In street lingo, ‘skelem’ refers to a ‘hard-headed’ person, a difficult person of some sorts. Let me state from the onset, I respect the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Phandu Tombola Chaha Skelemani. Even though his ‘wardrobe’ has never impressed me, I, however, envy his brains. I hold him in high regard. Here is a man who carved out an illustrious career as a lawyer, starting as a State Counsel in 1973, Senior State Counsel in 1975, Principal State Counsel in 1978, Deputy Attorney-General in 1980 and subsequently Attorney-General in 1992, a position he held for 11 blooming years before joining politics in 2003.Having served the legal fraternity for 30 years, surely Skelemani counts among Botswana’s legal hawks. To some he comes across as stubborn and arrogant. To me he is a no nonsense chap. He is one man who follows his conscience and lives by his convictions. To jog your mind a bit, this is the guy who, while he was Attorney-General, threatened to sue his boss, Festus Mogae, then president. That is just how resolute Skelemani can be.
Skelemani is my hero and as such I am under an obligation to prod him into line when I realize the respect he has earned over the years faces obliteration. I will not watch in despair as Skelemani moulds himself into what Vice President Merafhe (kante where is he?) would call a ‘village idiot’. It pains me to note the once brainy Skelemani is slowly turning into a brainwashed government propagandist who doesn’t think outside the box. Skelemani has become famous for his public outbursts and unrefined statements when addressing other leaders. He has become so unreasonable it hurts. As minister of foreign affairs, you would want to believe Skelemani is the country’s chief diplomat but, hell no. He is just our version of Julius Malema. He doesn’t know that as a leader, he has to choose his words when he talks about the affairs of other countries. How he addresses leaders of other countries and fellow parliamentarians should be different from how he addresses his herdsman in Mapoka village. Don’t get me twisted here; I admire Skelemani’s boldness and assertiveness. However, I’m of the feeling he can still tell other leaders to go to hell without necessarily showing them the way to hell. I know Skelemani derives his ‘krag’ from his principal, President Ian Khama, who is always quick to find fault with other people before judging himself: (remember he said Julius Malema is undisciplined, Gaddafi is a dictator, MP’s are vultures and women are troublesome).I understand Skelemani is Khama’s disciple but he should guard against behaving like a henpecked husband. I had expected Skelemani to be the one to give Khama a lot of advice on governance. Afterall Skelemani, by virtue of his previous position as Attorney-General, sat in Cabinet meetings and provided advice long before he dreamt of becoming a cabinet minister. Law in itself is common sense and I expect a lot of common sense from Skelemani.
It’s shameful to learn that a person of Skelemani’s stature can be so myopic as to not see the importance of the office of the Leader of Opposition in Parliament. Skelemani denied Leader of Opposition, Botsalo Ntuane, the opportunity to meet Mauritian Prime Minister Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam who was on a State visit recently in Gaborone. According to Skelemani there would have been no value addition in Ntuane’s meeting with the Prime Minister. The minister says any official visit to Botswana by a dignitary such as the Prime Minister is primarily a government to government matter meant to cement relations. I say crap! That reasoning is utter nonsense. I cannot believe Skelemani feels opposition parties have no role to play in government. Over the years, it has been customary for the Leader of Opposition to pay a courtesy call on visiting Heads of States and as such I cannot comprehend the sudden halt. The Leader of Opposition represents a constituency of Batswana who do not vote the BDP but remain under the BDP rule and as such their representation has to be recognized by government. Botswana has always been known as a country where the ruling party and opposition parties are merely opponents and not enemies. Skelemani and Khama now seem all determined to undermine the status quo. It’s beyond shocking to hear that ever since he took over as Leader of Opposition, Ntuane has never been invited to meet with President Khama. There seems to be a lot of animosity between the two leaders and the situation is very unfortunate. We know the two leaders had their differences at the BDP but one would have expected Khama to have, by now allowed bygones be bygones, at least for the sake of the nation. If Khama and Skelemani think by snubbing Ntuane they are punishing and frustrating him, the truth is they are venting out their anger on citizens whose interests Ntuane serves. Khama has to understand that he is president even to those in opposition. It’s a shame that Ntuane has to write letters seeking permission to meet President Khama and visiting dignitaries. In functioning democracies, such meetings are a given.
I find it rather absurd that Skelemani can say since the Prime Minister’s visit was official, Ntuane had no business meeting with him. When America’s First Lady came here, Ntuane was denied the opportunity to ‘greet’ her and the explanation was Mrs Obama’s visit was private. Now when is Ntuane going to be allowed the chance to interact with visiting dignitaries if he is not allowed to meet those who come here on official as well as on private visits? Will Skelemani be happy if Presidents of other countries arrange separate visits to come here solely to meet the leader of opposition? Mauritian Prime Minister was here on government to government business and I wonder if, for him to meet Ntuane, he has to make a government to opposition visit. Should that happen, the same Skelemani will come out with guns blazing and accuse the Prime Minister of ‘sleeping’ with opposition parties .What is it that Skelemani and his government are trying to hide from visiting dignitaries? Are they up to no good they fear Ntuane might let it out to outside world?
I pity the future leaders of the BDP. Skelemani is annihilating the Leader of Opposition now and seems to think the BDP will never be in opposition. Yes, the BDP might not be in opposition in Skelemani’s life time but when it eventually does, how are we going to criticize the new government if they decide to do unto the BDP what the BDP is doing unto them right now. BDP’s future leaders must not fold their arms and watch as Skelemani ‘messes’ the chair that they are likely to occupy in future. Skelemani will be ‘chilling’ and enjoying his retirement in Mapoka as they pay a price for his unbecoming behavior here in Gaborone.