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The Cabinet of friends

President Masisi in parliament PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
True to his repeated promise during his inaugural speech last Sunday, President Mokgweetsi Masisi has appointed his Cabinet which is purely a product of last year's Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) elective congress in Tonota. Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE analyses Cabinet appointed this week

Those loyal to Masisi have been rewarded big time where they least expected it, whilst three senior party politicians were fired from Cabinet. Big losers are Prince Maele and Sadique Kebonang whose names have been mentioned alongside corruption in the recent weeks. Edwin Batshu is another big loser, as he has been fired when it was least expected.

One of the earliest beneficiaries of loyalty is Slumber Tsogwane who immediately after Masisi’s ascendance to the country’s state Presidency was rewarded with the party chairpersonship and just this week he got a nod as the ninth state Vice President.

Pundits doubted his rise to the second highest office in the land because he is too quiet and a bit slow to match pound for pound the marauding young Turks in the opposition bloc in Parliament.

His appointment is perceived as an ‘own goal’ in some quarters with fears that the opposition might cause trouble with the Leader of House in Parliament a weakling.

Tsogwane, one of the quietest politicians in the BDP and Parliament was last July nominated as a party additional member at the elective congress.

Talk was rife that his closeness to Masisi was likely to see him elevated to greater heights and true to that, he got what the system had promised him.

The reshuffle of Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development is like taking fish to water given her credentials but removing her from the previous Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation is akin to a demotion. She must be demoralised.

The Cabinet appointments are also assembled in a pattern to strike a regional balance between the north and south regions just from the top - Masisi is from the south whilst his deputy is from the north and the pattern goes on and on.

In his speech, Masisi had promised to crack the whip especially in combating both corruption and economic crimes and their related ills.

The appointment of Nonofo Molefhi as Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration shows that Masisi has a good heart considering that the minister challenged him for the party chairperson in Tonota last year.

As the leader of a faction, Masisi’s gesture seems to be telling Molefhi to abandon his faction and concentrate on his duty at the Office of the President (OP) uniting the party. Masisi’s government is concerned with building relations with public sector trade unions and therefore, Molefhi is the man who can help the President achieve his plans of dealing with the public sector trade unions as a humble character.

Equally, the appointment of Biggie Butale as a junior minister at the Ministry of Health and Wellness is another gesture of fairness and level headedness by Masisi. Butale nearly shed a tear in Tonota in honour of Molefhi’s loss for the party chairpersonship. Butale is Molefhi’s loyalist who has described Molefhi as a good man in Tonota. In fact the assistant minister has himself challenged Masisi the party chair in the earlier elective congress in Mmadinare.

The President had the prerogative of appointing other equally capable people but settled for people who were not in his radar as an effort to heal the party’s bitter factions.

There was talk that Dorcas Makgato another known Molefhi ally would kiss the dust from Cabinet, but Masisi chose to put their differences aside and appointed her substantive Minister on merit. As the chairperson of the party’s largest constituency, BDP’s Women’s Wing, Makgato wields influence that Masisi could not ignore easily, hence her retention.

Seven Ministers from the pro-Khama era were not affected by the reshuffle and these include; Shaw Kgathi, Patrick Ralotsia, Tshekedi Khama, Kenneth Matambo, Tshenolo Mabeo, Kitso Mokaila and Thapelo Olopeng as they retained their portfolios.

Specially Elected MP and attorney by training, Unity Dow has been shifted to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development from the Ministry of Basic Education.

This is a fair reshuffle as her strength allows her to sit at any Ministry with ease. Her former junior Minister, Moiseraela Goya has survived the chop as he has been shifted to the Ministry of Trade and Industry to serve under a newcomer, Bogolo Kenewendo. Although he is a Masisi loyalist, there was doubt about his true allegiance to the sitting President at Tonota.

Kenewendo, a reputable economist at a tender age of 31 years, has been appointed to the right Ministry where she will try to fill Vincent Seretse’s political

shoes. Although she is qualified, she comes into Cabinet as a surprise package. In his first appointment, Masisi has also increased the voice of women politicians into his Cabinet through Motopi-native Kenewendo’s appointment. The number of women MPs holding Cabinet positions has now grown to five.

This is a good gesture by Masisi as his central committee elected last July in Tonota was dominated by male politicians against the wishes of female politicians who are in majority in the party.

A major inclusion is the appointment of Bagalatia Arone who was recruited from the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) as the new Minister of Basic Education. It’s clear that Masisi who has been recruiting from the opposition that this one is a political bait to try and entice opposition politicians that the ruling party can reward them with appointments.

 On the flip side, Masisi wants to ensure that the constituency of Okavango where Arone is an MP, which has been in the hands of the BCP shifts allegiance to the ruling party. This is a good move.

Interestingly, Arone will give instructions to a former school head, Thato Kwerepe who is his junior Minister. Just like the President and the vice president, the Ministry of Education is headed by former educationists. Arone was formerly a junior secondary school teacher.

Another major appointment is that of Vincent Seretse from the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry to International Affairs and Cooperation, a fairly senior appointment which suits him given his administrative prowess from the business sector.

There were doubting Thomases that Seretse and Masisi were not in good books. The appointment speaks a great deal about the duo’s relationship. He is basically trusted with the external affairs of the country and will be the face of Botswana. His appointment is also a result of loyalty to his principal.

Mmadinare MP, Kefentse Mzwinila has been appointed to fill the void left after Prince Maele was fired from his portfolio of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services. Itumeleng Moipisi has been retained as a junior Minister.

Eric Molale who has been at the OP has been shifted to another very important Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security where Sadique Kebonang has been fired from the position. Molale is another loyal politician who has been struggling to win himself a parliamentary seat without luck. His loyalty to the powers-that-be has rewarded him handsomely. His main undoing has been his dealings with public sector trade unions.

Another major surprise appointment is that of Ngaka Ngaka as the Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology as little is known about his credentials. This is a clear case of rewarding loyalty as this man is very close to President Masisi as his trusted ally and he also contributed to Masisi’s win at the Tonota BDP elective congress where the Masisi lobby team won with a complete whitewash.

Analysing the newly composed Cabinet, University of Botswana(UB) political science lecturer, Dr Kebapetse Lotshwao says the reshuffle of Molale to another equally powerful ministry of Minerals is influenced  by many critical factors.

“Look, tension has been building up at the OP between the public sector trade unions and government. Part of the problem has been how Minister Molale related with the public sector trade unions,” analyses Lotshwao.

Molefhi’s appointment is basically an effort to bring peaceful industrial relations as Masisi’s government has shown a desire to smoke a peace pipe with the public servants.

“Molefhi is not confrontational; he is not arrogant and not even pompous like his predecessor. He is approachable and the government can benefit a lot from his character,” observes Lotshwao indicating that Molale failed the government whilst both Permanent Secretary to the President and Minister in the Presidency.

Lotshwao’s other observation was that it seems Masisi got rid of people whose names were in the newspapers alongside accusations of corruption in an effort to get rid of worrying public perception against his Cabinet members.

He also noted that Masisi has retained the hardcore of former president Khama’s diehards who have not been moved from their positions instead of him doing radical changes.

Kgathi (Defence, Justice and Security), Ralotsia (Agriculture Development and Food Security), Khama (Environment, Natural resources, Conservation and Tourism), Matambo (Finance and Economic Development), Mabeo (Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development), Mokaila (Transport and Communications) and Olopeng (Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development) have been retained from the Khama era.




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