President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s appointment of Dorcas Makgato as Botswana’s envoy to Australia has been hailed as a political masterstroke. The move also sends a clear message to disillusioned politicians from within the ruling party, especially those who failed re-election in the last general. Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE follows the story
FRANCISTOWN: Expectations from some sections in the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) are that after labouring very hard for the party victory, they would easily be rewarded with political appointments. But, unfortunately not all were appointed, as positions are limited.
Therefore, the diplomatic posting of Dorcus Makgato in a way was meant to send a clear and loud message to the BDP’s frustrated lot that they should remain calm and that at the right time, they will get their call up.
The Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation this week announced President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s decision to name Makgato as Botswana’s High Commissioner-designate to the Commonwealth of Australia. The appointment is effective towards the end of February 2020.
Newspapers have recently been awash with reports suggesting that all was not well in the ruling party as frustrated BDP workhorses have been digging in their heels as a sign of frustration.
Loyalty to President Masisi in particular is mainly attributed as a key factor that forced Masisi to reward people who have shown undying commitment to both the BDP and himself as the party leader.
Although Makgato and Masisi at some stage had visible political skirmishes that had escalated into rivalry, they have since buried the hatchet and this week’s appointment is pure attestation to that.
Masisi was able to appoint Makgato to previous Cabinet positions at a time when tensions were very high. Up to the point of her political loss, Makgato was an outspoken supporter of Masisi. She lost her Parliamentary re-election bid in the last general election.
At some stage, Makgato found herself face-to-face with Masisi’s now sworn critic, former president Ian Khama, in a political spat that is believed to have cost her the Sefhare-Ramokgonami constituency.
Being the chairperson of the party’s largest organ, BDP Women’s Wing, Makgato has led her troops into contributing in re-electing the ruling party back to power and thus helped ushering Masisi into the presidency.
She may have failed her own re-election, but the party appreciates the contribution she made as a leader. BDP Women’s Wing under her leadership had incessantly declared its unwavering backing for Masisi.
Political commentators say Masisi wants to keep Makgato as close as possible to his camp for the future as further frustration could force her to decamp.
After serving in Cabinet where she was the political head, this time around she will be reporting to her former Cabinet colleague, Unity Dow who is the current minister of International Affairs and Cooperation.
The appointment means Makgato will surrender all her political tools to the party as she begins a new life as a civil servant. She is going to lose touch with the hoi polloi in the constituency as much as she will lose her leadership of the BDP Women’s Wing.
An indefatigable fighter and passionate politician she has been, Makgato will vanish from the political space to emerge from the diplomatic boardrooms where she is expected to serve the country with diligence, away from partisan politics.
In appointing Makgato, University of Botswana (UB) senior lecturer in politics, Dr. Kebapetse Lotshwao opines President Masisi could have considered a number of factors.
Firstly, he says the President could have wanted to exploit Makgato’s experience, as she has served in both the private sector and Cabinet for many years.
“If Makgato applies herself well, such experience could be beneficial to the country. Secondly, Makgato has been an outspoken supporter of President Masisi. Her appointment could be a reward for supporting the President.”
Lotshwao feels the President also has come up with a strategy to keep her within the Masisi camp, which has to remain intact for purposes of consolidating power.
“Viewed from this angle, the appointment is purely a partisan affair,” acknowledges the political scientist.
Nevertheless, as much
“As for Makgato being kept away from her constituency, I think there is ample time for her to return. I would not be surprised if she serves one term and returns to stand for elections.”
Another UB lecturer in political and administrative studies, Adam Mfundisi says the appointments to diplomatic service in Botswana are the prerogative of the President as enshrined in the country’s Constitution.
He stresses that the diplomatic service should be a professional career. He acknowledges that various Presidents in Botswana have over the years turned it into partisan and amateur career.
“The appointment of Makgato is not a new phenomenon.
Other appointments of this nature have taken place in the past reflecting political interference into diplomatic service. This frustrates and corrupts the objective of creating, maintaining and improving professional standards of diplomatic service in Botswana,” he says.
President Masisi is following his predecessors who have also appointed political diplomats to advance partisan interests and in some instances undermine national interests.
To him, the President appointed Makgato for personal self-interest.
He emphasises that she is being rewarded with diplomatic post in recognition of her undying support and loyalty to the President.
Makgato was part of the BDP Women’s Wing who supported the President to ward off a strong challenge by Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.
The Women’s Wing under her stewardship crushed the latter and undermined her ability to campaign for the leadership of the BDP. Makgato continued to campaign vigorously for the President and her virulent attacks on the Khama family were legendary.
“The wrath from the Khama family in part led to her political demise in Sefhare-Ramokgonami. To lend her a plum diplomatic post is partially a result of her unwavering support for the President. She is being rewarded for the loyalty and patronage,” insists Mfundisi in his analysis.
In a way, by appointing Makgato to a diplomatic post, Mfundisi says it ends the political future of her in the constituency. The case of Tebelelo Seretse validates that. Other politicians who were politically appointed include the late Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, Lesego Motsumi, Jacob Nkate, Duke Lefhoko and Roy Blackbeard amongst others.
He contends that it will be hard for her to resurrect her political life after diplomatic service.
“The appointment of her to diplomatic service is good for her, as she will avoid the political humiliation after a resounding defeat at the polls.
“In all fairness,” further observes Mfundisi, “she expected to be specially elected to Parliament. After that failure to be nominated, the diplomatic post availed itself and she accepted it without reservation.”
Asked how she felt as the new appointment technically ends her political career, the ecstatic Makgato quipped: “ You know that everything has its own time. I am going to represent the interests of the government as a civil servant and that means no to political activism”.
“I am going to remain as passionate as ever. Passion is a very important ingredient of my serving.”
Her emphasis was that serving in government and political activism was like water and oil. In her usual hype, Makgato is ready to take up the new appointment.
BDP spokesperson Kagelelo Banks Kentse says, “obviously upon her appointment to government, she will under normal circumstances relinquish the chairpersonship of the Women’s Wing”.
As to who takes over, Kentse could only say: “It can be the current deputy chairperson or anyone for that matter.” His explanation was that there was no automatic succession, but the executive leadership of the Women’s Wing will have to meet and make a determination, more so that they will go to the elections of a new committee this year.