Monday, September 21, 2020

Changes in the air

It has been an extraordinary state of affairs.

A decision by DCEC to investigate the country’s spy chief may have ignited a rockslide that nobody ever imagined. While we may possibly never know whether or not the DCEC had any prima facie evidence against the spy chief, what their action did was to resolve a few political questions that had remained unanswered since Ian Khama ascended the presidency.

The tectonic plates are still shifting and by the time they settle, there may be new players in town.
And for that we must rejoice.
At the centre of the whole drama is the question of competing loyalties.

Just who among his men does President Khama listen most to?

It cannot be a fate of coincidence that this week the President swiftly moved the spy agency from the Ministry of Defence and placed it directly under the Ministry of State President at a time when the spy boss is facing challenges with DCEC.

For those well versed with the intricacies of inner government operations, news of bad blood between spy boss, Isaac Kgosi, and the Minister of Defence, Ndelu Seretse (the political boss of both DCEC and DIS) have always been commonplace.

What, however, consumed everyone’s imagination was just on whose side between the two would the president ultimately put his weight.

Given the special positions occupied by the two men inside President Khama’s inner circle, it was assumed that an amicable settlement acceptable to all parties would be reached without the President having to resort to his legalistic powers to demonstrate just where his biggest loyalties rested.

Unfortunately or, should I say, fortunately for us the outsiders, the rivalry that simmered left the President with no choice but an obligation to act in a way where we all were going to notice, if only to bring back the much lacking stability and coherence at the centre of government.

With Minister Seretse and Isaac Kgosi barely on speaking terms, that settlement never came along. And the President was left with no option but to act. And when he acted his decision was as decisive as it was devastating. The President’s decisive move left some egos inevitably bleeding on its trail.

Thankfully, whatever pestering doubts we may have had, whatever the nagging questions we may have had, they now have been resolutely answered.

The question of who between Minister Seretse and Isaac Kgosi the President values more has been comprehensively answered, so to speak.

By taking away DIS and DCEC from the Ministry of Defence, President Ian Khama has effectively weakened the stature of Minister Seretse.

Paradoxically, that same decision has on the other hand not only increased Kgosi’s power, this power has also been explicitly reassured.

The implicit message communicated is that other ministers will have to be much more circumspect in their future interactions with Isaac Kgosi.

If he could defeat the blue-eyed Ndelu Seretse, who then has a chance against the spy boss?
In another vein, the fact that Minister Seretse’s portfolio is no longer what it was a week ago could also spell a game changer for the ongoing succession debate inside the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. It is worth emphasising that by moving DIS and DCEC to the Ministry of State President, what Khama has done has been to effectively transfer Seretse’s power, prestige and influence elsewhere. Rightly Seretse feels vulnerable, slighted and somewhat, rebuffed. My sympathies are with him.

This is not what he would have expected, certainly not coming from a President who also happens to be his hero and first cousin.

Even when he fought a most difficult battle of his political life as he appeared in court charged with corruption, people continued to wholeheartedly believe that Ndelu Seretse was still the kingpin inside Khama’s inner circle.

When he was reappointed to cabinet hardly a day after he was cleared of corruption charges, many people’s suspicions seemed sort of vindicated that he was always preordained for bigger things; “we told you so,” everybody sighed.

But this week’s decision by President Khama to remove key agencies from Seretse’s ministry on the backdrop of a tussle with the spy chief has got all of us re-evaluating our previous assessments.
It has not escaped our attention that President Khama has steadfastly resisted attempts to get Kgosi suspended on account of DCEC investigations.

From previous experiences Khama has insisted on evidence on which to base his actions.
Pointedly it also has been hinted that Khama is now worried that Kgosi, now so clearly his favourite man, has become a target of nefarious commercial ambitions by some members of the inner circle.

This leaves us with the question “what now for the DCEC?”

Whatever the evidence they may have had against him, it’s clear that the moment they chose to investigate and leak information on the spy boss, it was game over for DCEC. They had cooked their goose, so to speak. President Khama has never had a high regard for DCEC. It goes back to the day he was misled into sacking Guma Moyo on account of advice from the agency.

From then on he didn’t think much of their case against Ken Matambo, and now much less against Isaac Kgosi.

In the meantime the beneficiary of the unfolding saga is one Minister Mokgweetsi Masisi. He is a man whose star is so clearly on the rise as has been the case with him for the last three years. Under the latest set of dynamics this is the new man to watch.
I can only hope he keeps his head level.

Spectacular as it may seem, his feat is afterall the one that his late father achieved back in the 1960s when he became a senior member of Botswana’s first cabinet. Crucially for the older Masisi he remained humble and modest to the end.

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