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Merafhe: A factionalist who survived the fury


Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is predominately associated with its founding stalwarts like Sir Seretse Khama, Sir Ketumile Masire and Moutlakgola Nwako to mention but a few – but the party’s history will make little sense without the mention of the name Mompati Merafhe. Although a late entrant into the BDP, his arrival created controversy that lasted for years where upon his arrival he made his ambitions for the presidency clear, a move that would put him at axis with fellow party loyalist polarizing the organisation for years.


In 1989 following another triumph for the BDP at the polls, like it has been the norm, then President Sir Ketumile Masire announced a number of Specially Elected Members of Parliament, but this time around the list comprised of influential men who will change the history of the party forever – Festus Mogae who fate will offer him the second most powerful position on the land three years later, and Mompati Merafhe who would then find himself fighting unending factional wars with stalwarts like Daniel Kwelagobe and Ponatshego Kedikilwe.


Mogae had been plucked from the civil service where he had worked with President Masire for the better part of his civil service career mostly as his Permanent Secretary. On the other hand, Merafhe who was two years shy of nearing his retirement age had been lured from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) where he served as the army commander since its formation in 1977.


When he arrived in 1989 for the sixth parliament, a tumult time for the ruling BDP, Merafhe found a party readying for something big.  It was expected that President Masire, who was now aging, was about to retire from office. The status quo favoured the then Vice President, Peter Mmusi to become the successor.

With him getting along with the president and having support of the most powerful party stalwarts, Kwelagobe and Kedikilwe, his fate was almost sealed. David Magang had also expressed his desire for the presidency, but his chances ranged from slim to none given his relationship with Masire and Kwelagobe – the Mmusi faction then. Masire never got along with Magang, largely owing to his views about government and the need for reforms within the party.


When Merafhe arrived, the army general swiftly aligned himself with those who were on the opposite side of Kwelagobe-Mmusi axis. This saw the birth of the Big Five faction comprised of David Magang, Mompati Merafhe, Roy Blackbeard, Bahiti Temane and Chapson Butale.

The faction pushed for Merafhe and supported his presidential bid. President Masire had seemed to be sympathetic to the Kwelagobe-Mmusi faction largely because it was made up of people who were members of his Central Committee and most importantly his foot soldiers.

As the Secretary General of the party, Kwelagobe wielded power and was the most influential in the party. Coupled with his workaholic virtue, Kwelagobe used to traverse the country to canvass for support and build party structures something which ensured that the Big Five faction was kept out of the central committee. For many years, party President Masire, its Chairman Peter Mmusi, Secretary General Daniel Kwelagobe and Treasurer Kedikilwe remained invincible.


The watershed moment for Merafhe and the Big Five came in 1992, when Vice President Peter Mmusi and Minister of Agriculture Daniel Kwelagobe were implicated in land allocation scandal which ensnared them as having acted wrongly in allocation of plots in Mogoditshane.

The report which steered unprecedented divisions within the party was instigated by Mmusi himself following uneasy complaints about land corruption in Mogoditshane and other peri-urban areas. Mmusi was also a minister of Local Government and Lands and he had to act – rightly so, he convinced President Masire to set up a commission of inquiry.  The report was chaired by founding party veteran Englishman Kgabo and its findings which were to be known as the Kgabo Report left the BDP vastly polarized.


Merafhe’s faction pushed for the suspension of the duo, and after months of resistance the two bowed out of government, leaving the party in chaos. Mmusi resigned as the country’s Vice President and Minister of Local Government and Lands, the only Vice President to have done so; while Kwelagobe also cleared his table at the Ministry of Agriculture.

These events however left Masire in a vulnerable position without his two trusted men in government and had to act to find the replacement for his number two. Kwelagobe-Mmusi faction preferred Kedikilwe for Vice Presidency while the Big Five wanted Merafhe to be given the nod.


Sensing a perilous situation on the party’s way, Masire bypassed the two and instead opted for Festus Mogae mainly because he was not tainted by factional wars and because he never showed any presidential ambitions. Many, both in Mmusi-Kwelagobe and the Big Five understood Mogae’s appointment as stopgap and they could still launch a comeback for vice presidential bid after the 1994 general elections.


Merafhe had won, but it did not last for a long time. The Mmusi-Kwelagobe faction was convinced that Merafhe has plotted their downfall and as the Minister Presidential Affairs and Public Administration he packed the entire investigating team with people who were loyal to his course. Pondering their next move and imagining life outside government the duo approached the courts to challenge the legality of the commission and its findings.


Subsequently, the duo was suspended from the party for challenging the findings of the Kgabo Commission – a case they ultimately won. The court ruled that the proceedings of the commission should not have been held in camera therefore the findings of the report were set aside.

In the run up to the 1993 Kanye Congress, the Big Five took over the control of the party, and condemned the two forever. The situation now meant that, the once powerful men will be out of both government and the party highest governing structure something they could not imagine happening in their life time.


Merafhe had declared that he will be contesting the party chairmanship, a position which is general associated with the vice presidency in the BDP. However following their victory at the court in regard to their case, lawyers for Mmusi and Kwelagobe told the party that their clients were entitled to contest elections at the congress. In turn, the party sought and was furnished with legal opinion advising that the party and government could not be regarded as one entity. This meant the two won the day, again the Big Five’s hopes were shattered.


In the ensuing elections Mmusi-Kwelagobe retained their positions as chairman and secretary general respectively. Kedikilwe also retained his position as Secretary General. Meanwhile the internal bickering did not stop, even ahead of the crucial 1994 general elections. In the process, Merafhe’s rival Mmusi passed on following an illness associated with depression resulting from his demotion from the Vice Presidency.


The 1994 general elections saw for the first time Botswana National Front (BNF), the only opposition party in parliament registering 13 seats, a development which meant that the BNF needed eight more seats in the next general elections to condemn BDP to the pastures. It was in fact said the party went to the 1994 general elections as two parties in one, with the other faction riving the party apart. Among the victims were four cabinet Ministers.


In the absence of Mmusi, Kwelagobe pushed for Kedikilwe as his replacement. DK as Kwelagobe is popularly known never wanted the presidency for himself but was more influential as a kingmaker through the use of his influence in the party and its structures. He helped recruit PHK from civil service and was convinced the man had what it takes. Their faction was renamed Kwelagobe-Kedikilwe faction and later, Barataphathi.


President Masire had intended to leave office immediately after the 1994 general elections. With discontent also growing over his leadership, he was under pressure to go, but could not leave the house on fire. Kwelagobe and Merafhe were not showing any signs of getting along.

Masire stayed, to remedy the situation. The 1995 congress, saw Merafhe vying for the Chairmanship against newly designated president elect of Barataphathi, Kedikilwe. It was much believed that Kedikilwe was more powerful than Mmusi and Merafhe stood no change again. Just like the previous congress, Kwelagobe’s team whitewashed the Big Five, also winning the chairmanship.


There was only one reason why the two were prepared to go to war over the chairmanship. Both viewed it as a stepping stone to the presidency and it was clear that Masire will go before the next general elections; the other reason being that Mogae had no constitutional protection at that time.

In the event that the president leaves office, parliament will convene within seven days to elect a new president. If Masire steps down as the President of the Republic the post of presidency at the party will also fall vacant, something which Kedikilwe knew that it will months before rising to the highest rank. Merafhe knew very well, he could use his support in parliament to also rise. It was an unending war.


Masire was a worried man, wanting to go, the situation kept nagging him. If he left while the status quo was unchanged, Mogae could fall and the party will split. Mogae could not beat neither Kedikilwe nor Merafhe in the event that the Presidential contest remained open. Masire devised a plan that would ensure that Mogae succeeded him smoothly and proposed for automatic succession in the event the president leaves office before the elections. Both Kwelagobe and Merafhe were against the idea, but it was Masire who won the day.


By the time Masire left office at the end of March in 1998, Merafhe has fallen out of the race, this time for the country’s number two. Mogae has already secured his place through the constitutional amendment provision that guaranteed automatic succession. With the race for number two now on, it was David Magang versus Kedikilwe this time around.

The general mood suggested that Mogae will pick Magang, since the two have been close allies since their school days. However, when the opportunity came, Mogae like Masire did in 1992, bypassed the two and instead convinced army general, Lt Gen Ian Khama to quit the post to take over the country’s number two post.  On the 2nd of April 1998, Mogae announced Khama as the new vice president.


Ten years later, it was now time for Mogae to go. This time around there was no question on who was going to succeed as it was clear since 1998 when Khama took over as Vice President that he will succeed Mogae as the next president. Following his inauguration on the 2nd of April 2008, Khama announced Mompati Merafhe as the Vice President. This time around it was clear and without bickering that Merafhe will get the nod.


Upon Merafhe’s retirement in 2012,  Khama appointed Kedikilwe, who have been Acting in the absence of Merafhe as the new Vice President. Both men, although they did not get the chance to become president, bowed out of politics satisfied.

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Understanding the US Electoral College and key election issues 

28th October 2020
Mark J Rozell

The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.

Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.

US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.

Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of  the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University  in  Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.

“The founders of our Republic de-centralised  authority  significantly  in  creating  our  constitutional  system,  which  means that  they  gave  an  enormous  amount  of  independent  power  and  authority  to  State  and  local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.

Unlike  parliamentary  democracies, like Botswana the  United  States  does  not  have  all  of  the  national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where  the  entire  federal  government  is  elected  all  in  one  election  cycle  giving  a  “mandate”  to  a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.

The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators  serve  for  six  years  and  one  third  of  the  Senate is elected every  two  years.

For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice

President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.

An  important  facet  of  US electoral  system  to  understand  given  the  federalism  nature  of  the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.

“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State  is  assigned  a  number  of  electors  to  our  Electoral  College  and  the  candidate  who  wins  the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.

“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”

Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to  win  a  State  by  one  vote  to  win  a  100 percent of  its  electors,  the  margin  does  not  matter.

“Donald  Trump  won  many  more  States  by  smaller  margins,  hence  he  got  an  Electoral  College majority.”

Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.

“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going  to  break  with  the  popular  vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.

“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”

There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.

If however there are more candidates, and  this  happens  extremely  rarely,  and  a  third  candidate  got  some electors  to  the  Electoral  College  denying  the  two  major  party  candidates,  either  one  getting  a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.

“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.

BLUE STATES vs RED STATES

Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.

Many  states  have  populations  that  are  so  heavily  concentrated  in  the  Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.

California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.

However there are swing  states, where  there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.

“So  it  ends  up  making  a  national  contest  for  the  presidency  actually  look  like  several  state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.

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Masisi to make things right with Dangote

26th October 2020

High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.

Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana.  “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.

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Dow wants GBV culprits isolated

26th October 2020
Unity Dow

As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.

The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.

Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.

The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”

Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.

According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.

Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.

“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.

Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.

“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”

The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.

In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.

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