Vice President Ian Khama’s close associates were this week united that the incoming President has already made up his mind to reshuffle the cabinet after he takes over as President next week.
This is despite the low key lobby that has been going on inside the ruling Botswana Democratic Party that for the sake of stability and continuity Khama should withhold any major shakeup until after the General Elections in 2009.
Speaking strictly on condition of anonymity, BDP insiders said Ian Khama’s key criterion for cabinet appointments is going to be more on delivery and less on gender equality.
There have been mutterings inside the BDP that in his cabinet appointments Khama’s predecessor, Festus Mogae, was beholden more to friendship than to ability.
It should, however, be stated that Mogae found himself in the unenviable position of presiding over a party during heightened factional fights, a situation that somewhat informed his appointments as he had to appoint people he thought best conformed to his thinking and challenged him less.
Lately, however, factional influences have been subsiding and save for the position of Vice President, insiders are saying their consequences are not likely to occupy a central position as Khama appoints his executive team.
While in his drive to be seen to be empowering women, Mogae often went out of his way to sacrifice talent and experience in favour of women empowerment. Lately, there has been a growing debate around whether Mogae’s largesse empowered women after all.
Critics are arguing that the women favoured with powerful positions during Mogae’s tenure were mainly those who had direct access to the Office of the President.
The list of those women reveals mainly people who could plead either with the President himself or his senior aides to get appointed. More capable women who did not have such privileges and power of access were closed out, argue critics.
“This has had the effect of polarizing the woman’s movement in Botswana. Those days are gone. People are going to be chosen more on what they can do and less on whether they are men or women,” said one senior official this week.
It has also been hinted that Khama’s Vice President will have a full ministerial portfolio to run.
Khama has so far been the only Vice President not to hold a ministerial portfolio.
Festus Mogae tasked him with project implementation after Khama had demanded sabbatical leave from politics, sparking fears within the BDP that unless he was given what he wanted he would resign from active politics, thereby plunging the party and government into chaos of more factionalism.
“The Vice President has indicated that he will take up with himself the role of project coordination, government business and implementation,” said one government official.
“He is also going to expect to be briefed on a weekly basis by the accounting officers and various implementing officers, including Chief Executives heading various government owned companies and parastatals,” said another.