Long before he leaves the scene, a succession battle is already playing itself out among the likeliest contenders to replace President Ian Khama as leader of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party and possibly State President of the republic.
Among the key contenders are Members of Parliament Ndelu Seretse and Kentse Rammidi. The name of former Minister and BDP Secretary General Jacob Nkate also keeps cropping up.
Undercurrents indicate that if he had his way, President Khama would opt for Seretse, a close and loyal cousin who has stood by the President through thick and thin.
But there is one glaring glitch; unlike Khama, Seretse does not a very strong personal base inside the BDP and if put to a contest may easily lose against such names like Nkate and Rammidi.
A way has to be found to protect Seretse against possible predators.
There is yet another small distraction; Seretse is currently fighting for his freedom after being charged with one count of corruption: For him at least there are two roads. One leads to jail and the other to the State House. From the look of things, this one hurdle is not so much a cause of concern to the plotters.
Of the three potential contenders, Nkate is already far ahead in terms of personalized popular support inside the BDP, a result of many years weaved when he was effectively a co-leader of a powerful faction that he ran alongside Vice President Mompati Merafhe.
On the other hand Rammidi has of late also been actively entrenching his support base.
In the last few years Rammidi has overseen no less than five BDP by-election projects and he has forcefully and shrewdly used the time and resources allocated to these election efforts to also bolster a more personalized national network of supporters within the BDP, clearly as part of preparations for the big encounters ahead.
Rammidi has also made known his intention to become the BDP Secretary General, a powerful position that if he gets would put him in a more strategic position to directly become the centerpiece of BDP’s nationwide revival movement. If properly harnessed, personal spinoffs are almost a guarantee.
To demonstrate just how big the stakes are, a fortnight ago Rammidi resigned his position as Assistant Minister of Local Government so that he could direct all his energies towards becoming BDP Secretary General.
But his dream to become Secretary General is nowhere guaranteed.
Rammidi still has to contend with a number of hurdles.
An outsider through and through, he is not counted among the current President’s favorites.
First he has to by-pass a strong lobby – personally driven and passionately enforced by President Ian Khama, ostensibly to avoid an all out contest at the BDP Congress due in July but also to favour a certain group of individuals over others.
To achieve his project, the President has come up with what he calls a “compromise” ÔÇô a subtle model through which people submit their names to party Chairman Daniel Kwelagobe for ultimate assessment and endorsement by the leadership. This system does not favour Rammidi’s candidacy.
Although so far things seem to be falling in place in as far as the Khama Plan is concerned, there are still worries of just what to do with Nkate.
Currently a Chief Executive of the government’s export agency, BEDIA, Nkate has steadfastly refused all attempts to commit himself that his days in politics are over.
“Never say never,” is the boilerplate response Nkate has consistently chosen to adopt in all his dealings with both the media and BDP activists who are keen to ascertain his long term plans.
Just to make sure that his stay out of politics is guaranteed, cabinet, to be precise the President with the assistance of Permanent Secretary to the President, Eric Molale recently devised yet another plan that literally removed competition against Nkate and guaranteed his stay out of politics ÔÇô at least for now.
Up until he was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Innovation Hub, Alan Boshwaen currently the head of Botswana International Financial Services Centre was the most potent threat that could easily have thrown the spanner into the works of the Khama Plan.
Totally apolitical, Boswaen was a frontrunner in a contest that pitted himself against Nkate.
Only one of them was going to emerge head of the new company that is going to be a product of their merged parastatals. Nkate’s early return to politics almost happened.
The shunting of Boswaen to become Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Innovation Hub ÔÇô a position that was never advertised and for which Boswaen never applied has in the meantime virtually left Nkate unopposed as to be ensconced in the position of Chief Executive in the new organization merging IFSC and BEDIA.
But there are still fears, not altogether unfounded that Nkate’s real interests lie elsewhere ÔÇô in politics, and that having been a senior minister for so long, it’s possible that he now has his eyes set on the bigger prizes ÔÇô President or at the very least, Vice President of the republic.
In the meantime the contest for succession goes full throttle, at least behind the scenes.