Sunday, September 20, 2020

Another look at frontrunners for the position of Vice President!

As the year lazily winds down into closure, a big decision awaits to be made by the country’s future President, Ian Khama.

It is a decision that everyone awaits with baited breath.
Staying true to his character, Ian Khama has not let slip a hint of the direction his dice is likely to roll.

But the pool from which to choose is, as we know, limited and narrowing by the day.

Hence we can, with some measure of confidence, shout out the names in the hat from which a Vice President will be picked.
The three possible names that come to mind are Daniel Kwelagobe, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, and David Magang.
All the three are thoroughbred politicians having earned their stripes in politics long before Ian Khama could entertain hopes of one day becoming State President.

In the past twelve months, I have had intermittent conversations with each of the three men.

As ever, PHK Kedikilwe has come across as stiff, bottomed up and guarded, still intellectually alert but less brooding than before.

DK is relaxed, jovial, less ambitious, less passionate but abnormally hopeful of the future.

For his part David Magang is witty, relaxed, casual and charming.
Enjoying his retirement, the old man still has an amazing grasp of detail and remembers to the date events that led to the current body politic of the BDP.
But Magang will first have to cross the hurdle of finding a constituency to make a comeback into fulltime politics.

While his former constituency, Lentsweletau, is ripe for retaking, he will have to convince his son, Lesang, to back off for a while, team up with the dad and together barbecue the lame and unpopular incumbent, Moeng Pheto.
Magang though cannot usefully be ruled out of the contest.

To discount Kedikilwe’s chances detractors like to talk about his recent past tussle with Khama for the Chairmanship.

This is rather absurd because whatever happens in the future, history will always be kinder to Kedikilwe for having been the only person inside the BDP to have stood his ground against Ian Kkama.
To arm twist Khama into sidelining Kedikilwe, detractors like to overplay Kedikilwe’s ambitions as a risk to Khama.

That is, of course, ridiculous.
While one’s ambitions cannot be controlled, it is worth noting that at 70 Kedikilwe is no longer a young man. Again, in all practical terms, Khama is so ensconced inside the BDP that unless he personally bungles his own stranglehold no one else will be able to dislodge him in the next ten years.

It must, however, be stated that while Kedikilwe lost the Chairmanship and therein control of party machinery to Khama, he did so with grace, especially because he put up an impressive fight while everybody else was running away naked.

To those of us who believe in democracy, the fact that Kedikilwe staked his name against Khama was symbolic in as far as it reminded the Vice President that Botswana is a Republic and not a monarch.

Although he was to lose, the fact that he alone inside all of BDP has ever taken heed of the crown prince who has enjoyed the unwavering patronage of the President should be a compliment that Kedikilwe should greatly cherish.
As such, rather than revile Kedikilwe for his immensely principled stance, the BDP power mongers eager to please Ian Khama should feel indebted to the former strongman.

As in business, risk taking is as essential as it is legitimate.
Risk taking ensures the development of democracy, including by way of nourishing the BDP’s internal systems.
Sycophancy and poodling, fine tuned during Festus Mogae’s tenure and likely to reach epitome proportions under Ian Khama, should be shunned, shamed and discouraged all the time.

This is why I stand by Kedikilwe’s decision to have staked his name against the all too popular Khama.

The truth of the matter though is that the Khama/Kedikilwe relationship is not as wrenched as it used to be.
The last two years have seen Kedikilwe warm and accept Ian Khama.
Substantive peace now prevails between the two men than at any moment the two sat together in cabinet. Insiders speak of how Khama has in turn been warming and complimenting Kedikilwe.

Insiders also point out what a resource PHK’s experience and negotiating skills have become to the government, a development that has not escaped the Vice President’s eye.

Credit must be made of the fact that ambitious as he used to be, Kedikilwe has awakened to the fact that he is no longer a young man any more.
Age has forced him to give up his presidential ambitions.

The veteran politician is also resigned to the fact that by all intents and purposes Khama has beaten him to the presidency.

The best PHK can, therefore hope for, is the number two spot under the umbrella.
This by extension puts the onus on Khama (not on Kedikilwe) to pass what is increasingly becoming a test case for his capacity to forgive, forget and, more, importantly to show tolerance and magnanimity to those holding views divergent from his.

Perhaps herein we have to underscore the fact that Khama’s choice for Vice President in the first half of his ten year tenure needs not necessarily be a person who will ascend to State Presidency when Khama goes.

In comes DK Kwelagobe. Kwelagobe has vast government experience. He knows his way around the government enclave.
His knowledge of parliamentary procedure is unparalleled.
In the context of Botswana politics in general and BDP in particular it seems like there is nothing Kwelagobe cannot achieve.

Having worked for the three Presidents the country has had since 1966, Kwelagobe has held almost all key portfolios in cabinet.

But my observation is that, of late, he has been losing the passion.

While it was a good decision by President Mogae to bring back the old horse into cabinet, I think it was a terribly bad decision to make him responsible for government policy implementation.

I would have preferred him as a senior minister in the presidency, but without portfolio, running around in a black Mercedes Benz, occasionally called in to act as the president’s kite-flier, defending government policies while also irritating and teasing our increasingly irrelevant opposition.

As an action man, but inexperienced in the art of government and international geopolitics, Khama will need a strong thinker, a powerful force behind his executive decisions not just to justify them but more importantly to sugarcoat them with semblances of intellectual traces.

Here I think Kedikilwe has the lead. I have a soft spot for Kwelagobe, but I do not think he is the right man for that.
He is at ease with the masses. Like Khama, Kwelagobe is a populist. So they will, as a matter of fact, not compliment each other on that front.

But given his experience, his flexibility, his ability to preach reconciliation, his absence of ambition not to speak of his closeness to Ian Khama, I think Kwelagobe by far remains the frontrunner for the position of next Vice President; far outstripping both Magang and PHK Kedikilwe.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.