The President of the Botswana Patriotic Front, Reverend Biggie Butale, has denied ever wagging a finger at then Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi during a heated cabinet meeting.
Speaking at the Botswana Democratic Party’s National Council during the President’s Day holidays, Masisi invoked Butale’s name to illustrate the disrespect that he claims he was subjected to by ministers in President Ian Khama’s cabinet.
“Assistant Minister Butale wagged a finger at me and said that if I become president, he is going to team up with President Khama and decampaign me. That’s exactly what happened,” Masisi said.
Contacted by Sunday Standard, Butale said that the president’s allegation is untrue.
“I never pointed a finger at him and other people who were present at that meeting can vouch for me,” says Butale who was Assistant Ministerof Investment, Trade and Industry at the timeand had earlier served a stint at the Ministry of Health and Wellness in the same capacity. “The whole cabinet was there.”
As Butale recalls, the meeting in question happened in 2018. While acknowledging that it was “tense”, he hastens to add that it was nonetheless “calm, orderly and there was no exchange of bitter words.”
The next point he makes is a technical one: that he sat on the same side with Masisi around the oval boardroom table used in the cabinet room at the Office of the President. A cabinet member occupies the same seat for the entire duration of their service and he says that he sat four chairs away from Masisi. He paints this vivid mental picture to make the argument that the finger-wagging that the president alleged would have been suited to a seating arrangement in which they faced each other across the table and not one in which they were on the same side.
“Besides, I don’t think I ever point finger at people,” says Butale who left the ruling BDP in 2019 to become the founding president of the Botswana Patriotic Front which Khama founded and is patron of.
A year after the latter development, Masisi ascended the presidency and demoted Butale, who was Tati West MP, to the backbench. Asked what sort of relationship he had with Masisi at a personal level, Butale makes an even more interesting revelation.
“To tell you the truth, we were good friends. We had meals together, I would visit him at State House II with my wife and his security officers knew me,” he says, referring by “State House II” to the official residence of the Vice President.
Effort to get Butale to explain his use of the past tense (“we were good friends”) failed because when we contacted him, he said that he was still mulling the idea of giving a “comprehensive response” to what Masisi alleged about him at the National Council. He explained that such response, should it happen, would explain why they fell out.
In his address to the National Council, Masisi named Tshekedi Khama, Khama’s younger brother who was then Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism as another minister who wagged a finger at him. In the process of such wagging, Tshekedi is supposed to have told Masisi that he shouldn’t take credit for internal roads in Serowe because they had been constructed on account of lobbying by former Serowe North MP, Ndelu Seretse.
Masisi further alleged that this finger-wagging happened right in front of then President Khama who typically never raised his voice to what was essentially insubordination towards a vice president.
“I was at peace with it because I knew what was going on,” Masisi said.