Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Minister of Environment wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama may well hold the key to the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) central committee race. The two leaders are being lobbied to contest for the chairmanship of the party by some party members.
Already former Minister of Justice Defence and Security, Dikgakgamatso Ndelu Seretse and former Botswana Ambassador to the United States, Tebelelo Seretse are the two leading contestants in the race for the chairmanship of the ruling party. Other party members such as the Tati West Member of Parliament, Biggie Butale and former Youth Wing chairman, Dithapelo Tshotego have expressed interest in the race to chair the BDP’s highest governing structure.
Those advocating for Masisi to be roped in indicate that as Vice President, the position could help him familiarise with the party more and even reinforce his stature. The chairman of the BDP is ceremonially powerful because it is the second command after the presidency of the party. This publication learns that there are members who are lobbying or intend to lobby the Vice President to give the idea of contesting a thought.
But there are some sceptical democrats who do not want the Vice President to be pushed into a contest that he is not ready to partake in. They fathom a situation where the Vice President could end up losing to either Tebelelo Seretse or Ndelu Seretse, they point out that this will be untidy for the party.
Masisi is currently the chairman of the party’s Publicity and International Cooperation Committee. His position of Vice President gives him some form of grip within the party and most BDP members are of the view that as chairman he could assert his authority well at party level.
There is also a case for Tshekedi Khama, there is a group that is lobbying or intends to engage the Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism over the possibility of him running as chairman. They believe that he carries some weight as a businessman, politician and brother to the President. Some say they appreciate his leadership qualities and he will be able to coordinate the affairs of the party better.
Those advocating for Tshekedi believe that he has the stamina to push through as chairman through 2017, when the party will hold its most crucial congress expected to take the party to the 2019 general election. Within the same camp, there is talk of attempt to engage Ndelu Seretse to make way for Tshekedi should the latter accede to the lobby.
It is evident that the dust is yet to settle on how the race will actually look in July when the BDP holds its elective congress. But pundits expect the national party council in March, youth wing and women’s wing congresses in February and March respectively to determine battle lines.
As to who will be the next secretary general, Mpho Balopi looks set to defend his position. There is also a chance that he has been approached to run for parliament in the South East South constituency in 2019, the position of secretary general could come handy in his bid. Sources are adamant that Botsalo Ntuane is not yet certain on whether he will run for secretary general or not. He may have to wait for the clear slates to determine the fitness of his candidacy.
It remains to be seen how far lobbying Masisi and Tshekedi will go and how it could impact on the decisions of candidates who have already declared interest to run for chairmanship and other positions. Former Vice President, Dr Ponatshego Kedikilwe is the current chairman, some of the view that if push comes to shove, he may well just hold the fort.
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.