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By Mpho Balopi
His Excellency the President Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi came to power on 1st of April, 2018, taking the baton from former President His Excellency Lt General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who in turn had taken over from Former President His Excellency Dr Festus Gontebanye Mogae. HE Dr Festus Gontebanye Mogae had himself taken the baton from the Late Former President Sir Quett Ketumile Joni Masire, who became President following the passing of the First President of the Republic of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama.
This is in keeping with the Botswana Democratic Party’s tradition of internally reinvigorating the organization through change. Change is important in organizations to allow members to learn new skills, explore new opportunities and exercise their creativity in ways that ultimately benefit the organization through new ideas and increased commitment. The BDP leadership change has always been controlled to avoid "change anarchy" that is synonymous with our Opposition Parties and forms part of their DNA. It is important to manage the change so as to regulate the outcome and ensure positive results.
Regulating the outcome is important because during change, the trickle-down effect is as relevant to politics and the overall political economy, and changes in ‘Leadership’ affect the political organization’s goals in areas such as growth and expansion, as well as in operations. The Political Leader therefore becomes central and is instrumental. All our Former Presidents pushed through new ideas that complemented ideas from their predecessors and in some instances taking a different turn somewhat (most notably SKI Khama), but within the confines of the BDP principles. And they were given the liberty to function without hindrance. His Excellency Dr MEK Masisi is no exempt in pushing through reforms as he is following BDP tradition, and he should be fully supported.
The BDP has been fortunate to have HE MEK Masisi at the helm during this critical moment to push the organization’s new ideas and increased commitment. To attest to HE Dr MEK Masisi’s capability, aptitude and proficiency, Former President Lt General Dr SKI Khama in a moving tribute informed masses at a kgotla meeting that he was leaving Batswana in the capable hands of Mr Masisi, “a very intelligent and hardworking person who has a lot of knowledge on governance and the public service”. The Former also let it known that in all the time he has worked with Mr Masisi, he has never disappointed him not even once. The endorsement by then President should not be taken lightly, but with utmost seriousness it deserves since Former President SKI Khama has worked closely with President Dr MEK Masisi when the latter entered Parliament 2009.
As a show of confidence, President MEK Masisi was appointed Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration at non other than the State Presidency. It didn’t take long before Lt General SKI Khama recognized the hardwork and leadership skills of his Assistant Minister, whereas in less than 2 years, 2011 precisely, MEK Masisi was elevated and appointed Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, overseeing the then President’s flagship programmes - Poverty Eradication amongst others, and the expansion of broadcasting capacity by BTV and Radio Botswana.
In April 2014 because of his shrewdness and sharpness, he was moved by President SKI Khama to stabilize the troubled then Ministry of Education and Skills Development, when the then Minister, Pelonomi Venson was for one reason or the other shunted and shoved aside to coordinate “a Project” - Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP). In October 2014, he was re-elected Member of Parliament for Moshupa-Manyana Constituency and come November 12th 2014, after being picked by SKI Khama, he was endorsed as the 8th Vice President of the Republic of Botswana.
The level of confidence by the Former President SKI Khama was resounding, unambiguous and unmistakable to say the least and speaks volumes about HE MEK Masisi’s capabilities. Former President Lt General SKI Khama is a very calculating and strategic Leader, who became the Youngest Brigadier at age 24, rising to become the Commander of BDF, before becoming Vice President and finally President of the Republic of Botswana. For a man of this caliber the appointment of MEK Masisi could never have been a mistake, and we thank the Former President for showing this high level of confidence in our President.
In President Masisi, Lt General SKI Khama noticed the “5 critical skills that make a leader more politically savvy” based on the theory by Gerald Ferris, Professor of Management and Pyschology at Florida State University, and researchers at CCL and Davidson College. The 5 critical skills are: Social Astuteness; Interpersonal Influence; Networking Ability; Apparent Sincerity; and Image Management. HE Dr MEK Masisi retains all these and is already making the Opposition Parties eat humble pie.
Upon taking the hot seat, President MEK Masisi did not disappoint. “Therisanyo” (open engagement and consultation), that had seemingly evaded Batswana is back at the fore and is the guiding principle. The opposition is even running scared calling it vote buying. The President opened up dialogue with the Private Media, the Trade Unions to mention but a few. For the past 10 years there had never been a Press Conference addressed by the Head of State especially engaging the Private Media, and the State’s relationship with Trade Unions was at an all-time low. Despite advise even from the BDP to mend relations with these critical actors, Former President SKI Khama stood his ground. Slowly but surely the Country is getting back to its basics, thanks to the President who has hit the ground running.
President MEK Masisi has made it categorically clear that he is determined to transform the country from a mid-income to a high income Country. Within 100 days he had initiated progressive reforms to deal with the 2 utmost challenges to attracting Foreign Direct Investment being “ease of doing business” and “visa requirements”. Concerning his networking abilities, he rounded off all the SADC countries one at a time to assure them of Botswana’s continued support and commitment to the Regional Block, again within the 100 days. Not only is he inward looking, as he has attended meetings of international stature, where we were found wanting as a Country.
Whilst the BDP Constitution calls for a Special Congress every election Year to elect the President of the Party, we call on maintaining of the Party’s tradition of controlling leadership change as obtained when Former President Sir Quett Masire made way for Former President Festus Mogae, and same for Lt General SKI Khama. Having assumed the Presidency a Year before the General Elections, they were endorsed to lead the Party in the General Elections. I call upon all BDP Members to unite and rally behind our President Dr MEK Masisi in the upcoming Special Congress and allow him to transform the Country to high-income status. LET MASISI LEAD. #GoMasisi
*Mpho Balopi is BDP Secretary General