The late Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe’s auto-biography, The General, portrays him as a man who was chasing the stardust ÔÇô that star power that would forestall criticism.
For such a genius who had an illustrious career in politics, in the book Merafhe comes across as a man with a big ego and a deep seated persecution complex. For the most part the former Vice President of Botswana is either desperately courting protagonism or bitterly complaining about how he was unfairly treated.
His pet punching bag was Botswana Congress Party (BCP)’s Gilson and Dumelang Saleshando. “The two Saleshando’s in parliament, Gilson and Dumelang ÔÇô father and son respectively ÔÇô were not particularly enamoured of me. I would not go as far as to say they had an innate hatred of me but they did certainly evince a certain rancor with me that just stopped short of being spiteful”.
He further states “in a November 2011 parliamentary session, father and son were firing from all cylinders. Clearly, the son could not bear me any longer and so he “advised” that I should step down from the vice presidency.”
When he was moved from the Ministry of Presidential Affairs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he was convinced that he was being victimized for being a member of the rival Big five faction of the BDP. He writes, “President Masire’s factional preferences could have had a lot to do with this reshuffle. He may have been prevailed upon by the heavyweights in the other faction to entrust such a plum position to one of their champions. At the end of the day therefore, I was a victim not of functional deficiencies but of factional stratagems in which the president was either wittingly or unwittingly embroiled.”
When talking about a press conference he addressed jointly with the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education in May 2009, Merafhe states, “It turned out that the media resented my presence.” This was because one journalist asked why it was necessary for the Vice President to address the press conference on issues of the Ministry of Education alongside the Minister of Education. Merafhe then goes on to complain about how he was unfairly treated by both the local and international media.
Often times, Lt Gen Merafhe betrayed a childlike search for approbation. He wrote, “If I curved a lasting legacy as the BDF pioneer, that is not for me to say. Only history will tell. However, there are people who have already expressed their views on the matter. One researcher said this of Lt Gen Ian Khama and myself, “these generals served the country with distinction until their retirement and their political neutrality was not questioned during their careers.” He says about his career as Minister of Finance: “My 14-year tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs, one of the longest ministerial streaks in Botswana has been described by pundits and detractors alike as illustrious, exceptional and outstanding. One verdict was provided by Professor Sharon Siverts, the former vice chancellor of the University of Botswana, who often spoke glowingly of me. As far as she was concerned, I was the gold standard of diplomatic finesse, ‘the best foreign affairs minister in the world’ to use her words. While the elements of embroidery in such a statement cannot be entirely discounted, it did have a kernel of truth considering that she expressed the view on several occasions that did not warrant the massaging of my ego.”
In the book, Lt Gen Merafhe is always cast in a starring role: “The presidency of the Security Council changes on a monthly basis. In February 1995, it was Botswana’s turn and so I became president. On 8 February I presided over a discussion of the Angolan impasse. The manner in which I did was so striking that Botswana won acclamation from all, including the not so easily pleased permanent members.’ He says, ‘What I brought to the diplomatic table was assertiveness to issues of international relations. I addressed issues with a fervor and vigour that impressed participants in a forum and many interpreted this as a special brand of ability. I did not regard it as such myself and never remotely passed myself off as a diplomatic genius. I was simply an impassioned crusader who set out to do his utmost to help promote constructive discourse across frontiers and foster sound international relations.