It is now public: The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi is one of the candidates vying to replace Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as African Union Commission Chairman.
If she scoops this position, it would indeed be a big feat, not just her but for Botswana.
Venson-Moitoi’s abilities and experience are well known.
In our view she is easily the finest administrator in today’s cabinet which is largely made up of intellectual dwarfs.
But experience and qualification alone are never enough to win these important international diplomatic positions.
Networking and diplomatic trade-offs are just some of the more important requisite attributes to make it.
This is because at that level all the candidates are people of high quality, and experience.
We refuse to make a suggestion that Venson-Moitoi has been set up for failure.
But it is important to highlight the fact that while she is a consensus candidate for the Southern African region, she is going to face a stiff competition from other regions.
Also likely to count against her is the fact that the outgoing Chairman is from this region, and it is natural that other regions of the continent might ÔÇô with some measure of righteousness feel entitled that it is now their turn for a bite at the cherry.
We wish Venson-Moitoi well in her bid, but our memories are still fresh with what happened to attorney general Dr Athaliah Molokomme, another of Botswana luminaries who had wanted to join the executive of the International Criminal Court, but fell short of the required number of votes.
Our memories are even more vivid with yet another one of this country’s most capable women, Mmasekgowa Masire-Mwamba who had tried her luck at becoming the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations.
She too could not make the mark, not because of her personal shortcomings, but because not enough spade work was done at Botswana Government level to coordinate and manage her campaign.
As we state above, the Chairman of the African Union Commission is a very powerful position, not just in Africa but globally.
That position is best described as the continent’s number one civil servant.
For her to get the position, Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign effort was marshaled by the government of her native South Africa, chiefly by that country’s Head of State, Jacob Zuma, who incidentally used to her husband.
During the campaign, Zuma literally crisscrossed Africa lobbying African Governments to rally behind a candidate from his country.
And as we know, South Africa is a big superpower in Africa and the country’s presence inside the African Union is much stronger than Botswana’s.
Yet President Zuma did not leave anything to chance.
He tirelessly traversed many capitals of the continent to drum up their support.
The reason why Dr Molokomme and Masire-Mwamba lost in their bids is because Botswana Government was lackluster in its support for these women.
It is not the first time that we criticized Botswana Government for not doing enough to lobby for such candidates.
Telephone diplomacy has a potential to cut a deal. But on such matters, we have argued that the use of a telephone alone cannot be enough.
It is important that figure no less than President Ian Khama is seen roving the continent spearheading the campaign.
Otherwise we have to resign ourselves to reality of always coming out being losers.
Knowing Venson-Moitoi’s capabilities, we fully endorse her candidacy.
But we are afraid that we have to warn that if there is no clear strategy on the part of Botswana Government to coordinate her campaign, then her bid is like others before her a disaster waiting to happen.