She has stayed away from political activism since the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Kang elective congress held last April, 5 where she chickened out of the party presidential race at the 11th hour. This, after breaking the party tradition by challenging incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi. Former minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi last weekend resurfaced at the BDP after creating uncertainty as to whether she was still with the party, or she had crossed over to the BDP offshoot Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) where she was tipped to pioneer as the president. Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE speaks to Venson-Moitoi in this Question and Answer session that discusses a wide range of issues
Mmegi: First, help me understand why you had decided to go quiet post the Botswana Democratic Party elective congress last April? That is, you have not been active at the BDP, neither are you anywhere.
Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi: After the April congress, I have remained a member of the BDP and participated in all its parliamentary activities right up to the dissolution of the House. Immediately after the dissolution, I embarked on the registration and preparations for setting up the Venson Consultancy. This is the business I intend to go into to continue where I left off in 1998 after I did in-house consulting for the ANC and for GTZ in South Africa. May be you have not been seeing me, but I have been busy.
Mmegi: Is that a sign that you are now done with activism in local politics, or you have decided to take a rest and will continue at a later stage?
Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi: I do not know how to rest as you call it, and frankly I need to work to earn my keep. Simple really.
Mmegi: To those who have been following your political activism, the
thinking was that you will pioneer at the newly formed BPF where some people wished you could take the leadership of the new kid on the political block?
Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi: I am aware of that wish. Unfortunately, for them I could not take on the role. Most importantly I did not want to promote the misconception that I do things according to the beck and call of Lt. Gn. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama. When I ran for president of the BDP I did that because I believed that I had a chance to offer the party a choice of leadership at its congress. I knew, as happens in any political race that I could either win or lose in Kang.
When things turned out the way they did in the lead up to Kang, I chose to withdraw completely from the race for reasons I made public. For me that was the end of that contest. I have kept my membership of the BDP; it was what gave me the opportunity to contest, in the first place. It was a first, yes, but the BDP will be richer because of the experience.
Mmegi: Why are you not with the BPF?
Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi: Because I chose not to join them.
Mmegi: The regional media has recently been awash with stories suggesting that you and former president, Ian Khama on one side and South African businesswoman Bridget Motsepe-Radebe on the other side, were planning to topple the democratically elected government of Botswana led by President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi: I do not know where that comes from. I was in a contest permitted by the BDP constitution. That is nowhere near what that allegation says. I am a law-abiding citizen. I know nothing about plans to topple the Botswana government.
Mmegi: How true are these reports? What have you done about these
Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi: These allegations are pathetic in their untruthfulness. They were a very poor effort at journalism. I spoke to the editors of Sunday Standard, the publication that ran the story, and even gave my passport to their reporter to look for any stamps to Zimbabwe at the alleged period. They saw the passport and knowing that I had nothing to do with the Zimbabwe trip, they offered no apology.
I briefed two different lawyers to help me sue. When I noticed hesitation even in the lawyers, I let the story sit where it is. It is a lie that hurts and does have potential to ruin reputations, but tell me how many times I am going to have to threaten and sue the media? I feel sad that so many South African publications repeated the story and none of them, not one, called me to verify. What journalism? “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord, and that is how I plan to deal with this and all other falsehoods.
Mmegi: How true are allegations that you and Khama have been meeting Motsepe-Radebe and others through clandestine meetings geared at raising funds to topple President Masisi?
Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi: I have never had a meeting with Khama and Motsepe together. They are both my friends and I have met them separately for different reasons at various times. Certainly nothing clandestine.
Mmegi: Circulating stories suggest that you and your allies have met in Victoria Falls and in South Africa where you allegedly hatched plans to bring millions of money into Botswana for your campaign, albeit without success. This was allegedly to get money so to boost the alleged plot to oust Masisi and more. Could this be true?
Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi: I have not been to Victoria Falls since I was Minister of Tourism that is back in 2004/5. I do not know of plans to topple President Masisi and have no desire to be part of such plans. Running against him is a matter that even he accepted as he stated in Palapye and how this appears like a coup to anyone beats common sense.
But then again, someone had to write a sensational story and he or she chose those words. I cannot be expected to understand such minds.
Mmegi: By any chance, do you happen to know Bridget Motsepe-Radebe closely? Or simply put, how do you know Motsepe-Radebe?
Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi: Yes, I know Bridget from her days when she used to live in Botswana and I have met her socially several times over the years.
Motsepe-Radebe is in the public domain denying any association with a plan to topple the democratically elected Botswana government and so does Khama through the party spokesperson, Justice Motlhabani in a recent interview.
This does not however mean that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security as revealed by a senior officer there are not investigating reports of attempts by some to topple President Masisi.