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01 Nov 2015

Differences are already creeping in over whether or not the current Vice President, Mokgweetsi is really the right man to succeed Ian Khama as Head of State.

There is as yet no consensus - not even among the small circle of key figures whose views will ultimately matter most when the succession question is eventually decided.

Two weeks ago we looked at the contenders for the throne.  Boyce Sebetela, Jacob Nkate and Tshekedi Khama are just a few names already known to harbour ambitions to challenge for the presidency in 2019. The list could still grow longer. This is by itself unprecedented. It could still grow more intriguing.

In here we look at a decidedly small group of names well placed to play the biggest part in that race. 

IAN KHAMA: Officially, President Khama has already made up his mind on who his successor will be. That person is Mokgweetsi Masisi.

But behind the scenes Khama has been sending mixed signals on whether this decision can still be revisited and possibly be reviewed. This has fed into a narrative that may be anything could still happen. But time is running out. Post 2016, it would take an enormous gamble to drop Masisi. Doing that could have far reaching consequences, chief of which will be destabilizing the ruling party which is already polarized by other related. While by far still the decider in chief, President Khama is fast running out of time. And options too!

One of his favorites, Eric Molale lost an election that was widely perceived as a creation to put him through the paces so that he could become an easy shoo-in. Without a constituency behind his name, Molale is for now out of the race.

Masisi, it must be pointed out was never Ian khama’s first choice for a successor.

If he had his way, Khama could have appointed his younger brother, Tshekedi Khama. But fears of a revolt at the party’s parliamentary caucus forced the President to climb down and settle for Masisi.

The party and country has already been led by two members of the Khama family. Many BDP Members of Parliament strongly felt that Tshekedi Khama’s appointment as Vice President and ultimately successor would have been a one-Khama-too-many. 

Terrible performance at last year’s General Elections has stirred deep-seated angst and resentment against Khama.

His stubborn and defiant refusal to show penitence for the electoral tragedy is not helping the situation. Among Members of Parliament part of the solution going forward can be found in reducing the President’s power to do as he pleases in what remains of his tenure. That includes denying his acolytes and cronies any right to claim succession.

But it still seems like the President has not entirely given up on seeing his younger brother one day also becoming a president.     

Isaac Kgosi – For much of the Botswana Democratic Party faithful, the head of intelligence services remains an elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. Kgosi is one name they all of them know matters but none of them is brave enough to call out. Never before in the history of this country has an unelected man wielded so much raw and unaccountable such power as Kgosi does.

The simple matter is that Kgosi will have a vantage seat at the high table where succession question will be decided. This fact alone more than annoys many party followers for they know how much his association with their leader has been responsible for the party’s dwindling fortunes.

Allegations of corruption and maladministration have played the biggest role to undermine BDP’s chances of electability last year.

Perceived impunity has not helped the situation.

But it has been President Khama’s embedded loyalty to Kgosi that has been an ultimate insult.

But the man remains a powerful figure who has continued to see off many of his enemies – chief of whom has been Ndelu Seretse – President Khama’s first cousin who himself once haboured presidential ambitions. It would seem like Kgosi’s immediate project is for now the opposition. In there, the jury is still out. But one thing is for now clear – nobody inside the BDP will at least for now ascend unless Kgosi gives the nod. Kgosi’s unfettered power has not unfairly been compared to that of Abdullah Al-Senussi, Muammar Ghaddafhi’s powerful head of intelligence. It is somewhat ominous that Al-Senussi currently languishes in a Jail in Libya, awaiting execution.

  Daniel Kwelagobe: Kwelagobe is one politician whose political career simply refuses to die.

At a recent BDP Congress in Mmadinare the man was elected into the Central Committee without ever having canvassed for a vote. 

This did not sit down well with President Ian Khama who had worked tirelessly to annihilate Kwelagobe’s political career. Just when the President thought he had seen the last of Kwelagobe after the veteran politician lost his Molepolole constituency that he had held for 45 years, the two are together again in the running of the BDP inside the Central Committee. For President Khama it is an ugly setting made worse by the fact that Kwelagobe continues to make public his views on who he wants as Vice President when Khama goes.

There is no doubt that when the decision time comes the man will play a much bigger role in fighting the corner of his preferred choice. At the very least, he will make his presence felt. And he has nor shortage of following inside the BDP.

Botsalo Ntuane: Currently the Secretary General of the BDP, Ntuane got the highest votes of any contestant at the party congress in Mmadinare. This places him in a unique position. Assuming he maintains that kind of popularity, he could harness his popular support base to carve himself a disproportionately bigger role in 2019 if the BDP succession gets as nasty as it is for now anticipated to be. It is instructive to not that ahead of the Congress Ntuane pointedly declined to be a part of any lobby list. The amount of votes he got is therefore personally his.

Naturally, his support and endorsement will with time become highly prized trophies among contenders vying for the ultimate preferment. 

Satar Dada: Everybody in the party trusts Dada’s sober sense judgment. To the BDP ordinary members Dada is Mr. Stability. To the multitude of grass-root supporters, this immensely accomplished businessman remains one of their own. They easily relate with him because he understands the culture and ethos of their party.

Dada is a party man – through and through. For a period spanning almost 30 years he has had a front row seat watching all the inner joys and sorrows that the BDP has had to go through in recent times.

The ongoing succession time bomb is definitely going to be the last of which he is an insider. He called off his retirement on the last hour after emissaries convinced him to stay. Prior to Mmadinare Congress he announced he was stepping down. Only to change his mind – but still sailed through unchallenged.

Mokgweetsi Masisi – The Vice President has already told his inner circle that he believes he will become President of the Republic. But even his admirers are worried by persistent rumours of frosty and sometimes volatile relationship between him and the sitting President.

Masisi’s can draw solace from the fact that he enjoys a solid backing from the BDP parliamentary caucus.

Like Ntuane, Masisi put on a good show at the BDP congress.

The numbers that he gained were comprehensive enough, staving off attacks from such stalwarts like Tebelelo Seretse and Ndelu Seretse.

But as one commentator recently put it it’s not yet uhuru for Masisi. There is still one big hurdle to cross; 2019. From the look of things vultures have already started flying low, with many openly declaring their preparedness to challenge him.

To consolidate his position Masisi would need to choose a very strong and formidable Vice President who would also help unify what is an increasingly divided and mutinous BDP.

Other than that a resurgent opposition led by Duma Boko beckons. And Masisi might yet still become the first BDP president to drop the ball. The stakes have never been higher.

Parliamentary caucus: As a block, Members of parliament will play a crucial role on the succession race. There is however no guarantee that the caucus could act as a homogenous entity.

Only those in cabinet are likely to support incumbent president.

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