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Why Masisi chose Skelemani over Molatlhegi

Publishing Date : 11 November, 2019

Author : KETUMILE RAMATITI

President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s recommendation of former Attorney General Phandu Skelemani as the Speaker of the National Assembly was an effort to neutralise the North-South narrative and ensure that at least one of three arms of government is led by someone from a minority, WeekendPost has learnt.


This publication is reliably informed that when the parliament curtain closed in August, the party had agreed that the former Deputy Speaker Kagiso Molatlhegi will fill the post that was to be vacated by Speaker Gladys Kokorwe. The script, it is said, had long been drafted that Molatlhegi will not contest the BDP primaries last year, and instead will take over the Speakership role.


However, after election, dynamics turned out different. Masisi had changed the tone and suggested the name of Skelemani before the party caucus for endorsement. Another name that was suggested was that of Mochudi East MP Mabuse Pule, for the Deputy Speaker role. This was contrary to what the party had agreed and hoped for. In the initial plan, Buti Billy, the Francistown East legislator was to understudy Molathegi. Billy has since been appointed Assistant Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development.


 “It is clear Masisi was trying to balance the tribal landscape. He did not want to appear like he is swinging the pendulum of leadership one side, so the idea was to recognize the deep northerners hence he came up with Skelemani’s name,” an informant close to the actions told WeekendPost. Skelemani was born in Mapoka (North East) and worked in the civil service for 30 years starting out as State Counsel. He went on to become a Senior State Counsel and progressing through the ranks to become a Deputy Attorney General. Skelemani was appointed Attorney General in 1992, where he advised the cabinet and attended cabinet meetings.


“His institutional memory of the government machinery and the process were key factors in him getting the position, but most importantly where he comes from,” added a source. Just like Masisi, head of Executive is from Moshupa, with Terrence Rranowane who is leading the judiciary and is from Thamaga. The two villages are 14 kilometres apart and already nepotism and favouritism accusations have been flying around. Now the head of legislature had to be someone from the northern, so as to extinguish the claims that all the key arms of government are led by the southerners, informant says.


Another gesture was to retain Tsogwane, a northerner as the country’s Vice President. Molatlhegi is from Mahalapye in the central region and it is believed advisors close to Masisi suggested that he go for Skelemani so that other northerners also feel included. When asked about intentions to come back to parliament Molatlhegi said; “I took a decision to focus on me and my family, but if the legislators do need my services I will definitely come, my fate lies in them to be honest,” he said in August.


Molatlhegi rose to the Deputy Speakership role after 2014 elections, assisting Kokorwe. Kokorwe revealed that he will not be vying for another term post 2019-election, a factor which made her Deputy (Molatlhegi) a front-runner for the role. The Botswana Parliament is created by Section 57 of the Constitution and it is composed of the President and the National Assembly.


The role of parliament is to make laws as stipulated in Section 86 of the Constitution, which states that: ‘Parliament shall have the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Botswana.’ In this way it means Parliament exercises legislative powers as one of its core mandates. In addition, Parliament performs functions such as representation, scrutiny and oversight.

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