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By Chedza Mogae
As much as Mme Mma Pelenomi Vensonson-Moitoi’s announcement that she would be challenging Presidential incumbent; His Excellency, The President of the Republic of Botswana, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi - for the position of President of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party and thereafter, should she succeed, President of this republic – has been met, for the most part with derision, disappointment, anger and incredulity. It would be inopportune and unwise to so easily and instantly write her off. She put out this message on the Twitterverse; “I believe in true democratic fashion that my campaign will be one that debates issues constructively. Always putting the Party first and the lives of all Batswana at the very core of our debates”. While at the individual level, many were…unsettled… by her phrasing… and would have preferred that she put the lives of Batswana first and thereafter would work to ensure that; as a longstanding member of the BDP, that the party under her proposed leadership would conduct itself at all times in a manner that would reflect that credo, veering away from the crony capitalism and self-interest that have become synonymous with the ruling party, and rededicate itself to nation building. Perhaps that was what she meant say. Perhaps…
Mme Mma Venson-Moitoi made the solemn undertaking that her campaign would debate the “issues” constructively. Thus, was her first and weighty pledge made to the nation; that, she will engage us through discussion and an exchange of views on matters that are core to this nation’s interests, that are beneficial of purpose and that will help serve to improve and promote further (all-inclusive) development and advancement. Considering that the BDP refused to publicly debate any issue of substance last election; and that furthermore, parliament, under the last dispensation, captured by BDP, of which both the incumbent President and Mrs. Venson-Moitoi were not only members of, but also served within as senior Ministers, was characterized by an almost absolute absence of debate - we will need to hear from both, over the course of the next several months why this was not the case in the most recent past? And what moves they would make to rectify misuse of Presidential Directive, empower parliament so that in can properly and absolutely fulfil its mandate; fortifying our system of checks and balances thus ensuring that the three branches of government can limit the powers of the others. ... and bring responsibility, credibility, not to mention transparency and accountability to back to governance in Botswana. Even ensuring that if and when necessary, the personage of President, can and will be obligated to stand before parliament to explain him/herself and the actions of his government. Clearly, constitutional reform must be an “issue” discussed this election. As long as Mma Moitoi can rise to the challenge, that of proving her value, her worth over that of her opponent, then she deserves our collective ear. If Mma Moitoi, can respond to our myriad of questions, with verity, clarity, coherence and common-sense as her stalwart companions throughout the electoral process, then we need must be still and let the lady talk.
In response to the question, why run now? “Why not?” is not a good enough answer. Her rejoinder intimating that she is a peace-maker? Show us the results of these unifying efforts? Her ambiguous statement that change for its own stake doesn’t always lead to progress? Why then would she be better placed to lead than President Masisi? A man who is by and large is accepted and embraced by the nation. Whose has hit more right notes than wrong? And whose ability to govern effectively is being hampered by sore losers, ne’er do wells, the embittered and the overly entitled, within his own party – so goes public perception. How does she distinguish herself from such folk? Because, as the American’s say; “You are, what you hang with”. Yes, Mrs. Pelenomi Venson-Moitoi can stand, and we will quiz her.
Now that the shine of 2019 and the hoopla surrounding her throw down of the gauntlet has passed; the serious work of listening and looking into, not just into Mma Moimoi’s intent, but more, her thinking, her ideas and her stratagems for prioritizing actual development outcomes must commence. We need to get past “New Jerusalem”, the voluminous, long, lamentations, complaints and denunciations made by Lieutenant General, Dr. Paramount Chief, Former H.E. Seretse Khama Ian Khama and respectfully render him mute, so that he may take on a period of proper self-reflection with regard to his time in the Presidency. And ponder as to whether or not, it is appropriate for him, in all or any of his guises, to attempt to propel his younger brother, the right Honourable Minister Tshekedi Khama, into the Vice-Presidency, rather than for the Minister to contest and win the position like every other citizen would have to. It is not for him to bequeath roles of national import to his family, nor is it right for him to be indulged a second longer with regard to the use of state aircraft, being featured on BTV, not getting the Private Secretary he wanted….
If this is in fact a true democracy, Mma Moitoi’s absolute right to run - to be heard, and ultimately to be judged, on the basis of her fitness; legal (because she has in the past stood accused of abuse of position, fraud and collusion within government– but was not charged by the courts), mental, physical and emotional, maturity, qualifications, track-record - should never even have been questioned.
But she too must understand that when she says decries that her, “commitment and dedication to my Party and Country cannot be questioned” … they can… and when she states that by “ensuring we do not lose ourselves in our bid to modernize we forget what got us here. We cannot discard the principles of the BDP that have ensured that, election after election Batswana keep voting for us”, because there is an ongoing, ugly and brutal battle, a guerrilla war for soul of the BDP, which threatens to drown as all in its impending tsunami. And because Mme Mma Venson-Moitoi, has already invoked prayer in one of her statements, even though Botswana is a secular state. I will insert this Biblical wisdom/sentiment of how a house divided against itself it cannot stand… more appropriately, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand”. Mma Moitoi, like President Masisi and others are well aware, that in present day Botswana, we have other viable, credible candidates, other parties who can lead this nation, and that the BDP doesn’t hold a monopoly on talent. We have options…
I neither dismiss or deny the statements made by others on Mme Mma Venson-Moitoi’s challenge. She has to and must accept such scrutiny, it is part and parcel of returning to the fundamentals of rigorous democracy. Many of these actors have intimate knowledge of her politically. It’s a valuable insight into her as a political actor. It is, far too easy to use social media to attack her and hurl abuse. But perhaps too some restraint is called for? Why don’t we reflect on who we were, where we came from and who and what we want to be going forward? Let’s keep our language civil and our tone respectful. We can disagree with one another, but if we are to begin to heal the fissures, we must start with individual responsibility and action. And whether one likes it or not, Mrs. Pelenomi Venson-Moitoi is a Legitimate Candidate. And she wants to debate the issues. Bring it.