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Tsogwane: The quiet politician who beat the odds

Masisi congratulates Tsogwane PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
Slumber Tsogwane's demeanour presents President Mokgweetsi Masisi's vice president, appointed this week, as a quiet politician whose major strength is ensuring that his assignments are done on time. Mmegi Staff Writers RYDER GABATHUSE & CHAKALISA DUBE report'

His past immediate assignment was at the vast Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, often branded the people’s ministry.

 Upon realising that his predecessors had failed their assignments because of the incessant altercations they had with local tribes in handling chieftainship disputes raging across the country, the Rakops-born politician played it cool in the troubled spot and succeeded.

 In the past, issues of chieftainship successions became a hot potato with a lot of acrimonious disputes resolved at the courts of law, leaving both the Ministry and Ministers badly tainted.

His main strength was that he easily became a servant of the people at a time that villagers needed him. It was so easy for him to listen to the people and appease them

At the July elective congress held in Tonota, Tsogwane was elected an additional member of the ruling party’s central committee and this raised his chances of working closely with Masisi as the VP. This is where it all started with talk rife that his closeness with Masisi, who was a VP at the time, was certainly set to reward him. The main challenge is that he has been appointed to a position where he will have to suddenly do the talking, which will have to see an abrupt shift in his character, changing for the better.

Tsogwane has been appointed as both party chairperson and VP, two challenging positions in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and government.  He will have to touch base with hoi-polloi and put off political fires across the party’s structures in the 57 constituencies.

As a quiet politician not so familiar with doing battles in the trenches it appears he has been given huge tasks as he doesn’t seem to have the wherewithal to handle the marauding debaters from the opposition bloc. The task of Leader of the House as the VP is going to expose his political strength. It’s like he has been thrown at the bitter end.


Who really is Tsogwane?

Those close to him are not surprised by his meteoric rise to political stardom.

“He is a hardworking person. Tsogwane is very intelligent and an embodiment of humility. He is also a very open person. This is possibly why Masisi went for him (as VP),” said Tsogwane’s nephew Keikemetse Mabalane. In fact, it is Mabalane who lured Tsogwane into active politics. That was around 1998. Then, a novice Tsogwane defied political odds, beating political veteran and incumbent the now deceased Gabofele Masusu at the BDP primaries in Boteti ahead of the 1999 general elections. He was subsequently elected Boteti Member of Parliament (MP) and he has been in Parliament since then. “At the time (of recruiting Tsogwane) I and others felt that Boteti needed a young and intelligent leader like him. His wife Boikothao (now late) was very reluctant because at the time they had other commitments to fulfil,” he said.

Tsogwane heeded calls for him to join active politics. He subsequently ditched his teaching profession. The recently elected VP was then a deputy school head, teaching Social Studies at Matsiloje Junior Secondary School. His former students remember him as a disciplinarian and nicknamed him ‘Understand’ because he completed almost every sentence with the word "understand".

Mabalane says that a youth Tsogwane was so passionate about football. He was a very skillful footballer too, according to his nephew.

Tsogwane is a father of three. Though he

never remarried (following the death of his wife), Tsogwane has someone in his life according to Mabalane.

Despite the fact he never showed intentions of being a fully-fledged politician Tsogwane was a regular feature during BDP rallies in Boteti and Francistown during his teaching days.

This is according to BDP activist Otsile Mmatlakgomo one of those who worked with Tsogwane during his initial years as a politician. He believes that this (regular appearances during rallies) contributed towards his political consciousness, which might have influenced him to join active politics. “I guess his regular appearance during rallies is also why he was widely accepted when he decided to join politics,” he said.

Mmatlakgomo says that Tsogwane has managed to sustain his stay in Parliament because of his intelligence, humility, hard work and the level of respect he afforded all his constituents.

Mmolawa Tsogwane, the elder brother to Tsogwane told Mmegi that it was inevitable that his younger brother was destined for greatness in life.

He however, said that he thought his brother would excel in other areas especially those related to academics rather than politics.

“From a young age Slumber exhibited a higher degree of intelligence at school. When it comes to education he was disciplined and more focused than most of his peers,” he said.

He added, “He was also passionate about football. He regularly organised football matches and mobilised his peers to play the sport”.

“Had football been fairly rewarding in this county I have no doubt that he would also have thought about pursuing the sport professionally. He had all the ingredients to turn into a great football player.”

A part from politics Tsogwane is passionate about livestock farming and during his spare time the father of three visits his farm at Kaka cattle posts (in the Boteti area). Mmolawa who is a staunch BDP member literally took care of his younger brother until the latter went to the University of Botswana.

“My father died around 1966 while we were still young and that is when I decided to take Slumber under my wing. Then I worked for a chain store called RA Bailey,” said Mmolawa. Tsogwane started primary school in his home village of Rakops at Tsienyane Primary School, but would later transfer to Makalamabedi Primary School after Mmolawa decided to take him.

(Rakops has three primary schools so far, with the other two coming recently during his term as MP for Boteti, and later Boteti West) After completing his primary school in Makalamabedi his brother transferred to Palapye and  Slumber  followed to enrol for his junior secondary school. In Palapye he lived with Mmolawa’s in-laws.

Tsogwane completed his senior secondary school at Maun Senior as a boarding student. He taught at various schools after completing his university degree. Without a ‘shadow of doubt’ Mmolawa believes his younger sibling has what it takes to acquit himself well in his new role.

“Just like I said before, Slumber is very intelligent. He is someone who is also keen to excel and achieve. In my opinion he has done well in all the duties assigned to him by government andl as an MP. That is why I believe that he will do well as VP.” As a parting shot, Mmolawa said Slumber is also a God-fearing man and an avid churchgoer. He is a member of the Spiritual Healing Church, which is headquartered in Matsiloje.




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