Although President Mokgweetsi Masisi recently reshuffled a Cabinet inherited from his predecessor Ian Khama, in firing and hiring it seems he did not pay particular attention to his junior ministers. Mmegi Staffer RYDER GABATHUSE follows the issues
FRANCISTOWN: Although there are new faces in the newly composed Masisi-led Cabinet, some of them did not even come from the old junior ministers’ list. This left a majority of Masisi’s junior ministers as perennial Assistant Ministers.
Frans Van Der Westhuizen, Thato Kwerepe, Biggie Butale, Itumeleng Moipisi, Botlogile Tshireletso, Kgotla Autlwetse, Moiseraele Goya, Phillip Makgalemele and Fidelis Molao make the list of perennial Assistant Ministers. Machana Shamukuni only recently joined the list of Assistant Ministers.
Member of Parliament for Mmadinare, Kefentse Mzwinila, is the only one who was recently given a substantive Ministerial post at Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, which was previously headed by the deposed Prince Maele.
At the heart of the appointments, whilst political expediency, loyalty, regional balance, gender balance and other considerations are very important, appointments should chiefly be influenced by national interest above all.
It can be demotivating for politicians to always witness new faces roped in to lead them.It may put in doubt that hard work really pays, especially when hard workers are incessantly overlooked in Cabinet appointments.
It goes without saying that for the newly-appointed Masisi Cabinet; some of them would not hit the ground running, as they may require time to acclimatise in their new positions. This is unlike when some of the Assistant Ministers who have been in the office were tested for continuity.
Of course, whilst Masisi like any other President could be guided by political expediency, at all times the appointments to Cabinet should not mortgage the future of the country at the expense of loyalty, regional and factional balance.
The million-pula question is what does it take to be a Cabinet Minister? Loyalty, academic qualifications or the need to purely serve the nation?
In an endeavour to find answers to the nagging question why Masisi and Khama have kept nine Assistant Ministers in one place without promoting them to substantive positions, Mmegi spoke to political pundits.
“In the exception of a few assistant ministers, you will find out that some of them were never meant to be Assistant Ministers in the first place,” Gaborone-based political commentator, Anthony Morima observes.
He says some of them are simply kept for political expediency, their loyalty to the party and government and other political factors.
“Some of them, experienced as they are, like Phillip Makgalemele could be where they are because of issues of factions within the party. Others have basically reached their ceilings and have simply overachieved given their calibre,” he says, adding that the President finds himself without choice but to keep them for other considerations, which are equally important.
Morima noted that according to the Constitution, Assistant Ministers are not Cabinet members.
“Again, by simply keeping Assistant Ministers in one position without even offloading them, the President might be not wanting to rock the boat in the party for the transition
His other argument is that to some extent, the President in appointing his Cabinet is limited by the Constitution where it only limits him to appoint his Cabinet from within Parliament.
“Although he is limited by the Constitution, he did relatively well in removing people whose names have been dragged in the mud through corruption allegations levelled against them,” Morima concluded. University of Botswana political science lecturer, Leonard Sesa attributes Masisi’s appointments to Cabinet positions to loyalty, as a reason he even gave out. He says Masisi wanted to reward those who have been by his side and added that Masisi is expected to explain his main reason for the recent reshuffle.
Under the ruling BDP ticket, Sesa picked Kgotla Autlwetse, Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to have won his constituency Serowe North with a high margin and should have been rewarded with a Cabinet post, just for his hard work.
He was, however, quick to point out to diversity that lacks in the BDP MPs to be even considered for Cabinet promotion. He was forthright that a lot of elected politicians do lack the wherewithal to be competitive enough for Masisi’s job to be simplified.
On the other hand, Sesa is of the view that Masisi chose people with a view to encouraging them to work very hard using the State resources for the 2019 general elections. He cited Ngaka Ngaka, who was recently appointed Minister for Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, whose credentials to drive his portfolio are in doubt. Ngaka is an MP for Takatokwane in the far-flung outskirts of the Kweneng District.
“Remember as the President, Masisi is doing by all means possible, even through his appointments to live up to his dream of beating the opposition to a whitewash. He had promised to teach them a political lesson.” UB senior lecturer in politics, Dr Kebapetse Lotshwao, thinks Masisi approached his appointments from the perspective of BDP internal politics in composing his Cabinet.
“To have also kept Assistant Ministers that Khama continued to overlook without elevating them, it fits in the issues of patronage, retaining support and rewarding those deserving,” he says, adding that it purely depends on the President why he wants to keep them without promoting them of course.
“Maybe his fear emanates from the reality that he may bring to his Cabinet people who do not have a clue on issues of the Ministry,” he says, adding that of course, the President has his own issues.
His analysis is that Masisi’s appointments perhaps serve the party agenda and reward supporters, loyalty amongst others. He noted: “Maybe he relies on them to push the government policy when it comes to voting”.