SELEBI-PHIKWE: Given the political rivalry that existed between Selebi-Phikwe East MP and now new President for the Botswana Democratic Party's chairpersonship race, the latter’s appointment of the former has raised some eyebrows.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s decision to appoint former rival in the race ahead of the Tonota Congress, Nonofo Molefhi, as the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration has left politicians not only scratching their heads, but also having mixed reactions.
Molefhi’s new portfolio means that he will be working very closely with Masisi. Despite the two men now working together electorates in the town still bear grudges from the last chairpersonship race and it is evident that they have not buried the hatchet to move on and work together for their party.
Molefhi has not been a favourite of many, especially after the mine closed down, as they believe he did not do much to prevent the predicament that led to massive job losses. Ex-mine employees have always been heard saying that this is the last straw that would eliminate the ruling party from the town. Another thing is that they believe he failed to aggressively fight for is the College of Applied Arts being setup in Selebi-Phikwe and inevitably being relocated to Oodi.
Others on the other hand believe that he has done his part in advocating for Selebi-Phikwe and that being in the executive means that the way he structures his arguments is constructive and diplomatic not just shouting to impress. They believe he has been efficient and that there is no way he could just allow the mine to close down because the survival of the town meant his existence. They believe he was outplayed and outnumbered in the final decision taken. Former president Ian Khama is said to have praised Molefhi in one of the party functions in Gaborone saying that he is the only minister who knocked at his office day and night advocating for his area.
The spokesperson for the Umbrella for Democratic Change and Botswana National Front activist in Selebi-Phikwe, Moeti Mohwasa doubts that Molefhi’s new appointment will benefit the town and said Molefhi could have done something before because he is not new to Cabinet.
“What will benefit is the interests behind the reshuffle whose aim was to balance the forces in the ruling party in favour of Molefhi,” he said.
Ruling party activist councillor, Mogae Ketshogile on the other hand said Molefhi’s new appointment is not a surprise and said even more so had Molefhi been appointed the Vice President because he would have deserved it. He argued that though Molefhi and Masisi were party chairpersonship rivals, the new development confirms that it was purely political and that there was no friction that could create a grudge that could pull them apart.
“It was healthy competition without personalities in it. People must understand that for Molefhi to have challenged Masisi does not mean that they were enemies, but it was just competition for a particular position not a division among them,” he said. Ketshogile said what has happened is a sign
”His capabilities and humble personality warrants that position. It should not set a wrong precedence that one should challenge to be rewarded to be silent, no. It was on merit not a reward,” he said.
Selebi-Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse said Molefhi is an experienced civil servant, MP and Minister and that he is rightly placed in the Office of the President.
“He is approachable, humble and listens to all and sundry. I just hope that his appoint is largely influenced by his good qualities rather than inspired by the ‘keep your enemy closer’ ideology,” he said. Keorapetse said he hopes that post-Tonota Congress where Masisi won, he (Masisi) sees Molefhi as a fellow who can work with him not as an adversary who must be closely monitored.
“We are interested in how Molefhi will deal with unfair and biased coverage by Botswana Television (Btv) specifically and the state media in general. The former minister did not care and was very arrogant about it. It will be interesting to see how Molefhi deals with key institutions under Office of the President such as the Independent Electoral Commission. At the end of the day he is BDP and is expected to protect the interests of the party because that is the culture entrenched in them,” he said. Molefhi joined politics after retirement from public service and challenged former MP Daisy Pholo to win Selebi-Phikwe East constituency in 2004. He has been in the Cabinet since then. In 2015 during the Mmadinare Congress he contested for the additional member of the BDP central committee and got impressive numbers. Initially he wanted to contest the chairpersonship then, but was held back by a large number that contested the position. BDP’s Mmapula Matlhole observed that Molefhi’s leadership qualities were demonstrated after the Tonota Congress that she said had its own waves and turbulences because after the results were announced he merged the two teams (his and Masisi’s) and preached unity.
“He made us understand that at the end of the day there is one party and one leader. This must have impressed the country’s leadership to have him closer. Masisi has made a wise decision at a time when nobody expected him to consider Molefhi at all,” she said.
She said the issue of the chairpersonship between the two was fine, but the problem was the supporters and regretted that supporters even today are still embroiled in the divisions.