By the time the curtain falls on 2017, President Lt Gen Ian Khama would have bid well to both his party, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the presidency. He will only have a few months to clear up his desk at the country’s highest office.
This year, Khama will address BDP’s last congress as its leader, at a meeting in which a battle for power is anticipated. Khama’s imminent departure has seen a number of key figures in the party lining themselves up for succession, threatening the future of the apparent heir to the throne Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
The succession plan is the brainchild of former President Ketumile Masire, who prior to his retirement led reforms which led to the amendment of the constitution. The new reforms diverted a potential perilous situation in the party in which BDP factional wars threatened the stability of the party and to some extend that of the country.
Festus Mogae and Khama ascended to the throne smoothly in 1998 and 2008 but the departure of the latter next year could lead to a different story. Unlike his predecessor, Khama has had three deputies, and there has been uncertainty regarding who he intends to leave the responsibility of the country and party to. Reports are rife that, although Khama has closely guarded his views; he is keen on opening up the succession. This has since attracted big fish such as Nonofo Molefhi, Tshekedi Khama and Jacob Nkate to challenge for the throne.
Khama’s biggest concern is to leave the BDP in a better position to prolong its stay in power beyond 2019 general elections, hence treading carefully with regards to the succession plan. Failure to manage the plan could spell doom for the party. With the opposition bloc uniting and BDP still trying to regain its claim following the dismal 2014 general elections, the party’s stay in power could be under serious threat for the first time since independence.
BDP’s revival mode is countered by a declining economy, marred by unprecedented rates of job losses and on other side, a hostile worker federation of unions, Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPPPUSU).
KHAMA’S 2017 CALENDAR
Khama’s busy schedule which commenced in August 2015 will continue this year and this time around the party leader is approaching the finishing line, hence all assignments should be delivered. Since August 2015, according to party Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, the president has been engaged in a series of mobilisation activities across the country. The activities include meetings with the Central Committee, regional tours, branch visits and other team building functions. Khama has addressed over 50 meetings since then.
The party will in the next seven months convene crucial gathering as all party organs; the youth league, women’s wing and the party itself meet for their elective congresses. According to observers, these three events will be heavily monitored as key figures eyeing the presidency are trying to win the support of those contesting.
As early as February this year, the party youth wing, currently led by Andy Boatile will go for its elective congress. There are some youth within the party who have defiantly started calling for reforms within the party and such activists could shape the agenda of the party if they emerge victorious.
The party will also meet for the Women’s Wing elective congress in March. The women’s wing currently led by Minister of Health and Wellness Dorcus Makgato remains, together with Youth Wing; a very influential structure in the party affairs. The battle for succession has been also been linked with the women’s wing.
Prior to the party congress, the party will also converge for the annual National Council where the party delegates scrutinise government and party polices and make some recommendations. A stage will be set when the party meets for its regular elective congress held every two years. The congress has generated much interest owing to its significance and impact of its outcome on the future of the party. The most eyed position will be that of party chairmanship, which currently is occupied by Masisi. The position has traditionally been associated with the vice presidency since the days of Peter Mmusi.
This publication has gathered that the position of the party chairmanship will be used as a starting point for consolidation of power as the party prepares for likely first party presidential elections. Since Masire’s departure the incumbent vice president has automatically ascended to the presidency and never been challenged during their presidency. Both Khama and Mogae concluded their two terms unchallenged at party level.
However, the BDP constitution states that when the party is in power, the President of the party shall be elected by secret ballot at a National Congress of the party called by the Central Committee during every general election.Ntuane has informed this publication that at this point in time it is too early for the party to reveal those who are interested in contesting party positions.
“Its early days, things will reveal themselves by February or March. There might be new faces we never heard about who want to go into the Central Committee,” said Ntuane, who also declined to comment on whether he will be defending his position or not.
KHAMA’S LEGACY AT STAKE
When President Mogae bypassed frontrunners for the second in command throne; David Magang and Ponatshego Kedikilwe, it was in the back of Professor Lawrence Schlemmer’s recommendation. The Cape Town based political consultant was engaged by the party after 1994 general elections to offer prognosis of the party in the lead up to the 1999 general elections.
The 1994 general election had dealt BDP a heavy blow and had its leaders’ egos substantially bruised. For the first time in years, the prospects of losing power to opposition party became real. Schlemmer’s recommendation will exalt Khama from the army to the country’s number two position. The report had recommended that BDP, which was riven with factions, bring someone with a strong personality and appeal within its fold to help unite the part. At that time the description duly fit Ian Khama.
Almost 20 years since his grand fashion arrival in politics, a lot of questions are hovering around as to whether a man who was brought in as messiah has succeeded. By the time he leaves office next year, BDP would have hit its lowest popular vote in history, and also had an offspring—something which was peculiar to the ruling party and ubiquitous within opposition parties since independence.
The BDP split resulting in the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) will remain a centre of debate in many years to come. BMD is part of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC), a coalition of opposition parties ready to battle power with BDP in 2019 in highly anticipated elections.
Khama will be looking at protecting his legacy and avoiding a situation where the party will lose power immediately after his leadership. The economy has stunted in the last few years and did not fully recover from the 2008 global economic crisis. Unemployment fuelled by job losses has added strain to Khama’s legacy and he has a very limited time to reverse the situation.
DID KHAMA HAVE SUCCESSION PLAN?
For the entire duration of his presidency Khama has closely guarded his plans and rarely let them leak to the public. He decisions have always been surprises. When Khama ascended to the presidency in 2008, it was generally expected that he will appoint his former boss Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe as his deputy. This was fulfilled. Few metres down the line, it became apparent that Merafhe will serve only one term. But it remained secret as to who would replace the former foreign affairs minister.
In the meantime, Jacob Nkate, a well-known Khama ally was left out of parliament after losing out in the 2009 general elections, and instead Khama opted for bureaucrats in the Specially Elected Members of Parliament dispensation. Nkate, the leader of Nkate-Merafhe faction, which rooted for Khama, was later sent abroad after expressing his desire to serve as BDP chairman. Nkate had earlier served as Botswana Export Development Investment Agency (BEDIA) now Botswana Investment Trade Centre (BITC) Chief Executive Officer where he left under controversial circumstances.
Merafhe’s departure ahead of schedule in 2011 due to ill-health saw Khama diverting his attention to his former nemesis, Kedikilwe as his number two. Kedikilwe had already expressed that he will retire from politics at the end of his parliamentary term at the time of his appointment.
Reports were rife that former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse was in pole position for the second in command position. Kitso Mokaila also got the nod from observes as probably number two, given his relation with Khama. However, the 2013 BDP primary election and the subsequent general elections left destruction in its awake. Both Seretse and Mokaila were among the victims, effectively ruling them out of the contest for vice presidency as the per the constitution demands.
After the 2014 general elections, Khama, in a move which surprised many appointed Masisi as his deputy. Masisi is now a few months away from the presidential seat and will become the man who became president after serving the shortest time of all previous presidents before ascending to the throne. Masisi would have served 3 years and four months as vice president before assuming the throne.
However, Masisi’s fate lies at the upcoming party elective congress where it will be a make or break for those with presidential ambitions.
African Scientists and Experts Call for the adoption of a Harm Reduction in approach in Public Health Strategies and Tobacco Control. Media have a critical role to play in accelerating Harm Reduction efforts by informing and sensitizing cigarette smokers on the availability and benefits of alternative, potentially lower risk products to cigarretes. Traditional cessation and smoking prevention norms are not the only ways that smokers who cannot or donâ€™tâ€™ want to quit can make healthier choices that cause less harm to themselves and those around them.
This was said during the 2nd Harm Reduction Exchange conference for African journalists held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 1st of December 2022. Speaking at the Harm Reduction Exchange Conference, Integra Africa Principal Dr. Tendai Mhizha emphasized the role that journalists and media houses should play in handling misinformation and disinformation in tobacco harm reduction discourse that is actually perpetuating the death and disease caused by people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes. â€śThere has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects that e-cigarettes have on public health.
This has led to policies that disfavour risk reduces products and narratives that completely deny their benefits. The media have the difficult responsibility to curb the scourge of disinformation and misinformation on harm reduction just like on other socio-political stances that are prescriptive and do not uphold consumersâ€™ right to healthier lifestyle choices,â€ť Dr Mhizha said.
The Harm Reduction Exchange cast a spotlight on alternative ways to reduce harm among tobacco smokers. Held under the theme Harm Reduction: Making a difference in Africa, the conference focused on the progress being made through harm reduction strategies in all fields related to public health such as drug and alcohol abuse, excessive sugar consumption, skin lightening and other addictive and behavioral practices. A wide array of harm reduction strategies and initiatives that are deployed towards reducing unnecessary deaths through non-communicable diseases were presented and discussed.
It applies to areas where there is a need to reduce the harm associated with a practice or consumption of a substance that is overused in society leading to increased morbidity and mortality. â€śInnovative Harm Reduction initiatives will help to keep more Africans alive. Tobacco Harm Reduction initiatives, including the use of popular e-cigarettes, nicotine patches and chewing gums, have continued to generate a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and in the media. However, there is evidence that the use of potentially less harmful alternatives than cigarettes for those who are not willing or cannot give up smoking with currently approved methods may be a solution, not necessarily the best for everyone but by far better than continuous smoking.
Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smokingâ€”the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. â€śNicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Across the world, there is growing interest among experts in novel approaches towards tobacco control and there is an ongoing discussion that reducing the negative effects of smoking can be also achieved by tobacco harm reduction,â€ť Dr. Kgosi Letlape, an ophthalmologist and President of Africa Medical Association and the president of the Association of Medical Councils of Africa, said.
Tobacco cessation is a key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Abstinence from tobacco smoking is one of the primary goals for health promotion and management globally but it is unachievable in a huge amount of cases. This task remains unaccomplished despite extensive public campaigns on the health dangers of tobacco smoking. Thus, the development of novel strategies to reduce smoking is imperative. Moreover, the use of innovations in smoking products has been currently adopted by several smokers to reduce the health risks of smoking.
â€śThe Harm Reduction approach prevents drug-related deaths and overdose fatalities and is the only way out for addicts. In the same way these alternative technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world as they reduce exposure to toxicants,â€ť Bernice Apondi, A Policy Manager at Voices of Community Action and Leadership Kenya (VOCAL-Kenya), said.
During the Harm Reduction Exchange, journalists drawn from Southern, West and East African countries, including: Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe debated and set forth several resolutions in regards to the present and future as well as the challenges and progress made in Harm Reduction,and science-led regulation.
The Harm Reduction Exchange brought together high-level policy makers, physicians, scientists and health policy experts with media stakeholders from Africa in a lively mix of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. The key note speakers included Prof Abdoul Aziz Kasse, Ms Bernice Opondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma, Clive Bates, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Dr. Vivian Manyeki and Dr. Tendai Mhizha.
Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.
According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reachingÂ WeekendPostÂ shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.
In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.
The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.
This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publicationâ€™s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, â€śas you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,â€ť she said.
She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.
Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.
Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.
Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.
â€śIt is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,â€ť he toldÂ WeekendPost, adding that â€śwhen a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolvedâ€ť.
Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.