Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has come out guns blazing in the New Year and sent strong warning to his political opponents – especially those who see him as weak and label him a ‘Yes Sir’ man. The Vice President is certain that is the best bet for Batswana because no opposition party has better policies or sound leaders.
Among other multiple toned denunciations, the Moshupa-Manyana Member of Parliament chastised the opposition, promised to win back the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s popular vote, create jobs, and win the youth as he “marches to the 2019” general elections to seek the Presidency of the country. “We are going to deliver a sucker punch and the opposition parties won’t know what hit them,” he declared, further stressing that “I know what is coming”.
In a wide ranging interview with this publication at his residence in Gaborone, the Vice President shared his observations regarding his party, the BDP, the country, and what he intends to do during his tenure as Vice President.
“I may not have the face or the looks you want, but I have the policies of the BDP which can guarantee you a brighter future. I am not going to lie to your children and give them false hopes. I only tell them real and substantive issues,” said Masisi. He said the BDP prides itself in selling practical policies and not selfish falsehoods.
When asked a question – “Are we speaking to the future President of Botswana?” Masisi responded with a bold Yes and pointed to the Constitution, “As long as all factors remain equal, because the constitution does address the issue of incapacitation,” he said. He said he is aware that there could be others in the party, who want to be presidents, and he cannot stop those who aspire to challenge him but he cautioned that, “it will not be easy – neither will it be wise.”
Masisi was challenged by a quartet of BDP members for the chairmanship of the party and won convincingly at the Mmadinare congress held mid last year. The Vice President declared that he has settled in well into his Vice Presidential duties, a role he has held for the past one year and two months. And he has a word of advice for those who still doubt his Vice Presidency, “They must just accept that I am the Vice President.”
Masisi is the eighth Vice President of Botswana since the colonial era ended. He began discussing the possibility of him becoming Vice President with President Dr Lt Gen Ian Khama a month before his appointment. He was initially appointed Minister of Education and Skills Development and surprisingly at the time, he was already aware that he is the Vice President elect. His appointment to the post of Vice President threw many off and even the book makers and political pundits got all their guessing game wrong about Botswana’s next Vice President. Masisi stated that the BDP culture of caucus has held the party together over the years; and caucus remains the consolidating factor for the party’s future as it prepares for the 2019 homerun. Masisi explained his undying love for the Ministry of Education and Skills development, “it has a special place in my heart as an educationist.”
SPEARHEADING BDP RECRUITMENT, BLASTS UDC FOR VOTE TRAFFICKING
The Vice President said he will interact with Batswana during his tenure, “I have a way of doing things and I am aware of our population dynamics, I know what is coming, my eyes are glued on 2019 as I recruit relentlessly because I am a loyal BDP member,” he stressed. Masisi pointed out that the BDP policies and programs are much better that those of the opposition, “whether combined or in their individual capacities.”
The BDP has indeed been hard at recruiting recently, but it has come with the tag that the ruling party is paying opposition cadres to join it. Masisi does not take kindly to the accusation: We do not buy people, he said, if the opposition thinks that we are buying people, they should tell us if the BMD members were bought to break BNF and BCP, “we do not think of them as buying people. No! It is shocking that people are alleged to have been bought only when they join the BDP,” he explained.
Instead, Masisi accuses the UDC and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), though to a lesser account, of voter trafficking in the last general elections. To drive home his allegation, he zoomed into his own constituency to demonstrate the trafficking he is talking about, “my first margin when I contested and won the Moshupa constituency was 5000, and in the last elections the UDC jumped from 1500 to 3500 votes, it is clear that there was trafficking and we have evidence from eye witness accounts. Buses brought people to Moshupa from as early as 5am and some of them did not even know where the school was so that they could cast their vote.”
However Masisi said he is not worried by trafficking in 2019 because Government has taken a decision to address the problem. He said there will only be one date for registration while supplementary registration and transfers will be cancelled, according to a proposal that they will put before Parliament soon. He observed that the many dates for registration were opening gaps for voter trafficking. “We want people to win and lose honestly,” he said.
“I challenge the opposition to hold primaries, they are afraid of primary elections, but we at the BDP are determined to promote democracy by holding primary elections at party level. We accepted that we had a dip in our popular vote in the last election amid the voter trafficking by the UDC, but we are a work in progress and we are coming up well,” said Masisi. He said they are on a high speed recruitment drive and they are and will be “pouncing from all angles without mercy”.
JOB CREATION IS MY BABY
On job creation, Masisi stated that: “we have an issue with jobs because of our population dynamics and middleclass challenges. But with the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) we envisage to arrest some of these challenges.” The ESP is meant to help catch up with the national development plan and will see government finance projects that were lagging behind from the previous development plans, explained the Vice President. While admitting that Government has experienced situations where public money was not utilised and returned to the treasury, Masisi noted that they are coming up with means of fast tracking usage of money, while also closing possible gaps of corruption and mismanagement among other things.
According to the Vice President the private sector will be involved more in the execution of ESP projects. He also stated that they will engage registered professional bodies like the Architects and Engineers Registration Boards to harness their expertise when it comes to project implementation. “We are going for mass buildings, we are going to make sure that these buildings are taken first to where they are needed most. Our teachers and health personnel will soon enjoy abundant housing as we roll out this program,” said Masisi. He further allays fears that the ESP is meant to only benefit the ruling party elite and their friends, “As the Coordinator of ESP I have to ensure that this programme is for all Batswana. As the BDP Government, we have presided over numerous decisions that needed us to put aside our party affiliation, the same spirit will prevail under the ESP,” he said.
But there are those who fear ESP will breed or influence corruption, Masisi offers himself as the shield again, “There are tenders that have been advertised already. Our ITTS are EDD compliant and any person who flaunts the EDD policy, I will make sure I come after them myself. We intend to brand all ESP tenders so that they can be distinguished from the normal tenders,” he stressed.
The Vice President is confident that jobs will be created especially through construction and maintenance, but he insisted that jobs must be spread out, “I will not want to see a situation where a company wins tenders in several places, we must share. He said there is a huge backlog of maintenance work which he feels the ESP programme will address and create thousands of jobs. Masisi said he is aware that the ESP has brought a lot of excitement among Batswana hence the over 900 companies registered since its announcement but he cautions that things must be done right in order to achieve the envisaged results. He also had a word of advice for Batswana, he warned them against shunning some jobs which end up being given to expatriates – he gave the example of farm work, domestic work, construction work and others.
He also commented on the issue of water and electricity. He noted that the problem is prevalent in the whole of southern Africa but he is surprised that BDP critics fail to broaden their scope and appreciate the El Niño factor as affecting the global community. “They also talk of lack of planning when it comes to water, are they not aware of the national water masterplan? For their information, they must be informed that we know where the underground water is and we are working on bringing the water to the surface, it is not a quick job as they would think,” he said. With electricity the Vice President is confident that they have communicated workable strategies to address the situation overtime.
WE ARE SORTING WORK PERMITS, VISA ISSUES
On other issues, Masisi addressed the issue of denial of work and residence permits and visas for foreigners or expatriates. He acknowledged that as government they are aware of the issue and they are addressing it. He said there are a lot of factors that are at play when it comes to this issue. He said there is possible corruption, and faults from both sides, being applicants and government officers. He said in most cases the paper work by the applicants let them down especially when they choose to use unscrupulous consultants. “But we are definitely working on the matter because even Business Botswana has made representations to us on the same,” he said.
NOTHING WRONG WITH OUR FOREIGN POLICY
The Vice President also touched on the issue of Botswana’s foreign policy and the participation of Botswana at international meetings. He pointed out that he is the Chief Assistant to the President and he does exactly what the President instructs him to do. He noted that there are sentiments that the President never attends some of the international meetings, “people should be aware that what I share at meetings be it African Union or the United Nations is exactly what the President would have said should he have attended. Even if I am to enter into any undertaking on behalf of Botswana, I follow the script as directed by the President, where there are doubts are inquire and do not commit at all,” he explained. Masisi explained that it is an honour to represent the President at international forums.
Masisi also addressed the participation of Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba in relation to her contest for the position at the Commonwealth. He found nothing wrong with Botswana’s foreign policy and insisted that Masire-Mwamba put up a good and Africa did vote for her. He noted that Botswana’s independence and sovereignty take precedence when decisions or positions on international matters are to be taken. He acknowledged that Botswana has differences with some of her African counterparts when it comes to the issue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) but it is a healthy difference of opinion.
EXPLAINS HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT KHAMA
The Vice President is aware that he has been dubbed Lelope or bootlicker because of the way he relates with the President. He relates that it is unfortunate that most people who pour scorn at his modus operandi do not understand Setswana – the language. His tag of Lelope came to prominence after one of the kgotla meeting he addressed just before elections, when he stated that “ke ngwana wa lelope”. Masisi is still shocked at the level at which some criticise his speech at that kgotla meeting.
Explaining his working relationship with the President, Masisi said his bolope resonates with Setswana culture and being fit for purpose – that is being loyal. He stressed that loyalty is a very important attribute because it shows that you are sincere. But he notes that he a completely different being when compared to President Khama because they are of different generations.
“His Excellency is my elder and I take instructions from him and I execute them sincerely and with precision,” he stated. While Khama and Masisi went to the same school at some stage, the former was way ahead of the latter, “even his twin brothers are older than me,” he said. Masisi however stresses the fact that they were both born into strong BDP principles and their loyalty stems from being loyal to the party and what the BDP stands for in terms of what is good for Batswana in general. There are times when we do not see party line and we take decisions for Batswana and not the party,” he said.
Khama has allocated a number of tasks to Vice President Masisi, he has been assigned to coordinate job creation and poverty eradication; coordinate the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD); he chairs the National AIDS Council; chairs the Rural Development Council; represents the President at various international meetings, among other assignments. Masisi said he is working Members of Parliament, Councillors, community members, diplomats, NGOs and the business community to execute his mandate meaningfully.
But one thing remains dear to his heart, the constituency of Moshopa-Manyana and its people. “I am the MP for the area, you may take everything else away but not the constituency, I thank the good Lord for the popular vote I got from the Moshopa-Manyana constituency,” he said.
MASISI DISMISSES COMBINED OPPOSITION THREAT
The Vice President follows the ongoing postulations of a UDC that will include the BCP. But he told this publication that they opposition has the right to take whatever route it wants to take. He said it is incumbent on the BDP and its members to nullify any potential opposition threat. “ We are going to hammer them in 2019 and we are already outsmarting them,” he declared. Masisi said he is confident that the BDP popularity will go up in 2019, “we have huge plans for the youth and first time voters, I can assure you that Duma Boko won’t know what hit him.” You should be aware that we created our own opposition in Parliament, the majority of MPs are BMD and originally BDP and we know what they are thinking, they are communicating BDP policies,” he said.
According to Masisi the BMD has annihilated the Botswana National Front (BNF), “the BNF is as good as dead, you can classify it along the likes of Botswana People’s Party (BPP),” he said. Masisi said every parent want the best for their child. “What is it in the UDC that people could risk even for just two days. We continue to ensure an unblemished children’s future and we still maintain that the future of this country is best mortgaged to the BDP.” Masisi is of the view that Botswana is doing far much better and vows to do better than past generations. The Vice President reminded this publication that President Khama came in at probably the worst time of recession but he managed to save jobs. “It was either people are fired or jobs are saved by not increasing salaries,” he said. Masisi revealed that at some point discussed the possibility of taking a pay cut to save jobs.
Masisi is not entirely dismissive of the opposition, he noted that there are bit of value especially from the likes of the BMD President Ndaba Gaolathe whom he described as “BDP through and through”. He said Ndaba got most of his underpinning and ideas while still with the BDP and more so that his late father Baledzi Gaolathe (MHSRP) was instrumental in the crafting of some of the BDP policies. “Yes his blood father constructed some of the BDP policies and it would not be surprising that Ndaba borrowed from the BDP and those in the UDC start alleging that the BDP copied ESP from them.” Masisi has little to say about UDC leader Duma Boko, “I do not fear him in an election, I will beat him fairly. His contribution to Parliament is below average, all I see is court theatrics and most of the time when I take out the stuff that Ndaba wrote for him nothing remains in his vocabulary,” Masisi. He said taking Boko out of the court room is like taking fish out of pond, “I am sorry to say Boko is failing in Parliament.” Masisi challenged Boko to release the Gomolemo Motswaledi investigation report because his party has accused the BDP of killing Motswaledi.
POINTS TO NOTE
Masisi was Vice President elect before being appointed Minister of Education
Cabinet had looked at the possibility of taking a salary to save jobs in 2009
Senior Ministers had told Masisi that they wanted to be Vice Presidents
Masisi says it will not be wise or easy to challenge him for BDP Presidency
Explains Bolope in the Setswana context and how it connotes loyalty
The Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road estimated costs stand at P500 million, the tender which was awarded to Bash Carriers in 2017 has not taken shape four years after the project was commissioned.
Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road when it was commissioned, was estimated at P500 million in value, this included construction of 22.50km of the two lane carriage way and 28.70km of access roads including associated bridge works, cross drainage works, storm water drainage works and relocation of services.
When it was first tendered the contract was awarded to Bash Couriers but was terminated after it was alleged that the contractor failed to deliver. It was said that Bash Couriers Construction Company was lagging behind schedule.
This publication visited the sites of Tshesebe-Masunga road last year December and it was evident that the project was at a standstill as deserted machinery on site could be seen with the gravel road also in a devastating state.
Information revealed then indicated that there had been issues of mining rights for aggregates, availability of structural engineers and manpower and a criteria for awarding tender to the specific company when the contract was terminated.
In 2016, as part of the ESP projects, government funded the 25 kilometres (Km) road project to link Tshesebe and Masunga.
Construction of the road, which also connects some of the villages within the district, commenced early in 2016 and was scheduled to be completed within 18 months.
The company had done nothing when their contract was terminated with allegations that it never had the capacity to carry out the project in the first place.
The major ESP project had ultimately robbed a lot of people potential employment when it succumbed to termination.
It was then that the government restarted the tendering process.
The project was awarded to Bango Trading Company and Zebra Construction in a joint venture at a value of P319 Million Pula.
However, information reaching this publication from the Ministry of Transport and Communications confirms that indeed there are no current works carried out on the Tshesebe Masunga road.
Responding to a questionnaire sent to them by this publication through their Public Relations Officer Doreen Moapare, the Ministry indicated that the Tshesebe-Masunga road project is before the courts therefore their response is limited by such a pending outcome.
“As a background the project had been awarded to Bash Carriers at a contract sum of P400, 044,365.68 to begin the works in May 2017 and complete the project in January 2019. Scopes of works included 51.2km main road inclusive of seven access roads. Due to non-performance, Bash Carriers contract was terminated on the 25th of September 2018. ”
Further, Moapare indicated that upon termination of Bash Carriers, a process began to ensure that the development project completes.
Five companies went for a selective tendering bid which she listed as; Lobkom Investments (Pty) Ltd, Landmark (Pty) Ltd and Truck Hire (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, ACE /Excavator Hire (Pty) Ltd and Asphalt Botswana (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, Cul De Sac, Bango Trading and Zebra Construction Joint venture.
“Some companies have since queried the results of the tendering adjudication landing the issue in the courts. We are currently awaiting a ruling expected in February/March 2021, and this will determine the course of action thereafter,” concluded Moapare.
At one point last year, reports indicated that Bango Trading Construction Company had faced raiding by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security, Botswana Police and Botswana Unified Revenue Services, with allegations that there was an emerging pattern targeting overscheduled construction companies with powerful political connections.
Bango Trading Managing Director, Moffat James, was reported to have had close links to former DIS Director Isaac Seabelo Kgosi. Bango Trading and Estate Construction Company which has obtained close to P 1, 5 billion government contracts under former President Lt Gen Ian Khama has been the subject of a parliamentary probe due to the many government contracts awarded to them.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.