Masisi: The BDP rising star?

Staff Writer
Correspondent LAWRENCE OOKEDITSE charts the future of the Botswana Democratic Party

"Dumelang. My name is Mokgweetsi Masisi. I am a 46-year-old citizen of Botswana man. I am married and have one child (so far!). My home village and place of birth is Moshupa, in the Southern District.

I have received advanced training at graduate level in the fields of education, economics (social policy and social development) and recently began studying epidemiology. I am a lifetime membership holder of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

Being as old as the BDP poses unique challenges for me as its parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Moshupa in this year's (2009) general elections. The previous two Members of Parliament were both significantly older than the party and I", his profile in the BDP candidates list decrees.

The name Tshelang Masisi has since the dawn of the 1990s been constantly on the lips of many people. Save for the alumni of the class of 1990 at Florida State University, just another university in the United States of America (US), and the class of 2000 at Manchester University, yet again just another university, though bearing the great name of a city made ever so well known by a great football side - Manchester United I mean, not the 'noisy neighbours' with a penchant for off-the-pitch statements, the name Mokgweetsi Masisi was just another name.

Now though, the tables have turned, as the 'speech man' is a full government minister.

Okay, this is not about soccer, but I do trust he once or twice sat at the famous Stretford End engulfed by a sea of all conquering red and constant sounds of 'We love United, we do'', "United Road, take me home, To the place I belong, To Old Trafford to see United, Take me home United Road" or on those bitter night chants of "Oh Manchester is wonderful, It's full of t*ts, f*nny, and Oh Merseyside, is full of sh*t, It's full of sh*t, sh*t and more sh*t, Oh Merseyside is full of sh*t and Oh Elland Road, is full of sheep".

I trust he not only loved being in the middle of the United contingent on the famous European nights when they would sing 'We are the Busby boys' or in a defiant and bullish mood sing 'We'll never die, we'll keep the red flag flying here'. He after all loves theatre and Old Trafford, the Manchester United home ground is christened the 'Theatre of dreams'. The sea of red he has stuck to in the BDP. Most likely too, his parliament dreams took form back in that city.

Maitisong regulars would know Reuben from the play Joseph and the Technicolor Coat directed by Stuart White. In that cast, Mokgweetsi Masisi proclaims, "I began to be interested in drama in primary school, only because my friends were." I am not sure about his BDP affiliation but one gets the feeling it was a result largely of family socialisation for I trust he would have been more at home as an opposition romantic with a great sense of humour and a knack for words and moving speeches.

The Joseph production was not the end. At secondary school John O'Brien involved them in the 1977 production on Antigone and he wrote, "We played out our fantasies in the numerous variety shows the students put on. At university I directed and produced the first production by the UB Traveling Theatre - The Trials of Dedan Kemathi.

In 1983 we put on about 28 performances for all form 5 leavers of Cry the Beloved Country at Moth Hall with Capital Players. Alan Paton graced the premier performance along President Masire".

An increasingly illustrious becoming theatre CV also features pioneering work. "Following David Slater's encouragement, some friends and I formed Maitisong's first resident performing arts group and staged productions and performances such as, Tiro, Brother Jero as well as musicals with the live band.

I proceeded to do work on video and 16mm film; both in front of the camera and alongside it directed and produced", part of his 'Reuben' profile in the cast features.

Easy smile, easy with words and at ease addressing people, the younger Masisi would have been comfortable in Hollywood. Tall and upright, thunderous voice, a spring in his step, pronounced cheekbones and an overall macho appearance easily suggest a movie star. His sense of imagination and desire to save the world - keep in mind he is in charge of poverty reduction schemes - suggest a would-have-been great scriptwriter and actor.

It does not end there. His ability to rise from the bottom is akin to the guy who plays Rocky Bilbao. First, he had to labour under the exploits of both his father and older brother, Tshelang. Theorists who have written on belatedness have often argued that those who come late after a great leader or a famous sibling often struggle.

The success or fame of the great leader or older sibling becomes a shadow within which the other labours.

But again, like Rocky Balboa, Mokgweetsi's fire, a hunger of sorts which some call 'the eye of the tiger', lands him in places he would not have thought of many years back.

His oratory and instinct for decision making such as somehow refusing to copy the radical democrat traits his brother has so well perfected have benefitted him tremendously.

In the world of Internet sales and pop stars, there is such a thing as 'trending'. A trending item or even person is one who is most sought after.

In the BDP, for now if anything, the Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration is the most trending man. If you like, he could easily be Vice President in 2014, or earlier if at all there is any reshuffle of the No. 2 position. He is en vogue.

Okay, perhaps I have just been swept away. Back in September, he became one of the guests of the World Universities Debating Championships fund-raising dinners - one of two parliamentarians - the other being Dumelang Saleshando, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) president.

The two honoured an invitation from unlikely sources but pitched unlike a good number of others who still gave assurances a day before the event but did not pitch up. Well, PHK nicely told us he would be addressing meetings away from the city so he would not be in. No wonder he is a best performing minister - his focus appears undeterred and he does not 'play politics' with serious issues. He arrived at the event and suddenly his presence was in a way towering. Chatting with him is not a huge task. He knows his world pretty well and has this voice that is commanding. In a way, too, he knows how to make you feel wanted and at ease around him. His personal secretary, Keitumetse Mpotokwane, is also prompt to respond to requests, perhaps part of the reason her minister is on the rise.

Mokgweetsi Masisi made a vow prior to election year 2009. "I intend to proactively engage all service providers in the public and private domain to redefine our national sense of pride, service, respect and responsibility. In doing so I shall be motivating for the rejuvenation of it being en vogue to be a Motswana in Botswana and the world. I shall be playing my part in helping our beloved leader His Excellency Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama deliver on his promise of the four Ds - Democracy, Development, Discipline and Dignity."

In sticking with the President he has kept his vow, thus becoming a champion of the poverty reduction plan and eventually taking over a full ministerial role. Not only that, someone who has known him before he was a minister, Koneko Monyena - tells me he has always been a great person to talk to. And also that he is the kind of person you see as neighbourly. Okay, in all fairness, both Monyena and Masisi are talkative fellas who would be at home with each other. So, his sentiment is perhaps but a mere self-description by Monyena. Most would agree with him though as they both have likable traits. All these traits are elevating him to greater heights at Government Enclave, and I see at Tsholetsa House.

Not that he has been perfect. Like most others, his response to Survival International (SI)'s campaign on the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) issue was based on a possible wrong interpretation of the intents of the British non-governmental organisation (NGO). He assumed that all SI needed was donor funding, somehow forgetting to argue the real issue of whether we are justified in denying CKGR people water.

Speaking for the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (Pandu Skelemani), Masisi, answering a question in Parliament argued that "the motive behind the campaign by Survival is well known in that they are simply motivated by the funds they raise from unsuspecting donors.

It is clear to us, and others who have followed this issue, that no amount of reasoning and, or fact, will move Survival International on this matter for as long as they stand to benefit monetarily from the donations they get from unsuspecting donors." Survival International's statement that they would cease their campaign against Botswana diamonds and the court's decision seems to suggest that he, too, like many, lost the plot in supporting the non-provision of water for CKGR residents. The rising star is after all human, huh.

All put together though, Tshelang Masisi in a couple of years will no longer be the most famous Masisi. The meteoritic rise of his younger brother in government appears unstoppable, for now though given that government ministries have a way of cutting someone's rise and possibly ruining political careers. Ask Jakes Nkate and Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi at that troubled Education Ministry. His working with trade unions will be the real test and will either validate or invalidate his 'great person' and 'leader' credentials.

At a time when the BDP can be said to still be reeling in the aftermath of the shock split that took away a generation of likely future presidents, Mokgweetsi Masisi has come in 'from nowhere' to fill the void. In a way, he is one for the future. His star just keeps rising and rising.



I have won dammit!

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