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The making of a president: HH Mokgweetsi Masisi

Ndulamo Anthony Morima


The recent victory by His Honour the Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, in which he retained the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairpersonship and his entire lobby list made it into the Central Committee almost secures his position as the next president of the Republic of Botswana.


Having earned the BDP chairpersonship, it seems to me that president Khama has no option but to retain HH Masisi as vice president until he retires in March 2018, constitutionally entitling HH Masisi to automatically succeed him as president and remain in office until the October 2019 general elections. Considering his control of the BDP, barring the BDP’s defeat at the hands of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in 2019, which is not unlikely, HH Masisi is also assured of the presidency after the October 2019 general elections which will see him remain in office at least until March 2024.    


In this article, we discuss the making of Masisi as a president. Though he lost the BDP primary elections for the Moshupa constituency in 2004, he won the 2009 primaries and went on to win the general elections, becoming the constituency’s Member of Parliament (MP).  Immediately after becoming an MP he was, in October 2009, appointed Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. In January 2011, a little over a year after being appointed Assistant Minister, he was appointed Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration.


Though he led a relatively good poverty eradication campaign while at Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, something which inarguably endeared him to President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, he lost favour especially with trade unions which believed that his poor handling of salary negotiations led to the 2011 public sector strikes.


In April 2014 he was appointed acting Minister of Education and Skills Development. In the run up to the October 2014 general elections the media blamed him for being the architect of government’s decision to starve private media of government advertising. He was also said to be at the centre of BDP’s decision to boycott Gabz Fm constituency debates.


At this time, HH Masisi, whose reputation had further been tainted by a video in which he professed to be a boot licker, i.e. lelope, was public enemy number one. The emergence of a video in which he stated that the BDP should lead Gabz Fm into believing that it will participate in its constituency debates while it (BDP) knows that it won’t did not help the situation. 


Despite an onslaught by the media, civil society and trade unions, with Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) including him in its ‘hit list’ for the 2014 general elections, HH Masisi was re-elected with a huge margin as an MP for the Moshupa-Manyana constituency. On 28th October 2014 HH Masisi was appointed as Minister of Education and Skills Development. This gave solace to his detractors who thought that he was out of the race for the vice presidency.


Against expectation, HH Masisi was, on 12th November 2014, elected Vice President after an unexpected nomination by President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama. He, however, continued serving as Minister of Education and Skills Development. Despite his ascendance to the vice presidency HH Masisi remained unpopular. Even in his party, the BDP, he faced opposition, with some party stalwarts believing that he got the vice presidency on a silver platter because he was not seasoned in the traditions of the BDP, him having never held a leadership position in the party.


Some in the BDP believe that it is these stalwarts, led by the former Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Margaret Nasha, who led the crusade for elections for the Vice President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly to be by secret ballot hoping that BDP MPs will not vote for HH Masisi. In fact, some in the BDP claimed that president Khama nominated HH Masisi for the vice presidency despite losing the popularity poll conducted by president Khama to determine who would be the best nominee for the vice presidency.


So rife were allegations of his unpopularity that there were rumours that president Khama threatened that if the BDP MPs did not elect HH Masisi as vice president he would dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections. There is, therefore, a view that many BDP MPs voted for HH Masisi not because they wanted to, but because of the fear of fresh elections which they feared they would lose considering the UDC’s remarkable performance and the political atmosphere at the time. 


Consequently, president Khama’s efforts to have Masisi unchallenged for the chairmanship position in the 2015 Central Committee elections were futile. In an unprecedented development he was challenged by five candidates, but won with a healthy margin, though his preferred candidate for the Secretary Generalship lost to the then popular Botsalo Ntuane.

HH Masisi was undeterred by Ntuane’s popularity. Just like president Khama did not work with his then popular Secretary General, the late Gomolemo Motswaledi after the July 2009 Central Committee elections, Masisi sidelined Ntuane, choosing instead to work with Communications Chairman, Thapelo Pabalinga.

 

Perhaps in an effort to prove his detractors wrong, HH Masisi led a recruitment campaign which targeted members from the Opposition. His biggest victim is the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) from which he poached its Youth League President, Lotty Manyepedza, Secretary General, Thato Osupile, and 2014 Nata-Gweta constituency candidate, Ditiro Majadibodu, among others.

 

Despite him seemingly proving his political astuteness as aforesaid he still faced opposition in the run up to the 2017 Central Committee elections. This time he seemed to be facing an indomitable opponent, Honourable Nonofo Molefhi. Honourable Molefhi seemed to be so unconquerable that there were rumours that president Khama lobbied HH Masisi not to contest the chairpersonship, urging him to give precedence to party unity and his duties as vice president.

 

So resolute was HH Masisi that he, it is reported, declined president Khama’s proposal. Then came former Secretary General, Jacob Nkate, who, it is reported, after HH Masisi realized he harbored presidential ambitions dropped him from his lobby list as Secretary General and brought in another former Secretary General, Mpho Balopi.

 

Even when the Molefhi campaign seemed to make headway HH Masisi did not relent. He stood by his campaign team despite reports that it was losing ground. His faith in his team was rewarded when he and his entire lobby list won the Central Committee elections with resounding majorities. So, at the beginning of his political career HH Masisi suffered defeat and fell, but rose up, tried again and emerged victorious the second time around. Since his election by his people he has not neglected them, not even when he was appointed vice president. This is the making of a president.

 

He has always gone back to his constituency; he meets his people at the people’s parliament-the Kgotla; he gives his people cattle as presents; he speaks his mother tongue with admirable proficiency; he is approachable. This is the making of a president. Throughout his political career he has faced warranted challenge from his fellow BDP colleagues, the media, civil society and trade unions, but has remained steadfast in his beliefs, no matter how wrong and ill-advised they are. This is not the making of a president.

 

He has contributed to the decline of media freedom; he has been instrumental in the development of such ineffective programmes as the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) and Constituency Funding; and he has contributed to the attrition of labour rights and welfare. This is not the making of a president. As a political deployee he has defended his political party at all costs. This makes a good party president, but does not make a good state president for a good state president should demean the interests of his or her political party to those of the state.

 

As an appointee of the president he has served him with loyalty and distinction, at least in as far as the president himself is concerned. In order to become a good state president HH Masisi ought to translate this loyalty to loyalty to the Constitution when he assumes the presidency. Yet, even with his iniquities the political journey that HH Masisi has already voyaged is that of the making of a president for he will be president in any event even if it may be for only one year seven months.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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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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