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Battle for the Presidency: Masisi vs Molefhi

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

Since His Honour (HH) the Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, was elected Vice President (VP) becoming constitutionally entitled to automatically succeed President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama,  many, especially in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), have expressed discontent.

Consequently, as soon as the 2014 general elections were over, names began emerging of those who either intended or were being lobbied to challenge HH Masisi, first for the party Chairpersonship and later for the party Presidency and therefore the state Presidency.

Among these names are Tshekedi Khama, Ramadeluka Seretse, Tebelelo Seretse, Jacob Nkate, Boyce Sebetlela, Robert Masitara and Honourable Nonofo Molefhi. In this five part series we consider the chances of success of each of these possible contenders against HH Masisi. We start with Nonofo Molefhi.      

Of late the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Honourable Nonofo Molefhi, is being named by some as the preferred choice for not only the BDP’s Chairpersonship and Presidency in the coming party elections, but also for the state Vice Presidency and ultimately the state Presidency.

But is Honourable Molefhi really best suited for the state Presidency or his name is being mentioned simply because some in the BDP believe he is the only candidate who can win against HH Masisi?

It is one thing to be suited for a political party position and it is yet another to be suited for a state position. For what is Honourable Molefhi really suited for, the party Chairpersonship and Presidency or the state Vice Presidency and Presidency?

Those, especially in the BDP, who would want Honourable Molefhi to ascend to the state Presidency, are they motivated by the country’s interests or by political party interests? Are they not using Honourable Molefhi as a proxy to fight the political battles they know they cannot win?

In this article, I attempt to answer these and many other consequent questions. But, this cannot be done in a vacuum. A background account is apposite. Thereafter, HH Masisi and Honourable Molefhi’s foot prints are examined before answering these questions if indeed an answer is possible.     

First, the back ground. When, after the 2014 general elections, President Khama hand-picked Honourable Masisi to be his Vice President many, even within the BDP, believed that Honourable Masisi was not the best choice for the position.

Among the reasons given for this view were that he had just recently become a party activist; he had never held a prominent position in the party, especially at the Central Committee (CC) level; he had been in cabinet for only five years; and he is a boot-licker and can, therefore, not properly advice the President.

In the eyes of public servants and trade unions, HH Masisi was regarded as an enemy of the workers who had advocated for anti-labour laws and who, as Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration during the 2011 public service strike, failed to advice government to settle for a reasonable wage increase.

For the media, HH Masisi was anti-freedom of the press and was at the centre of government’s strategy to turn Botswana Television from a public broadcaster to a government propaganda machine. Not only that. They regard him as the progenitor of government’s plan to starve private media of government advertising.   

No wonder during the contest for the BDP Chairpersonship in 2015, which HH Masisi won, an unprecedented high number of candidates challenged him. Such candidates as Tebelelo Seretse and Ramadeluka Seretse contested mainly because they believed that being seasoned party stalwarts and having been in government for many years they are more suited than Masisi.

But, post the Chairpersonship contest Honourable Molefhi’s name has emerged, even outside BDP circles, as the preferred candidate for not only the BDP Chairpersonship but also the state Presidency. Reportedly, he enjoys popular support within the BDP both outside and inside Parliament.

According to Sunday Standard’s online edition of 14th January 2016, faced with a revolt of the BDP Parliamentary Caucus in late 2014 over who was going to become the Vice President of the Republic, President Khama conducted a secret vote for Members of Parliament (MPs).  

According to the paper, sources close to events at the time indicate that the person who scooped most nominations was Honourable Molefhi, followed by Honourable Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, HH Masisi and lastly Honourable Tshekedi Khama.

It is for this reason that many believe President Khama fought so hard to have the Parliamentary Standing Procedures which provided for a secret ballot vote for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly as well as the Vice President to be set aside by the courts and replaced with the voting by show of hands arrangement.

He had no confidence that HH Masisi, and Honourable Gladys Kokorwe who herself faced a serious challenge from Dr. Margret Nasha, will win the Vice Presidency and Speaker of the National Assembly positions respectively if MPs voted in secret and without fear of victimization. Of course, President Khama had reason for such fear.

In the case of the Vice Presidency, Honourable Molefhi was indeed a threat considering the fact that he enjoyed overwhelming support among MPs. Not only that. Reportedly, during the BDP Central Committee elections in 2015 Honourable Molefhi, who contested as an additional member, garnered overwhelming support.

But, who is Nonofo Molefhi? A renowned Interpreter who has interpreted for President Khama, an Orator and HIV prevention activist, especially during his days in the back bench, Honourable Molefhi is a trained Social Worker who used his training by working as a Youth Coordinator and District Officer in the District Commissioner's office. He holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Youth Development from the CYP Caribbean Centre.

He was first elected as MP for Selibe Phikwe East in 2004 and has been in Parliament ever since. He has held several cabinet positions as full minister, including Transport & Communications; Lands and Housing; Infrastructure, Science & Technology and currently serves as Minister for the newly created Ministry of Infrastructure & Housing Development.

But, how does Honourable Molefhi compare with HH Masisi? An Orator and poverty eradication activist, HH Masisi was initially trained as a teacher majoring in English and History. In 1984 he taught at Mmanaana Secondary School in Moshupa. In 1987, HH Masisi transferred to the department of Curriculum Development and Evaluation (CD&E) and worked as Social Studies Curriculum Specialist. He studied at graduate level at Florida State University in the United States, in 1989, specializing in Social Studies Education and Instructional Systems Design.

In 1990 he re-joined CD&E and oversaw Social Studies and other subjects. There, he became the National Coordinator for Social Studies Education and Botswana's representative at the African Social and Environmental Studies Program (ASESP) and Board member for Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa (EEASA) for more than five years.

HH Masisi then joined UNICEF in 1995 as Education Project Officer and he resigned to join politics in 2003. He lost the BDP primary elections for Moshupa constituency in the run up to the 2004 general elections. He, however, won the 2008 primary elections and went on to win the constituency in the 2009 general elections.  

He was appointed as Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration in October 2009. In January 2011 he was appointed as Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. HH Masisi became Acting Minister of Education and Skills Development in April 2014. This appointment was made substantive on 28th October 2014. He was elected Vice President on 12th November 2014, but also continued serving as Minister of Education and Skills Development for some time.

The question is: considering the aforesaid foot-print, who has an urge over the other? No doubt, HH Masisi’s academic profile and career experience is more colorful than that of Honourable Molefhi. Politically, perhaps because of them having been civil servants for many years, neither HH Masisi nor Honourable Molefhi have a history of party activism. Neither had held a position in the party Central Committee before 2015.  

While HH Masisi only joined Parliament in 2009, Honourable Molefhi joined Parliament as far back as 2004. It can, therefore, be argued that Honourable Molefhi has more legislative experience than HH Masisi. While Honourable Molefhi joined cabinet in 2008, HH Masisi joined in 2009. However, the fact that HH Masisi has been Vice President for about two years now makes him more experienced in the affairs of the Executive than Honourable Molefhi.

HH Masisi and Honourable Molefhi cancel each other out in the area of grass root involvement in that while the latter has a history of activism in HIV prevention, the former is a known poverty eradication enthusiast. Also, both are known to be avid foot soldiers in dealing with their constituents’ matters.

While both have, as a powerful tool, the art of oration, what seems to be lacking with HH Masisi is the art of persuasion and consensus building. On the contrary, Honourable Molefhi is said to be very strong in these areas. HH Masisi’s worst attributes are his perceived anti-labour stance and anti-media tendencies which came to the fore, especially when the was Minister of Presidential Affairs & Public Administration. But, do we really know Honourable Molefhi’s positions on these? Perhaps we do not because he has not held positions that deal with them.

Therefore, until Honourable Molefhi is tested on these it would not be fair to pass a verdict that he is more or less suited for the state Presidency than HH Masisi. But, the fact that Honourable Molefhi is said to be a consensus builder may be decisive. After all, beyond everything else, the position of President requires tolerance and consensus building more than anything else.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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