Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri will work with Botsalo Ntuane after the former was appointed chairperson of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Political Education Committee (PEEC) this week.
Ntuane is the new secretary general of the ruling party. The two wrestled each other for the same position at the just ended BDP congress in Mmadinare.
President Lt Gen Ian Khama, through powers vested in him by the BDP constitution, brought back two former secretary generals in Mpho Balopi, the immediate past; and Thato Kwerepe, as appointed members of the central committee. Though Kwerepe represents the North West region, his institutional memory of the BDP office will still be tapped into.
But Balopi is expected to be very critical as an immediate past secretary general.
Though Ntuane finds himself sandwiched, some say this could be a plus for him as the party tries to establish a winning formula ahead of the 2019 general elections. But the main act in this matrix, Matlhabaphiri is expected to resuscitate the party’s ailing structures across the country.
Those who pushed for Matlhabaphiri’s failed bid to be voted secretary general sold his grassroots mastery of politics, they pointed to the known facts that he was instrumental in setting BDP choirs across the country, and that he has been there before, he knows where to find people who can make the party structures effective again. At some stage some proposed that Ntuane should pull out and deputise Matlhabaphiri, but at the time Ntuane was miles ahead in his campaign.
The naming of Matlhabaphiri as chairman of the PEEC committee is instructive that Ntuane will not have the office all to himself. He will be forced to only act on consensus decisions of the central committee. It is evident also that Ntuane’s campaign team members have not been included in the sub-committees.
Therefore, the reform agenda was a campaign gimmick and could have remained in Mmadinare. Matlhabaphiri takes over from Mephato Reatile whose tenure was not very fruitful for the BDP, and it is understood that he preferred that a different party member be assigned the portfolio this time around.
As the chairperson of the BDP’s political education and election committee, Reatile was a political kingpin within the ruling party. His most colourful moment was when he ensured victory for Ngaka Ngaka in a Takatokwane bye-election.
Thapelo Fish Pabalinga has been returned to the Publicity and International Relations Committee this time as its chairman. He takes over from Minister of Justice Defence and Security, Shaw Kgathi who is now the deputy secretary general.
Pabalinga, the Managing Director of Leapfrog has first-hand experience on issues of publicity and branding, though some may doubt his political grasp of the rural BDP, he may be what the doctor ordered to ensure that the BDP remains relevant to the young professionals and youth voters.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi will chair the party’s Labour Committee. This is a very critical committee in todays’ politics because it is playing an advisory role between the party and labour unions.
It is expected to hit the ground running as the party and by extension government may find itself dousing fires that would come as a result to the proposed amendment of the Trade Dispute Bill. Venson-Moitoi is seen a conciliatory candidate for the post and may be acceptable to most unions.
Meanwhile Matlhabaphiri is expected to complement both Ntuane and chairman, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi. Ntuane a well-respected administrator may find Matlhabaphiri helpful when it comes to spearheading the structures campaign.
Though the two politicians came head to head in the campaign for the position of secretary general, they have been political friends for most of the course. But pundits are adamant that Ntuane’s 22 points reform agenda will not find room under the current climate, because he is more of a loner on that note.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.