Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi is expected to defend his chairmanship of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) next year. The 2017 National Congress is billed to make or break political careers of several ruling party stalwarts especially those who aspire for the presidency and or the vice presidency of the republic.
Following the Mmadinare congress last year, which ushered in Masisi as chairman the BDP will have a more gruelling elective congress next year that will see many political careers hang in the balance. Masisi is said to have made it clear to his inner circle that he will contest the chairmanship. The move is seen as the President in waiting’s intention to stamp authority and demonstrate his aura within the party structures.
President Lt Gen Ian Khama is expected to step down at the end of March in 2018, it will be 18 months before the 2019 General Elections. By all accounts the focus will shift towards Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is expected to ascend to the highest office. While some within Masisi see the decision to stand as a risky dice, the Vice President does not want to second guess his popularity, and he is determined to put to bed those who doubt or undermined his political prowess and command within the party.
Several names have been suggested as potential challengers for Masisi as President Khama’s tenure nears expiry. Some have made abundantly clear that they have presidential ambitions and they intend to challenge. Former secretary general of the BDP, Jacob Nkate; and Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama are loud and clear on their ambitions. Tebelelo Seretse unsuccessfully took on Masisi in Mmadinare last year; she may try her luck again. Minister Nonofo Molefhi has some party members pushing him to avail himself, and he has kept quiet.
But Masisi’s inner circle is convinced that next’s year congress is a worthy gamble, and by all accounts those who want to dictate party terms should be part of the group that will be elected next year. Losers at this congress may well kiss their political relevance goodbye. But for Vice President Masisi, losing the chairmanship could send the party and the country into confusion. There could possibly be questions as to how he will win a national election if fails at party level; some could ask why they should trust him and entrust him with national issues if his party does not trust him. However, this publication learns that Masisi is confident that he wants to bite the bullet because he is not a coward. Should Masisi lose the chairmanship to any challenger, he will be a limping president-in-waiting; he could easily be challenged and beaten should the BDP go for a presidential vote in April of the following year.
These events leading to this 2017 National Congress bear a resemblance with what transpired in 2003 at the Gantsi congress prior to the 2004 General Elections. This is the congress that is believed to have ‘robbed’ Ponatshego Kedikilwe of the opportunity to succeed Festus Mogae as the country’s fourth President.
Mogae’s Vice President at the time, Lt Gen Ian Khama won the party chairmanship race against Kedikilwe with a convincing margin. As things stand, if President Khama does not drop Masisi before he leaves office at the end of March 2018, Masisi automatically assumes office as the country President and Party President through the party’s automatic succession plan.
Article 29.3.3 states that ‘In the event of a vacancy arising in the Presidency of the party at a time when the party is in power, the Vice President of Botswana shall automatically become the State and Party President. But Masisi does not want a situation where he is president and had recently lost some party position to one of the party members, it will be damaging to his national standing. His audacious recruitment drive in the opposition ranks is part of the strategy to cement his standing in the BDP.
Hell will break loose if Masisi loses the chairmanship of the party, it will automatically translate that the party no longer has trust on him. He will become a weak President in 2018 with no party support and his future will hang in the balance. He will risk making history becoming the first President to have ever run the shortest term (18 months). At this stage he can only be ‘rescued’ if the party believes in his leadership and administration as the President. However, the party has the option to substitute him with someone who would have won the chairmanship because that person will have the support of the party. In this setup, it is vital for the party to win elections than an individual.
SIGNIFICANCE OF 2017 CONGRESS
The 2017 National Congress significance is that the elected central committee will take the party to the 2019 General elections. Should Masisi win the chairmanship next year, it means that by the time he takes over from President Khama, he will still be chairman and the party will have the option to choose the next chairman from the 18 member central committee. Therefore this may mean that those aspiring for chairmanship should ensure by all means possible that they are part of the next central committee. Upon Masisi assuming the Presidency, the constitution states that ‘In the event of a central committee member, other than one of the six Office Bearers resigning, being incapacitated, dying or otherwise ceasing to be a member of the central committee, the President of the party shall appoint another person to fill the vacancy, pending the next National Congress. In this case Masisi will be eligible as the party president to appoint a chairman of his choice.
THE 2003 FALLOUT
The 2017 National Congress will resemble the events that unfolded at Gantsi in 2003. Former Mmadinare legislator and BDP stalwart who was later given the transitional Vice Presidency, Ponatshego Kedikilwe took over as the BDP chairman in 1995; he would have ascended the ladder to become the President in 1998. Conversely, things took a bitter turn, with the backing of President Mogae; Vice President Khama challenged Kedikilwe for the chairmanship of the party. The stakes were high: Had Kedikilwe won; there was a strong possibility that he would have challenged and defeated Mogae for the State and Party Presidency the following year.
An ex- soldier, Khama did not find it difficult to breakthrough; he endured the comfort of working with former Army General Mompati Merafhe and the backing of his faction. Merafhe had for many years been part of the central committee as an additional member after suffering hard blows from the strong Kwelagobe- Kedikilwe alliance. Tried and trusted, when he announced his bid for the party chairman, he was seen as the only man strong enough to defeat the alliance.
Khama convincingly outdid Kedikilwe winning with a big margin; this was the end of Kedikilwe’s steadfastness. He would only return in 2012 taking over as a transitional Vice President taking over from Merafhe who was ill at the time.
MASISI’s VICE PRESIDENT
The outcome of the 2017 National Congress might also significantly bring into the picture the face that will ascend to the position of Vice Presidency. This could be someone within the central committee who has party backing and support. The position of Vice-President has always accounted for a smooth political succession. Masire served as Vice-President and Minister of Finance and Development Planning in the government of Sir Seretse Khama, the first President of Botswana. Following Seretse’s death in 1980, Masire ascended to the presidency.
Soon after he assumed the office, Masire chose Lenyeletse Seretse for the position of Vice-President. Lenyeletse Seretse held that position until his death and was succeeded by Peter Mmusi. Mogae succeeded Mmusi and Khama became the Vice President.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.