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Ntuane joins Khama’s trusted aides

President Lt Gen Ian Khama used his powers to save former party secretary general Botsalo Ntuane from sliding into political obscurity when he brought him back to the Central Committee as one of the five members nominated by the party president.

Ntuane lost his position to Mpho Balopi of the invincible Mokgweetsi Masisi faction. With Ntuane having already declared that he will not contest the upcoming 2019 general elections, there were fears that his defeat would effectively throw him into the political wilderness. However, Khama stepped in and practically saved his political career, effectively keeping Ntuane in the 2017-2019 BDP Central Committee, but much to the dismay of Masisi supporters.

“A lot of Masisi campaigners are shocked and disappointed because they were hoping to be rewarded with additional member posts,” revealed an insider. By deciding to stay out of lobby lists ahead of the Tonota Congress and ending his parliamentary ambitions, Ntuane could have impressed Khama as someone who genuinely serves party interest and cared not much about himself.  

In the run-up to Tonota, Ntuane tried to coax Nonofho Molefhi to drop out of the chairman race and instead take over the secretary general position. Ntuane offered to sacrifice himself to pave way for Molefhi, but his proposal had no buyers in both factions. This publication has established that Khama has finally warmed-up to the idea of trusting Ntuane after a relationship characterised by mistrust since the latter returned from Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), a Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) splinter which Ntuane co-founded in 2010. Ntuane, then Leader of Opposition in parliament rejoined BDP in 2012.

At the funeral of former President, Sir Ketumile Masire, Khama revealed what looked like confidential information that the two met to discuss the nitty-gritty of honouring the departed founding father. Ordinarily, such discussion would occur in the orbit of cabinet but on that day, it appeared Khama had extended an olive branch to the then secretary general.

The 46 year old former legislator has spent nearly 30 years of his career as part and parcel of BDP machinery. After a promising career in Journalism as a student at the University of Botswana (UB) in the 1990s, Ntuane joined the burgeoning GS26, a BDP cell structure in the university campus and later became part of the Student Representative Council (SRC).  

Ntuane rose to political prominence following the 1995 BDP Congress in Mogoditshane in which he was nominated as one of the five additional members to the party central committee by President Masire. Ntuane would later resign his position to take up a paid post in the party’s secretariat as a political officer. In 1997, he ascended to the position of Executive Secretary, a post he held until he was nominated as Special Elected Member of Parliament after the 2004 General Elections.  

Today, with the departure of Daniel Kwelagobe from the party central committee after a 40 year reign, only party Treasurer Satar Dada boasts the same party experience as Botsalo Ntuane. Although still in his 40s, Ntuane has virtually seen all the careers of the current crop of BDP politicians burgeoning.   He was BDP secretariat chief when Khama was introduced to the BDP and facilitated his membership; and he was already at Tsholetsa House when the longest serving Member of Parliament currently, Slumber Tsogwane first entered parliament in 1999, he also served in the BDP at the same time with Edison Masisi, the father to the incumbent Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

“I have seen many political careers beginning and ending.  I have been witness to transitions and in my generation; I know BDP more intimately than anyone so much so that I am actively thinking of writing a book on my experiences,” Ntuane told this publication a few months ago.

The evolution of Khama/Ntuane relations

It was during his first term as an MP that he found himself at odds with Khama, who was then party chairman and vice president. Ntuane, a protégé of Daniel Kwelagobe, then belonged to the Barataphathi faction while Khama was associated with the A-Team faction.
One of the most common clashes between Ntuane and Khama was in 2008 when Khama, new in his presidency introduced the new liquor regulations which brought among others, the alcohol levy and limited time for liquor outlets to operate. Ntuane vehemently opposed the development and irked Khama in the process. Ntuane had to restore peace by apologising to Khama.

The expression that there are no permanent enemies and allies in politics manifest accordingly in the Khama-Ntuane political relationship. Nothing describes their enmity best than the build up to the 2009 Kanye Congress in which the two found themselves in opposite sides in one of the fiercely fought political battles in the history of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Ntuane was rooting for Gomolemo Motswaledi and Khama supported all-women A-Team faction.

Ntuane and his team won, but barely a month after victory, his ally, Motswaledi was suspended for 60 days from the party and barred from contesting the Gaborone Central parliamentary constituency.  Ntuane, who was Motswaledi’s sympathizer in chief, visibly hurt by Khama’s actions coaxed Motswaledi to take the matter to court. The matter ended in losses both at the High Court and Court of Appeal.

Following the court case loss, Motswaledi was slapped with a new 5 year suspension. The suspension set in motion a series of events which led to the formation of BMD. Ntuane, led the process of BMD formation as the chairperson of what was known then as EXCO, which oversaw the formation of the new party.

With him as Leader of Opposition in parliament later, Khama consistently pursued a policy of avoidance. The norm is that the head of state should consult leader of opposition occasionally on issues of national interest. Ntuane then decried that he was being sidelined from meeting head of states during their visits to Botswana. His only courtesy visit was of the Zambian President Michel Sata, a few weeks before resigning from BMD.

One of the defining moments of his relations with Khama was Ntuane’s response to the 2011 State of the Nation Address (SONA) in which Ntuane called for reconciliation between the workers and government. Ntuane’s posture did not impress his colleagues in the opposition and since then, he started inclining towards BDP again. In February 2012, against his party wish, Ntuane attended the BDP’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. He said he did so on his personal capacity and as the party’s longest serving Executive Secretary.   

Although Ntuane returned to BDP a few months later, his arrival did not immediately ease relations between him and Khama. Last year Khama ignored a passionate plea to include Ntuane among the two names of individuals to be nominated Specially Elected MPs following a constitutional amendment which introduced two more posts for SEMPs in the National Assembly.

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