President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has conducted several surreptitious meetings with the late former President Sir Ketumile Masire and former President Festus Mogae to take advise in outsmarting the powerful Khama family from the reins of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the country.
This was revealed by a research paper seen by Weekend Post this week titled “How Masisi outsmarted Khama to take the reins in Botswana”. The paper was released on November 6, 2019 by a Research Fellow in African Studies at Indiana University in the United States, Dr. Barry Morton. Dr. Morton has published numerous books and articles on that topic. In 2017 he was hired by Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation to work with the now-late former President Masire on a new book, “The Minds of Masire and the Making of the Botswana Democratic Tradition” which is forthcoming later this year, 2019.
Dr. Morton stated in the article on how Masisi outmaneuvered the former President Ian Khama who appointed him as his Vice President and later succeeding him by taking the Counsel of the two former presidents in clandestine meetings. “It is clear that former President Khama (66), like many others, underestimated his young vice-president (Masisi). Masisi took advice in secret late-night sessions with former presidents Masire and Mogae as well as other veterans who despised “the New BDP” that Khama led,” Morton wrote in the paper.
Using their counsel, the author observed that he attended party meetings across the entire country to build up his own constituency. Masisi described his years as vice-president as “brutal hell”, adding that “I was the most abused vice-president,” Morton narrated in the controversial research paper. He added by predicting that: “the full story of how the underling Masisi prosecuted his silent war with Khama is one we must wait for. Ultimately, it is his energetic campaigning and his desire to bring back the forgotten ethos and policies of the early BDP – of Seretse Khama and Masire – that won over the voters (in 2019 elections) despite the defection of the Khamas.”
According to the academic, Masisi now vows to reinvigorate Botswana’s stalled economy, and in this regard his supporters expect him to show no less stamina than he did in the election. Like the priest in Paton’s story who went to Johannesburg seeking his sister and son only to find a degraded and desperate situation, so Masisi is understood to have found the central government and cabinet unrecognisable from the institutions that his late father had served so well in the past, he said.
“With the BDP having been taken over by a coalition of Khama lackeys and “tenderpreneurs” – business people who enrich themselves, often dubiously, through government tenders – even the party’s founder, former President Masire, disowned it for lacking the values and discipline of the original,” he observed. Dr. Morton highlighted that Masisi’s role as vice-president was to serve as a short-term stopgap for Ian Khama’s “Fredo-like” brother, Tshekedi and his looming appointment as Khama’s successor was highly unpopular inside and outside the party.
Once Khama handed power to Masisi in April 2018, he pointed out that “Sisiboy” moved quickly onto the attack, arresting the despised Isaac Kgosi and installing his own supporters in key positions. “Once the Khama brothers defected to the opposition ahead of the 2019 election, they and their supporters were thoroughly outworked by Masisi’s relentless campaign organisation.”
Masisi managed to win the governing BDP’s primary and general election, landing in parliament in 2009 and within two years he was in the cabinet. In 2014, President Ian Khama, looking for an inexperienced and pliable deputy, appointed him vice-president. Ever since 1998, the BDP has transferred power from the president to the vice-president a year before the next general election. Masire did this for Mogae in 1998, who then did the same thing for Ian Khama in 2008.
Masisi has always been easy to underestimate
Dr. Morton states in the paper that although his father, Edison, was a senior cabinet member, Masisi did not display the charisma of a Sir Seretse Khama, the first president of independent Botswana. “Neither did he show the technocratic brilliance of a Quett Masire, who succeeded Seretse Khama as president in 1980; nor the emotional oratory of a Daniel Kwelagobe, the BDP chairman,” he continued. He furthermore stated that although Masisi today compares favourably to any of these political legends, none of this seemed evident in his youth.“He has always been easy to underestimate. Although a prefect at Gaborone’s Thornhill and Maru A Pula private schools, he was not a standout personality,” the Research Fellow said.
How Masisi wrestled control of Botswana from Khama’s
Masisi’s decisive victory in the recent Botswana elections (2019) over a coalition backed by his former boss, Ian Khama, is the culmination of an astonishing 10 year political career, the US born academic pointed out. “Morphing from an obscure first-time MP in 2009 to a surprise vice presidential appointment in 2014, and then president in 2018, the man affectionately known as “Sisiboy” (a play on his surname) has wrested control of Botswana from the powerful Khama family. This he has achieved using tireless campaigning and “the rebirth of the Botswana Democratic Party” (BDP),” he stated out in the paper.
He highlighted that the Khama lineage has dominated Botswana’s politics since the 1870s, right through the modern presidencies of Sir Seretse Khama (1966-1980) and Ian Khama (2008-2018). “But they are now a discredited, spent force with Ian Khama’s new party (Botswana Patriotic Front) having won only 5% of the vote,” he asserted. He cited the prosecution of Khama’s security chief, Isaac Kgosi, and presidential secretary, Carter Morupisi, following his assumption of power in 2018, showed that Masisi was no longer willing to tolerate the widespread corruption that flourished under his predecessor. “Investigators continue to uncover allegations of shocking malfeasance.”
According to the author, Masisi, 58, is on a mission to restore Botswana’s reputation as a beacon of clean governance on the continent, and is pouring resources and energy into that effort. “His ascent and success have surprised everybody. Even Khama admitted: ‘I have come to realise that I have maybe misjudged him,’” Morton wrote.
The author, Dr. Barry Morton was raised and educated in Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe before returning to his native United States for university. In the course of obtaining a PhD in African History in 1996 he established his credentials as an authority on the history of Botswana.
The Conversation in which the paper is published is funded by the National Research Foundation, eight universities, including the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University and the Universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pretoria, and South Africa. It is hosted by the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Western Cape, the African Population and Health Research Centre and the Nigerian Academy of Science and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a Strategic Partner.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.