When Ian Khama joined politics and became Festus Mogae’s Vice President in 1998, they struck a deal that saw him not acquiring a ministerial portfolio because it was said he would become the supervisor of all ministers.
Mogae and Khama agreed that the duty of the VP was overloaded so much that the VP would not be able to acquit himself well if he doubled up as a cabinet minister with portfolio. The trend continued when Khama became President. The late Mompati Merafhe didn’t have a ministerial portfolio as VP. The retired Ponatshego Kedikilwe had to relinquish his ministerial post when he became VP. The current VP, Mokgweetsi Masisi does not have a ministerial portfolio. Apart from acting as President when Khama travels overseas to attend conservation international meetings, Masisi has been heaped a lot of responsibilities by President Khama.
Actually, Masisi spends more time outside the country than President Khama does because with his apparent phobia for international summits, Khama always delegates him to attend African Union and United Nations meetings. Masisi supervises cabinet ministers. He is the leader of the house at the national assembly. He has been tasked with resuscitating our ailing education system. He is the face of the elusive poverty eradication programme. He is the chairman of the National AIDS Council, a position we are still wondering why it was wrestled away from Mogae.
But that is a topic for another day. More importantly, he is the Member of Parliament for Moshupa. And I know I have left out many other roles that are under his watch as the vice president. Now if the BDP is going to elect someone who is already overwhelmed with such workload, where on earth is he going to find time to perform BDP duties? Masisi gets paid to be a member of parliament, cabinet minister and vice president and common sense dictates those are the jobs he would want to invest much of his time on because they bring food to his table.
On the other hand, the party chairmanship, though very important, is just a voluntary and ceremonial appointment with no monetary returns, only prestige and pomp. Take this scenario; Masisi has to attend an extra-ordinary summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa and this meeting clashes with an emergency meeting of the BDP in Shakawe where the chairman’s input is very paramount. You will be playing fool-hardy to even suggest Masisi would think twice before flying out to Addis Ababa. Firstly, as a self-confessed bootlicker, Masisi will have no choice but to go and represent President Khama to the outside world. Secondly, Masisi draws large sums of money as travel expenditure or per-dium whenever he travels outside the country. It is therefore only logical that he would shun a BDP meeting at Shakawe and honor an invitation in Addis Ababa. These are some of the dangers of electing a Vice President to the position of party chairman.
You need someone who will always be available to execute party duties without clashing with parliamentary or government assignments. Luckily for the BDP, such people are in the race. The other important factor that the BDP members must look at when they get to Mmadinare is, what new ideas do they expect Masisi to breathe into the Executive if he is to be made part and parcel of both the party and the government executive? My thinking is, by having someone outside Cabinet to head the party, the BDP members will benefit in that, firstly, this person will give undivided attention to the party and whatever advice he or she will bring to the Executive will be informed by feedback from the BDP members unlike someone like Masisi whose loyalty might get torn between the party and the Executive, which he is part of.
It is common knowledge that even as the Executive is made up of BDP leaders, the decisions they make are not always necessarily a reflection of the opinions of party members. By bringing in someone outside Cabinet, the BDP will have created a perfect conduit between government and the party. After 50 years of existence, it is about time the BDP emulated the likes of ANC where the party is at liberty to adopt positions and make pronouncements on issues, independent from the Cabinet. In fact, in South Africa we have seen instances where the party can adopt a different view from that of Cabinet despite the two bodies being led by members of the same party. BDP must do away with this tendency of always having to go with the decisions that come from Cabinet with no input from party members on the ground. This can only happen when the party is led by someone who is not part of Cabinet. BDP members are spoilt for choice and I do not see why they should act helpless and bring in Masisi whose campaign strategy seems only premised on the fact he is the vice president.
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