Save for Samson Moyo Guma, Shashe West’s Member of Parliament Fidelis Molao, Gaborone South MP Kagiso Molatlhegi and Takatowane legislator Ngaka Ngaka, almost all previous Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentarians who retained their seats in the just ended general election have been appointed ministers and assistant ministers.
The question that immediately arises is: What does the exclusion of the four from the current crop of cabinet mean? Speculation is rife among political pundits and social commentators that out of the four, Guma stands the best chance of landing the country’s vice presidential post on account of his business association with Tonota legislator and President Ian Khama’s confidante, Thapelo Olopeng.
A University of Botswana political scientist, who did not want to put his head on the block on who is likely to become the country’s vice president, believes that among all from the BDP who made it to parliament in the just ended general election, Guma stands out as the favourite for the post since most front runners for the post have already been appointed to cabinet.
“Look, all the other contenders for vice presidency in Nonofo Molefhi, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Tshekedi Khama, Dorcas Makgato-Malesu, Mokgweetsi Masisi and Kitso Mokaila have already been appointed ministers. I think Khama deliberately appointed them ministers and left the vice-presidency vacant to allow the conclusion of the ongoing legal wrangle in which Attorney General Dr Athaliah Molokomme is challenging the constitutionality of the endorsement of the vice-president via secret ballot instead of a show by hand,” said the political analyst.
Molefhi is Minster of Infrastructure, Science and Technology while Dr Venson Moitoi is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and international Cooperation. Malesu is Minister of Health while Khama’s younger brother Tshekedi retained his position at the Ministry of Wildlife, Environment and Tourism. Mokaila also retained his position at the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources while Masisi got the Education and Skills Development portfolio at which he had been acting.
The pool from which the president can choose a vice is limited. Most of those from the BDP who won in the general elections are new in parliament and have a lot to learn before they can earn appointment to positions of big responsibility. This should not be interpreted to mean they are not cabinet material. It is only that it is wise to give them enough time to learn the ropes before such appointments because literally ministries are run by technocrats (permanent secretaries) while the buck stops with the ministers.
“By appointing his cabinet excluding the vice, Khama is testing the waters and the mood among his elected MPs. He should by now have begun lobbying the BDP legislators to support his choice of vice-president. Khama does not want to suffer the embarrassment of choosing somebody who stands to be rejected by his own BDP parliamentarians in cahoots with opposition legislators as provided for in the constitution. He acted prudently by allocating potential contenders to the post of vice-presidency various ministerial portfolios. Engrossed with their work at their own ministries, it becomes easy for president Khama to coerce them including other BDP MPs into endorsing his choice of VP.
“Having won 37 seats, the BDP does not easily enjoy the previous majority in parliament because the opposition has this time garnered 20 seats. The decline in the number of BDP legislators has put the president in a precarious situation never seen before. Unlike former President Festus Mogae who threatened to dissolve parliament if his choice of vice-president was not endorsed, Khama does not enjoy that luxury. This is why he is forced to consult and engage the BDP legislators before presenting his choice of vice-president to parliament. He needs prior assurance from the MPs that they will not publicly embarrass him by rejecting his nominee,” said the analyst.
The analyst contends that Guma stands the best chance of being elected vice-president because among the available BDP legislators who retained their seats and currently without a ministerial post, Guma is the longest serving.
“Molao is relatively new in parliament as well as Ngaka. Further, Ngaka is still fighting a criminal case in which he is charged with assault on his wife. Guma has been assistant minister before although he did not last long on the post on account of unsubstantiated corruption allegations. To his credit, he was never charged with any criminal offence and the president publicly apologized for dropping him because of the allegations.”
The analyst said Guma’s disadvantage of ascending to the post of vice president could be his trustworthiness as he was part of the team that founded the splinter Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) before retracing his steps back to the BDP.
“On face value, it looks like Guma has managed to endear himself to the president. This is why the president ensured that he officiated at Tati Siding infrastructure development projects while Guma was still an independent MP. It appears that they (Khama and Guma) long smoked the peace pipe.
The president’s gesture earned him his return to the BDP fold. When Guma campaigned for the party’s chairmanship, he had Khama’s support. I think Khama has long forgiven him and would not mind to have him as his vice. That is why Guma was one of the few on the top list of democrats who were launched by the president in the run up to the general election. It shows that he has the president’ ear and trust which a lot of other democrats can only year for,” said the analyst.
Another social commentator believes that Guma has what it takes to be vice-president because he can easily finance the BDP election campaigns in the future if he is in a comfortable position like VP.
“His financial muscle gives him an edge that most democrats do not have. Khama would be happy to be succeeded by a vice-president who has the financial power to finance the party until government agrees to state political funding especially as the party’s fortunes are on terribly decline.”
Another political commentator added that most of the parliamentarians who won the BDP primaries supported Guma at the Maun elective congress when he contested the party’s chairmanship.
“I think the man is on a good stead to get the necessary support if his name is proposed. As a strategist, Guma should already be working around the clock lobbying for support in the event he becomes the president’s nominee. I think this is why he is so quiet. He does not want to rock the boat. ?Guma is a very ambitious politician and would definitely not mind to deputize Khama.?”He is in good books with Khama and he can be made to hold the fort while the party is still looking for Khama’s potential successor. Although Khama is unpredictable, Guma’s nomination would not come as a surprise to many.
He proved his loyalty upon return to the party that is why won the chairmanship in Maun,” said a ‘democrat’ who did not want to be named.?He added that if Guma is elected vice-president, that would level the north-south divide in the ruling party.?”The northerners are feeling sidelined and would be extremely happy to have one of their own as vice-president. They will easily endorse him. He may hold the fort for either Tshekedi Khama or Thapelo Olopeng who have been assigned ministerial duties currently”.