously commended at a caucus of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) yesterday morning before being endorsed by Parliament as the seventh Vice President of the Republic of Botswana.

Kedikilwe takes over from Mompati Merafhe who retired on July 31 due to ill health. Merafhe was appointed Vice President in 2008 and was due to serve up to 2014.

Information reaching Mmegi is that Kedikilwe was commended without dissent by the BDP after President Ian Khama presented him as his choice to his party's legislators.

The party caucus was preceded by a Cabinet caucus at which President Khama reportedly briefed ministers about his decision to name Kedikilwe Vice President.

At both the Cabinet and party meetings, Khama reportedly announced that Kedikilwe would retain his position as Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources.

Insiders say Khama did not specify the exact length of time Kedikilwe would hold the two onerous offices. Nevertheless, Mmegi has it on good authority that Kedikiwe will hold his ministerial position for two months before Khama reshuffles the Cabinet and names someone for the crucial ministry.

Sources say the President is likely to take the opportunity to effect a comprehensive reshuffle in his mid-term and install a team that will take him to the next general elections in 2014.

The reasoning is that if Khama was looking at only one vacancy, he would have named someone yesterday.

At the BDP caucus yesterday, Khama reportedly said Kedikilwe would remain minister for a short period of time, but long enough to put proper seams on projects he initiated. 

Kedikilwe, who is popularly known as PHK, is not entirely new to the Office of the President, having acted as President in both Khama and Merafhe's absence.

He brings a sterling intellect and a solid track record of administrative ability. Botswana's  new VP has an illustrious career in the public service. He confirmed yesterday that he joined active politics upon his retirement from the public service in 1983 and that he officially joined the BDP in 1975.

Khama, who is known for rewarding loyalty, would have taken notice that Kedikilwe had remained loyal to him through the

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torrid time when a BDP faction he had once led broke away to form the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), choosing to break ranks with Khama's nemesis Barata-Phathi.

But PHK has had his share of differences with Khama, most notable during the 2003 BDP Congress in Gantsi where the two stalwarts contested for the chairmanship of the BDP that Khama won. That chapter is now water under the bridge and PHK has since built an unshakeable solidarity with Khama.

In many ways, it is apt for Khama to have Kedikilwe as Vice President at a time when  he(President) has unleashed a programme to regain what the BDP lost to the opposition over the last two years or so.

In particular, PHK could prove the trump card for bringing back many at the BMD where he still commands considerable admiration. While the issue was Khama's dictatorial tendencies, the President could hoist Kedikilwe as an emblem of a new embrace and tolerance.

Significantly, Khama - who still struggles with his mother tongue, Setswana - will benefit immensely from Kedikikilwe who is a past orator in both Setswana and English.

A Botswana Democratic Party's Member of Parliament  who attended the BDP Parliamentary caucus meeting yesterday describes Khama as a master tactician who is hard to predict.

"We expected a mini-Cabinet reshuffle at the very least, but that was not to be," said the MP who asked for anonymity. "This man still holds his cards close to his chest."

In a recent interview, University of Botswana political scientist, Professor Zibani Maundeni said what was needed was a Vice President "who is soft spoken and can moderate Khama's hardline position for the benefit of the country". Another who fits the bill better than PHK would be hard to find. But a major fault of Kedikilwe as Vice President is that it ignores the delicate issue of North-South balance by placing the presidency firmly in the North.



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