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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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No deal was made with Disney World – Tsogwane

16th April 2021
disney-carlifonia-park

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has been touring the entire world since occupying Presidential office in 2018. Few months down the line, he flew to Florida in the United States of America where he landed at the Disney World.

This is the world’s largest entertainment complex opened in 1971, with four theme parks (consisting of Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom).

Upon his return in the country from the fairytale land, Masisi said Botswana struck a partnership with Disney World. The partnership primarily focused on turning the country’s capital, Gaborone, into an international tourism and leisure destination.

“We have struck a partnership with Disney World as a company. They focus on making people happy and bringing tourists. I want tourists in this country. Visa restrictions are out. They will be issued on arrival. I have tasked Minister Makgato’s Ministry to categorize taxis so that there can be value in the taxi industry.

I am very committed to making Gaborone an international venue center and this will bring revenue to our country,” Masisi said at the time. Masisi, has now appointed Makgato as Botswana’s High Commissioner – designate to the Commonwealth of Australia.

However, two years later, there is no sign of Gaborone being turned into a tourism hub. In fact, the partnership Masisi struck with Disney World never emerged. It is now becoming more of a pipeline dream, and politicians are keen to know what really transpired.

In a dramatic turn of events, Masisi’s flanking Minister, Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng, slammed Vice President Slumber Tsogwane with questions on this said ghost partnership, demanding answers on Masisi’s long dead promise.

Vice President Tsogwane told Parliament on Thursday that Masisi was looking for investors to come and do business in Botswana, either in partnership with government or the private sector.

“The President and his delegation engaged in meetings with the management of Disney World to identify opportunities for the company to collaborate with in Botswana. There were a number of opportunities Mr. Speaker for collaboration that were identified to be followed up with by bilateral negotiations with various institutions.

The key area that was identified for collaboration was the implementation of an enhanced customer care training and development akin to that of Disney World.

The Botswana Public Service College was assigned to collaborate with Disney World, to roll out a training programme which will achieve excellent customer service for the public sector in Botswana, Tsogwane said via virtual Parliament.

He further said representatives of Disney World visited Botswana on a fact finding mission in May 2019.

“While in Botswana, the team toured selected sites such as Gaborone bus rank, Tlokweng Boarder post, and Department of Roads, Training and Safety offices amongst others. Following this, Disney World produced a scoping report which detailed training and engagement timelines for consideration by government,” said Tsogwane.

In fulfilment of their procurement requirement, Tsogwane said Disney Institute was requested to submit a proposal based on their scoping report indicating associated cost implications. He said, Disney declined to submit citing that it does not deal directly with government.

“After being advised by their Disney World Board, they therefore advised Botswana government to deal with another company in the United States of America, which according to them does the Disney World way. This never proceeded because our interest was on Disney World and not any other company that point in time.”

As a result, Tsogwane told Parliament that no deal or contract was signed with Disney World. “The issue of easing of restrictions which is part of the question, between any two countries is a matter that is negotiated through diplomatic channels and whenever agreements are reached, proper communication is made. With regard to Visa restrictions between Botswana and the US, Tsogwane says they will continue discussions on how to ease restrictions,” he said on Thursday.

Morwaeng wanted Tsogwane to update Parliament on: Government’s deal with Disney World, the terms of the deal propounded by the President in March 2019; Whether the deal was signed, when it was signed and clear specifics of the deal and its benefits to Botswana tourism; when visa restrictions between the two countries (Botswana and the United States of America) will be eased and visas issued on arrival as per the Disney World deal pronouncement; and If the deal struck with Disney World was not just mere electioneering talk that will never see the light of the day.

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Gov’t has no budget for Magosi’s SADC chase

12th April 2021
Elias Magosi

Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.

The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.

However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.

Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat.  “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.

This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.

“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.

“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.

In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?

“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.

While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.

Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.

His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.

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Mzwinila’s P4.3 Billion gamble to keep water flowing

12th April 2021
orth-South-Carrier

The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.

His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.

Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.

Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.

Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).

“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”

The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).

When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.

With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?

Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.

The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.

The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.

Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.

Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.

“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.

Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.

Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.

The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.

Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.

One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

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