When Mokgweetsi Masisi challenged then MP for Moshupa Maitlhoko Mooka in the 2003 Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) primaries and lost, he never looked back but fought very hard to redeem himself.
His elder brother, the late Francistown West MP, Tshelang Masisi consoled and encouraged him to soldier on despite losing, as politics is full of ups and down. The brother told him that if he was determined to win, he had to work very hard to overcome obstacles.
Mpho Masisi, the son of the late MP reminisced how his father lectured his uncle, encouraging him not to lose hope of winning elections. “Seose polotiki le fa o ka kanama jang o jelwe, o a ema o itlhotlhore botshelo bo tswelele pele. (This thing called politics, you slip and fall, dust off and continue with life as if nothing has happened,”) Mpho remembers his father telling Mokgweetsi.
The advice worked. Mokgweetsi dusted himself up and rebounded strongly to win the 2009 elections. His star rose further when he joined the front-bench first as an assistant minister. Within a short-time, he became one of the favourites and loyalists of President Ian Khama and got rewarded with a full cabinet post. The political career of the Education Minister scaled new heights this week when he was appointed Vice President and perhaps Khama’s heir apparent. The new VP cut his political teeth at the feet of his father, the late Edison Masisi who was MP for Moshupa.
The old man was a role model for his sons who would later venture into politics, especially Tshelang and Mokgweetsi. He inspired them to recognise their potential in politics and the duo never disappointed, as they strongly believed in themselves. By Mpho’s reckoning, Mokgweetsi was supposed to join politics later than he did. “Given my paternal uncle Mokgweetsi’s credentials, I have always thought he would enter active politics at a very late stage in his life because he previously had good jobs as a secondary school teacher and as an officer at the curriculum department,” he said.
Mokgweetsi left government to join UNICEF before he went into the private sector as a consultant. Mpho vividly remembers his uncle’s active days in the BDP National Youth Executive Committee (NYEC). He said this added value to his political career.
Since he became an MP and cabinet minister, Mokgweetsi has been a high performer and got rewarded by Khama. “He once said that even if it meant an appointment in the Foreign Service, he would represent his country diligently and will always be remembered as someone ready to serve,” said Mpho. He is not surprised that his uncle has
After winning the 2009 general elections, Khama appointed Mokgweetsi an Assistant Minister at the Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. He served under Lesego Motsumi who was a Specially Elected MP.
When Khama redeployed Motsumi to serve in the foreign service in India for alleged unsatisfactory performance, Mokgweetsi took over as the substantive minister. He continued to cement his relationship with Khama and became one of the most visible ministers. Khama’s pet project of poverty eradication catapulted him to greater heights in his career. Mokgweetsi performed his tasks with passion, commitment and energy as he traversed the length and breath of the country.
Why did Khama trust Mokgweetsi in his first term as MP to reward him with such a powerful position? Those in the know say the two men have a history. Even before he entered Parliament, it is said Mokgweetsi was always close to Khama. “They once worked together outside politics at the Kalahari Conservation Society (KCS) which Khama was a patron of at the time,” said a source close to the duo. Khama has a habit of trusting people whom he has either worked with before or those whose parents worked with his father.
Former BDP MP, Botsalo Ntuane is convinced the President made an inspired choice in making Mokgweetsi the Vice President. “Finally the elephant in the room; the issue of north/south balance which I personally think is exaggerated has been addressed by Masisi’s appointment,” he stated.
Ntuane who fell at the October 24 general elections hailed Mokgweetsi as an energetic and hardworking person from what he saw during their time in Parliament. “Besides eloquence, he is also combative and takes the war to the opposition whenever he is on the floor of Parliament,” he added.
“As a Leader of the House, he will be more than a match for the opposition bench, many of whom are new to parliamentary debate, which is very different from Freedom Square politics. The other positive is that he is relatively youthful and this will resonate with a large portion of the young populace. What some consider a handicap to me is also an attribute,” Ntuane asserted. He said the new VP has courage, conviction and speaks his mind, unlike many politicians who take cover in chorus politics and refrain from saying what they think.