In a potentially telling twist, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is abuzz with reports that President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama has requested his Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi not to contest for the ruling party’s chairman position at the party’s elective congress expected next year July.
Masisi had made it clear to his inner circle that he intends to defend his position next year. His reasoning oscillated around cementing his stature as the future president, a need to put to bed doubts over his influence in the party, and plain need to demonstrate his character and strength to his detractors. The Vice President continues to be very active within the BDP structures, recruiting hordes of disgruntled opposition figures and is at the forefront of a campaign to paint a resurgent ruling party after the grueling 2014 general election.
But word that Khama has asked him not to defend his position of chairman could throw the spanner into the works, with Masisi’s backers scratching their heads beyond normal, what could be up Khama’s sleeves – if these reports are true? Officially, Masisi’s supporters learn that the Vice President has been asked to focus ‘on the bigger picture’, push more of official government business, and prepare for the transition. Masisi has been tasked with the task of job creation among his many assignments within government. The country is currently experiencing exponential job losses in parastatals and the private sector.
What irks those who are already discussing the latest development is the suggestion that President Khama has indicated that his younger brother, Tshekedi Khama could run for chairmanship instead. There is confusion within the Masisi camp, with some who are determined to block Tshekedi already working around the clock to find a ‘confident and robust’ opponent to stand in the way of the potential candidature of the younger Khama.
BDP insiders say Vice President Masisi finds himself without many options; he is at the mercy of President Khama at the moment. “He has no choice but to step aside and focus on government business. He has a job to do, regardless of the unofficial or postulated reasons as to why he should make way for Tshekedi or any other candidate,” said a BDP senior figure.
NKATE RETURNS END OF THIS MONTH
Those who want to block Tshekedi are running short of options, but their most attractive route could be Jacob Nkate who is returning from his ambassadorial role in Japan at the end of this month. Nkate has made it clear that he will return to stake a claim in the party presidency, launching his bid with a quest for chairmanship.
But with the latest turn of events, insiders say Nkate will have to ask himself a few questions before taking the bait – is he ready to take on a candidate who has the backing of President Khama? What is in it for him if he wins or loses the chairmanship race? Will he ever ascend to the Presidency or the Vice Presidency? And what would be Vice President Masisi’s attitude and or role in his (Nkate)’s campaign for chairmanship? Insiders continue to point out that the road will be bumpy for Nkate because most of his lobbyists could decide to be hidden because they are not ready to oppose an influential President Khama.
Indications are that President Khama still commands a very strong influence within the BDP. Compared to his predecessor, Dr Festus Mogae, at the same stage towards his retirement in 2007, the latter was a ‘lame duck’ President with little influence. It is well known that Khama was already influential at this point. BDP MPs who spoke to this publication concede that the President Khama addressed BDP caucuses are the most attended and definitive; when compared to those addressed by Vice President Masisi. “Who would dare not toe the line?” one MP asked rhetorically.
Hypothetical suggestions are already on the table on how Khama could have already moved to neutralize Nkate. The elevation of Thato Kwerepe to the position of Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Basic Education is seen as a strategy to gloss Kwerepe and insulate him against an anticipated onslaught from Nkate in the forthcoming BDP primary elections in preparation for the 2019 general election. The former Minister of Education has made it clear to his supporters back at the constituency (Ngami) that he is coming back to claim a constituency he once represented before he was outdone by his political nemesis in the 2013 primary elections.
Before Khama’s reported intervention in the BDP congress puzzle, Nkate was being coerced to take on Botsalo Ntuane for the position of secretary general. However Nkate was not keen because the position of secretary general spells out nothing for him in terms of his bigger picture of eyeing the high office. The 2017 BDP elective congress is potentially seen as a platform that will make and break kings and queens – and the succession issue within the ruling party could be settled for good in July next year.
The anti-Tshekedi battalion has reportedly rushed to Nkate because of their view that another potential person of interest, Minister Nonofo Molefhi does not appear to be willing to publicly express his interest. They also fear that his family ties with the Khamas will dissuade him against contesting. Those who question Molefhi’s confidence to take on Tshekedi also point out that he is a man who believes too much in the ‘order of things’, “he believes that if something is destined to be his, it will come to him. He does not want to fight for anything hence it will be a risk to bank on him,” said one of the BDP seniors.
While Molefhi is seen as having the goodwill within the BDP and across the party divide, those who doubt his readiness question his fighting spirit and his grasp and presence at party structures. They believe that he cannot be compared to Masisi, who they believe will put up a good fight against Tshekedi. While Tshekedi himself is not a strong party person, they believe Khama’s clout could carry him through and help him cross the bridge. Molefhi, who has been likened to South Africa and African National Congress (ANC)’s Kgalema Motantlhe, is expected to throw his weight behind Tshekedi if the reports on Masisi’s position come out to be true. Motantlhe’s loss to President Jacob Zuma in the race for ANC presidency was put squarely on the former’s indecisiveness and late declaration of interest.
The recent nomination of two extra Specially Elected Members of Parliament (SEMPs) has also pushed some BDP activists over the edge hence realigning allegiances in the process. Some felt that they have been overlooked for new comers into the party. It is expected that Nkate’s return this month could mark the beginning of a spirited campaign within the party – a journey that will leave hind causalities because of the ongoing succession talk.
Tshekedi Khama has made it publicly known that he wants to be BDP chairman and President and should an opportunity arise he will gladly take it. Those around Masisi are asking themselves plenty of questions such as – what could Tshekedi aspire next should he win the chairmanship next year?
They speculate that for Tshekedi to become President at least in the foreseeable future under the current automatic succession plan, he must hope that Masisi makes him Vice President when he takes over as President in April 2018. But there are no guarantees in politics, BDP insiders say. They point out that there will be nothing compelling Masisi to make Tshekedi his Vice President. Further, they speculate that there is nothing incentivizing Tshekedi not to go for the jugular and this could force him (Tshekedi) to act on his affinity early by challenging Masisi for the party presidency.
CAN THE KHAMAS WAIT ANOTHER 18 YEARS?
There is also a school of thought that questions the prospect of Tshekedi waiting until 2019 congress to challenge Masisi for the party presidency. They point out that it will be risky for the party to change the leadership four months before the general elections in 2019. Some BDP insiders believe that the succession issue will be concluded by next year after congress. The Khamas have had to wait for 18 years to come back into power after the death founding President Sir Seretse Khama.
Lt Gen Ian Khama was Commander of the BDF during the time at the goodwill of former President Sir Ketumile Masire. Another former President, Dr Festus Mogae had to use his influence and goodwill to make President Khama his Vice President. “I am of the view that they are tired of being at the mercy of other people, they may decide to control their destiny this time around, with Tshekedi challenging for positions at party level,” reasoned a seasoned BDP politician. He points out that he does not see Tshekedi waiting on the wings and hoping for another Good Samaritan to bring them back into the thick of things. “There is so much at stake, interests and political control,” says a BDP insider.
KHAMA MAGIC STAYS ON
Meanwhile President Khama has indicated that he is retiring from the Presidency but he will not be retiring from the party. He has made his next move very clear at three platforms of the BDP. At a regional meeting in Tutume in the north east, President Khama told his listeners that he will lead the BDP campaign in the 2019 general election. He also communicated that he has raised a lot of funds for the elections and the figures have already surpassed those of the 2014 general election.
He repeated the same message at a meeting of the BDP held in Kanye last month. At a recent BDP Members of Parliament caucus President Khama made the same proclamation, something which party insiders say points only in one direction – President Khama is not going anyway far, and he is interested in the next course or direction the party takes.
(Note that we have spoken to four BDP MPs, two ministers, six senior party figures who all indicated that they are aware of this development. It remains as we reported it, reports and a debate within the BDP.)
Botswana health officials have confirmed the new COVOD-19 variant, which was first found in India. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has through a press statement informed members of the public that a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), first discovered in India. The Indian variant was confirmed in Botswana on 13 May 2021.
According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.
“As at 16 May 2021, the B. 1. 617 variant was confirmed in two (2) people. The clients are currently receiving medical care and remain stable with no life-threatening symptoms. The two (2) cases were part of 383 people (both Batswana and some Indian nationals) who were tested for COVID-19. From this number, 43 tested positive, with two (2) showing the B. 1. 617 variant as already alluded to. Contact tracing has been expanded in line with COVID-19 protocols. All contacts and confirmed cases have been evacuated to facility based quarantine and isolation respectively, for close monitoring,” Nyanga narrated.
The World Health Organization recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.
Meanwhile in the wake of Botswana’s confirmation of the Indian variant, Nyanga reminded the public of the government intervention to control the introduction of new variants of public health concern into the country. He stated that all those who have travelled or transited through areas of high risk as previously communicated on 3rd May 2021 upon return shall immediately quarantine in a central area to be identified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a period not exceeding ten (10) days; Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test after seven (7) days of quarantine and be discharged as per the outcome of the results.
He said the requirements are complementary to the mandatory requirements of producing on arrival a negative PCR test not older than 72hrs from the time the sample was collected
“The public is advised to remain vigilant and minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the already outlined preventative measures such as washing of hands with soap or use of a hand sanitizer, wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places/social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement,” Nyanga said.
The India variant – officially called B.1.617.2 – is one of four mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.
The lawyers representing former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys have come forth dismissing a response letter penned down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activist MacDonald Peloetletse after he was slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit for defamation of their client.
Tebogo Tladi, an attorney at Ramalepa, said last week Thursday Peloetletse took to social media to publish a substantively false, wrongful and unlawful statement about Khama. MacDonald Peloetletse’s commentary which was posted on Gabz FM News page reads, “I am a former soldier. Everything former President SKI Khama said here is a LIE. In fact, soldiers suffered more under Khama than under his predecessors.
He actually stole money that the UN had paid to the soldiers who went for the operations and paid them less than a quarter of what was actually due to them. “Unhappy soldiers took the BDF to court and won, the BDF is still struggling to pay the debts! Khama can fool some people, but not all the people and not all the time.
“In fact many soldiers, serving, retired and those that resigned and were in the operations during Khama’s time get even more annoyed to such disrespectful statements by Ian Khama.” Khama’s lawyer says the impugned statement was published with the intention to injure his client (Khama) in his personality rights, good name and dignity, further indicating that the statement has damaged his good reputation.
“We have therefore been instructed by Client to demand, as we hereby do, that you publish on the same forum a retraction and a full and unconditional apology to Client within three days of receipt of this letter- and that you deliver such apology in a formal letter to the Office of the Former President, Dr Khama. In the event that you have not compiled with this demand by close of business on Monday 10th May 2021, our Client will assume that you have refused to comply with this demand.”
To top it all off, Khama demands that Peloetletse pay him P1.5 million in damages for defamation. “Furthermore, we hold instructions to demand as we hereby do, that you pay our Client damages for defamation in the sum of P1, 500,000.00 within seven days of receipt of this letter.” In the event that Peloetletse fails to pay the amount of damages demanded by Khama, Tladi says they will institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the aforesaid damages.
In his response letter addressed to Ramalepa Attorneys, Peloetletse said that he requests enlightenment and clarification that he be provided with proof that the allegations and comments which they attribute to him were indeed authored by him and that the platform which the comments were placed was not hacked.
“Please also advise if whether your clients has been endowed with a “special particular privilege status” that restricts the citizens of this country from commenting or responding to public statements made by your client in the course of political discourse especially when made on public forum and relate to matters of general public concern. (I trust that your brilliant legal mind is well informed with respect to the jurisprudence in such matters)”.
Peloetletse also said he would like to share with the attorneys a video which was posted on a public forum. “Please listen carefully to the conversations and discussion herein and advice if possibly such discussions form a reasonable basis for a justifiably rebuttal by any Motswana Citizen to the public pronouncements and defamatory statements made by your client about our government (bearing in mind of course a citizens constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression).’’
Consulted for further comment on the matter on Thursday after receiving Peloetletse’s response, Khama’s attorney Tebogo Tladi said the letter doesn’t hold any water. “The only way out for him is to prove the truth of the allegations on his comment or deny publication. He does not answer substantively to the defamation and does not respond to the demand of an apology or payment of damages.
So his letter really contains largely matters irrelevant to the substance of the letter of demand. His response in fact presents no legally cognizable defence at all- it would appear he responded without the benefit of legal advice, which would not be prudent for such an important case. So we will proceed to issue summons and wait to see what defences he will plead in court.’’
Botswana and Zambia this week celebrated the opening of a multi-million Dollar infrastructural project, the Kazungula Bridge, projected to contribute around P100 million annually for Botswana. This project comes after the signing of the 2012 Agreement between the two countries to construct a bridge that would ease movement of goods.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in both countries. Further, the Bridge will significantly accelerate Southern African Development Committee (SADC) regional integration agenda which Botswana and Zambia are vigorously pursuing.
“By growing our strategic partnerships through this project, we have improved the development and competitiveness of our economies to attract more private sector investment, thereby, supporting our efforts to create employment, especially for the burgeoning youth,” Masisi said at the opening ceremony in Kazungula on Monday.
The Kazungula Bridge comprises a road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, directly linking Botswana and Zambia. It has One-Stop-Border Post facilities on both sides, which will enhance the operational efficiency at entry points, replicated on both sides of the boarder.
The Bridge was originally conceived as a critical link in the African North-South Corridor under the African Union’s New Partnership (NEPAD) for Africa’s Development programme. It has since evolved to encompass a multimodal transport plan under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).
The PIDA programme, which encompasses liberalisation of air travel, rail links, road, water and all other modes of transport has only one objective: to unite the States of Africa in order to foster trade on the continent
“Connectivity of our nations will in no small measure, promote people to people interactions and uplifts their standard of living. I am pleased to state that the completion of this project is a clear demonstration of our commitment to PIDA.”
The 260 million US Dollar Kazungula Bridge was commissioned by Zambian President, Edgar Lungu and President Masisi. President Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.
“I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible and you the technocrats must not play ping-pong with us after making these public procurements,” Lungu said at the official opening in Kazungula.
For his part, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the project was tandem with the Africa Union (AU) goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063 which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.
The new Kazungula Bridge replaces the Kazungula Ferry, a pontoon ferry across the 400-metre-wide Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It was one of the largest ferries in South-Central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.
In 2003 the ferry was the site of a disaster when a severely overloaded Zambian truck capsized one of the pontoons and 18 people drowned. The accident was blamed on the lack of weighbridges in Zambia to check the weight of trucks.
In August 2007, the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry. The existence of a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana was apparently agreed to during various meetings involving Heads of State and officials from all four States in the 2006-2010 period.
The route for this new bridge crosses the boundary without entering Zimbabwe and Namibia. Zimbabwe already has a bridge into Zambia at Victoria Falls, 70KM from Kazungula. Namibia on the other hand has a bridge into Zambia at Katima Mulilo about 150KM upriver.