Who is the next VP?

Nonofo Molefhi
Nonofo Molefhi

It will not be a simple decision considering the fact Khama would want to be gentle with the BDP ego that got bruised from the general elections.

So bruised is the BDP that it managed to only marginally win a 18 constituencies.  Khama would know the BDP is walking a terrain of sifting sand and a little veer to the side will upset the hungry sands of emotion. There is no telling what upset BDP MPs might do, but one possibility is that they could decamp to the opposition, forcing a snap general election, which would most certainly finish off the BDP. So in choosing his deputy, Khama would want a unifying figure. He would also want to retain the many MPs on marginal constituencies.

“To keep most of them, he will need to appoint them to cabinet,” says political analyst Dr Zibani Maundeni.

Failure to reward them with cabinet positions and then appoint someone they do not want as vice president will only bring disillusionment, he says. Furthermore, under a new law passed by the last parliament, legislators will now endorse or reject his nomination by way of secret ballot. That should give the president much headache, unless he finds a way of going around the new rule.


Whoever he appoints, Khama will need a person who is not only a unifier in Parliament, but someone who can help the BDP regain the voter’s confidence. That individual will necessarily be someone who most or all of BDP MPs respect and have confidence in.  The person will have to be someone who can match the largely educated and suave Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) representation pound for pound. Most importantly, it would have to be someone the UDC would also respect.

The new VP will also have to be someone who is articulate, is not confrontational, and has the ability to represent his boss on international assignments, which the President has proven many times to be not terribly fond of attending.

The president will also have to find someone who can help him consolidate power in both government and the party, without being much in the face of other people.

Here, in no particular order, is the list of potential VP candidates.

 

Nonofo Molefhi

His strength lies in the fact that, as the Minister of Transport and Communications, Molefhi acquitted himself very well. He is versatile. He is firm, yet likeable. Political opponents describe him as the type of opponent you would hate to fight, as you would find it difficult to find the man blameworthy on any issue that affects his work as a politician and a societal figure. He has a very strong character and his style of administration appears to have kept him in Khama’s good. He is sober-minded and untainted by party factionalism. He is focused, fair and has exhibited a positive attitude with no room for bias. Many within the BDP see the man as a unifier. Most importantly, the man is a Khama loyalist. 

That he has been able to defend his constituency in a town largely regarded as an opposition stronghold for two consecutive terms says much about the man’s community relations and leadership credentials. Intellectually, he can match the new crop of educated UDC politicians.

He also did very well in other assignments before the current portfolio. This makes him an asset in the Khama-led government, and Khama might just want to consider him as VP. Assuming however, that Khama would want whoever becomes his deputy to make way for his cousin Ndelu Seretse by way of resigning both the vice presidency and the parliamentary seat, Molefhi would not make it, owing to the fact his Selebi-Phikwe constituency was won with a slim margin. Khama would prefer a constituency that the BDP can win at anytime. Both the opposition and most members of the BDP would endorse him.

 

Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi 

Like wine, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has matured with age as a politician. She is now a great asset in the Khama-led government – one that Khama cannot afford to exclude from his cabinet. Venson-Moitoi is a personal friend of the President, and as some say, the only one with the license to use the nickname “Tshetlha” when addressing the President. Tshetlha can both mean “lion”, which is Setswana for Tau, from which derives Tautona – or great lion – for president or “light skin”.  In retaliation the president has been heard to call her “Mma-di Beans”  - a deliberate distortion of Venson’s status as a member of the Binns family. And both love the jokes.

That aside though, Venson is a very intelligent woman. She is a shrewd, well-rounded administrator who will not shy away from any leadership challenge. She will not coddle Khama, yet will respect him as her boss.

That she was at one point immersed in the BDP factionalism as a strategist in the Barata-Phathi faction appears to be a nonissue now. Khama still respected the woman in both government and the BDP hence entrusted her with numerous responsibilities in both the party and government.

If Khama nominates her and she gets parliament’s endorsement she will be the first woman politician to hold the position of VP in Botswana since independence.

Venson-Moitoi can be a street fighter when called up to defend her party. She is intellectually endowed to match the opposition’s new crop of representatives that was elected over the weekend, and to engage any political opponents with ease.

Venson stands a good chance of being nominated as she comes from a safe BDP constituency. She would be the ideal person to make way for Ndelu should Khama decide to bring him back just before the elapse of his tenure in 2018.

 

Dorcas Makgato-Malesu

She is a hard worker who has managed to turn the tables in the Sefhare-Ramokgonami constituency where the contest was very hot with the opposition candidate tipped to win.

As the Minister of Trade and Industry, Makgato-Malesu executed her duties very well. Her positive character has made her fit very well in the BDP family. She has entrenched herself in the party structures. Khama trusts her very much to the extent he assigned her to oversee the BDP’s 50th anniversary, a bigger stage that gave her enormous exposure As an administrator, Makgato-Malesu is knowledgeable and has peoples’ skills. She can effectively counter the voice of the opposition, which has increased in both numbers and quality.

She is strong, and of course untainted by BDP factions, which officially have disbanded.

She headed the country’s investment arm Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority (BEDIA) and performed very well. She also previously chaired Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC). She could easily be nominated and both opposition and ruling party MPs would have a difficult time finding reason not to accept her.

 

Mokgweetsi Masisi

There was a lot of speculation after he was transferred from the Ministry of Presidential Affairs where he was a full minister to the Ministry of Education, as acting minister, that he was no longer in President Khama’s good books.

The man though, has remained Khama’s blue-eyed boy. Trusted with President Khama’s pet project of poverty eradication, he became the face of government.

He has made his critics eat humble pie as he was on the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) hit list and still managed to retain his constituency. Khama trusts him and his loyalty is not in doubt.

Masisi has even publicly confessed to being a bootlicker and it appears the president does reward flatterers.

 

Samson Moyo Guma

The man has been reported to harbour ambitions of the Vice Presidency. He has led a new-faction of BDP members with varied business interest, and who have been labelled as “tenderpreneurs”. The faction has been regarded as divisive and has been said to have had a hand in the fall of a number of cabinet ministers, both at the party nomination stage and in the general election. Some members of the BDP see the faction as dangerously ambitious, unkempt in approach and mannerism and therefore a liability to the party.

While positioning himself as a Khama loyalist, many have questioned Moyo’s credentials. He was among the crop of BDP members who broke away to form the Botswana Movement for Democracy – which has since banded together with the Botswana National Front and the Botswana People Party to form the UDC. Guma however is seen as lacking verve. He is yet to prove himself as a seasoned debater and someone who can be the president’s proxy on international assignments. That notwithstanding, president Khama may still nominate him.

 

Tshekedi Khama

Roping in Tshekedi Khama as his deputy would be a dangerous mission that would see BDP MPs cross to the opposition. Tshekedi may have to bide his time and hope that whoever succeeds Ian, nominates him as his deputy.

Being the man of surprises that he is, Khama may choose not to appoint any of the above. He may choose to use ‘shock therapy’ and appoint a rookie politician. Names that have been bandied around include Sadique Kebonang and Thapelo Olopeng. Both men are known to be good acquaintances of the president. Olopeng in particular is regarded as Khama’s best friend. Kebonang is a lawyer, who at 38 years old still has much to learn, as a leader and a politician. Khama risks further division within the party if he appoints either man, but the president of the republic of Botswana has been known to go against the tide. And so he may swim as he appoints his deputy and cabinet this week.

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