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Battle for the Presidency: Masisi vs Tshekedi Khama II

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, even within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), have expressed misgivings about him.

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 II, Ramadeluka Seretse, Tebelelo Seretse, Jacob Nkate, Boyce Sebetlela, Robert Masitara and Honourable Nonofo Molefhi. Last week we discussed the possible battle between HH Masisi and Honourable Molefhi. This week we consider the possible battle between HH Masisi and Tshekedi Khama II.

Reportedly, though many in the BDP would not prefer Honourable Khama II as Chairperson, state Vice President or President, they are prepared to settle for him because of the Khama personality cultism which puts him in better stead to secure electoral success for the BDP than all other candidates.  

Clearly, therefore, many, especially in the BDP, who would want Honourable Khama II to ascend to the state Presidency, are motivated not necessarily by the country’s interests but by political party interests. But, party politics aside, who between HH Masisi and Honourable Khama II is better suited for the state presidency? In this article, I attempt to answer this question. Before answering the question HH Masisi and Honourable Khama II’s foot prints are examined.     

Who is Tshekedi Khama II? Tshekedi Khama II is the younger brother to President Khama. According to Wikipedia, as accessed on 26th January 2017 at 2.30 pm, he holds a Diploma from the Institute of Development Management.

He first entered Parliament as a Specially Elected Member of Parliament for Serowe North West constituency in 2008 and has been in Parliament since after winning the elections in 2009. He has, since 2012, served as Minister for Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, recently relabeled Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism.

But, how does Honourable Khama II compare with HH Masisi? An Orator and poverty eradication activist, especially when he was at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs & Public Administration, 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-prints, who is better suited for the state presidency than the other? No doubt, HH Masisi’s academic profile and career experience is more colorful than that of Honourable Khama II. Politically, though both were born into powerful BDP families, neither HH Masisi nor Honourable Khama II has a history of political party activism. Neither had held a position in the BDP Central Committee before 2015.  

While HH Masisi joined Parliament in 2009, Honourable Khama II joined Parliament in 2008. Very little, therefore, separates the two in terms of legislative experience. Both have solid voter support in their constituencies. While Honourable Khama II joined cabinet in 2012, HH Masisi joined in 2009. HH Masisi, therefore, has more Executive experience. Also, 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 Khama II.

While HH Masisi has, as a powerful tool, the art of oration, Honourable Khama II is limited in that regard probably because his Setswana diction is limited. Both, however, are lacking in the art of persuasion and consensus building.As stated last week, HH Masisi’s worst attributes are his perceived anti-labour stance and anti-media tendencies which came to the fore, especially when he was Minister of Presidential Affairs & Public Administration. But, do we really know Honourable Khama II’s positions on these issues and such other issues as gender equality and minority rights? Perhaps we do not because he has not held positions that deal with them.

What we know about Honourable Khama II is that he is often absent from Parliament during Parliamentary sessions. This is a red flag because it may be because he does not value discussions, persuasion and consensus building. I say it is a red flag because these are corner stones of democracy and any person who undermines them is likely to be a despot.

Testimony has been given to the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises by senior officers from his ministry that he practices nepotism and victimization. Senior officers have had their contracts of employment terminated under questionable circumstances.

There have also been reports that when he was asked to come and testify before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises he declined to do so until the committee’s chairperson, Honourable Samson Guma Moyo, threatened to subpoena him.

This is a cause for concern since he may be someone who does not respect authority and is unwilling to demean himself to the laws of our country. These are signs of someone who can be above the law, especially when they assume the Office of President which is constitutionally bestowed with absolute immunity from prosecution.

Oral tradition has it that his uncle, Tshekedi Khama, the one whose name has been bequeathed upon him, was a despot. We also learnt that he ill-treated the Kgalanga so much that there developed the saying ‘Tshekedi o no muka’ meaning Tshekedi will awake which was used to scare the Kgalanga when ‘misbehaving.’ If these accounts are true, one can only pray that Honourable Khama II does not follow in his uncle’s footsteps.  

Both HH Masisi and Honourable Khama II are hard workers. One may not have agreed with his policies and strategies, but during his tenure as Minister of Presidential Affairs & Public Administration HH Masisi traversed the country on such campaigns as the poverty eradication campaign.

Though many condemned his appointment to cabinet stating that it was influenced by nepotism since he was appointed by his brother, Honourable Khama II has worked hard in environmental conservation and tourism. He has not taken things for granted because of the comfort that his position in cabinet is secured.

In the whole, therefore, HH Masisi excels over Honourable Khama II with respect to academic profile; career experience and executive experience. They are tied with respect to legislative experience; grassroots support and passion for work. Both are lacking in persuasion and consensus building which I regard as the most important attributes of a good leader. That notwithstanding, the decisive factors are likely to be incumbency and the Khama personality cultism in favour of HH Masisi and Honourable Khama II respectively.

The latter, which, in 2019, may be inseparably linked to the BDP’s electoral survival, is likely to prevail unless there is a serious campaign to stop it as the Americans recently did by overlooking Donald Trump’s iniquities and voting for him to curtail the Bush and Clinton personality cults.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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