Thursday, April 25, 2024

Key players in the poker-like drama that is the succession battle

Parks Tafa ÔÇô Love him or hate him, nobody doubts Tafa’s fighting spirit. A workaholic legal brain with a fiery temperament, Tafa has a proud streak that drives him to exhibit unabashed impatience for those he views as intellectually challenged. He inspires amazing loyalty among his close knit circle of friends, almost all of whom with the notable exception of Rizwan Desai, his colleague and fellow Senior Partner at Collins and Newman & CO, are non-lawyers.

An explosive mix of ambition, wit and aggression, he is a survivor who with no official title attached to his name has in various capacities been able to serve at least three State Presidents: Sir Ketumile Masire, Festus Mogae and now Ian Khama.

It is worth noting that when Khama became President, he and Tafa were not the best of friends ÔÇô to put it charitably.

But it was on account of Tafa’s patience, shrewdness and intellect that khama was in the end attracted to him for counsel before making some of the most difficult and indeed most controversial decisions.

A lawyer for many in the power corridors, including President Khama and his family, Tafa’s position has allowed him firsthand knowledge about each and everyone who matters in the country ÔÇô from politics to business. As a journalist colleague so aptly summed it up this week, “Tafa’s unparalleled power comes from the fact that he knows some dirt about everybody who has any power.”

His official position in the drama is that he is a lawyer for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.
Unofficially he represents the interests of President Ian Khama and Tshekedi Khama.

Dick Bayford ÔÇô A left leaning legal eagle, he is a go-to liberalist lawyer for those who have a beef to chew with the stat, power and its establishment.

Bayford  is an antithesis of all that Tafa represents; where Tafa is boisterous, Bayford is modest, soft-spoken and unassuming. Where Tafa can be self-aggrandising , Bayford is humble and self effacing. Where Tafa is very much a paid up member of the elite, Bayford is anti-establishment and very much  at ease among the lower classes.

While his colleagues hold him in very high esteem, Bayford remains grounded and is one of the very few senior attorneys in the country who has eschewed a now common appetite for the bench.
A close friend, mentor and advisor to Leader of Opposition, Duma Boko, he is currently the lead counsel for a clutch of lawyers representing the opposition parties that make the Umbrella for Democratic Change and the Botswana Congress Party.

Incidentally, Bayford is among a very small number of attorneys who Tafa holds in absolute respect and admiration that border on reverence and awe.
Isaac Kgosi ÔÇô As head of the all too powerful Directorate of Intelligence Services, Kgosi is by definition an interested party in the ongoing succession rumpus currently paralysing the country.

While President Khama is known to prefer his younger brother, Tshekedi to be his successor, it is an open secret within the power circles that relations between Tshekedi and Kgosi have at best been tumultuous.  Together with his erstwhile nemesis, Samson Moyo Guma, information so far suggests that Kgosi is putting his weight behind cabinet minister Nonofo Molefhi.
It is a marriage of convenience.

Tshekedi is known to have been a key figure within a very small number of individuals to break ranks and tell President Khama to let Kgosi face the music.

That was after the corruption busting agency, DCEC investigated the spy chief for a galaxy of crimes including corruption.

If Tshekedi becomes Vice President, as it looks increasingly ever more likely, Kgosi will face a precarious future ÔÇô including an uncomfortable knowledge that the cushion of support he has hitherto enjoyed from Ian Khama cannot be guaranteed under a future President Tshekedi Khama.

Ian Khama ÔÇô At least from a media perspective, President Khama’s presidency has by all account been riveting and not without a shortage of drama, surprise and zealotry.

While he has so far been served by two deputies ÔÇô both of them chosen with breathtaking ease, he has for the last three weeks been able to choose a successor.
Over the last three Khama has been so much unlike himself.

This has brought in the charge of a lame duck president who is unwilling to accept his waning power.

And that is not all.

During his presidency, Khama actively allowed the flourishing of cronyism epitomised by the rise in the power of his intelligence chief who in every sense has now become an embodiment of the famed Frankenstein monster that the President is now unable to control. 

Whatever the eventual outcome of the standoff over who becomes Vice president, a failure to decide on Vice President will go down into history as a  glaring example of indecision and helplessness  from which Khama is unlikely to ever recover.

Tshekedi Khama ÔÇôTshekedi joined politics come across as reluctant.

But since becoming a minister he has asserted and exerted his authority, becoming a power base on his own.

He surprised everyone when before the ruling party primary elections he threatened to take the BDP to court if his concerns which included meddling by some of the party central committee members were not addressed. Tshekedi is outspoken and is known to have been pushing his older brother to root out corruption from government including among some of the ruling inner circle.

Last week President Khama made it known to the caucus that he intends to bring Tshekedi’s name as Vice President and possible successor.

This has not sat down well with a section of the party.

Samson Moyo Guma ÔÇô a risk taker of note, Moyo Guma┬á has an eye for an opportunity.
A self made businessman with a humble background, he made his names cutting business deals, a practice that he has carried into politics albeit with mixed success.

Before he unceremoniously resigned from the BDP Chairmanship, Moyo Guma had assembled a national platform of personal loyalists who he is now using as part of his horse trading agenda.
While he has tried his best to stay out of the public fray, information is beginning to surface that he is the mastermind behind the creation of a power base alternative to President Khama’s.

Moyo Guma is believed to be sponsoring efforts to get Nonofo Molefi┬á to join the succession race, against President Khama’s preferred choice, Tshekedi Seretse Khama.

Nonofo Molefi – By no designs of his own, Molefhi finds himself caught up in a succession battle that if he had a choice he would easily be a disinterested spectator than an active player.
He is a candidate of powerful lobby that somehow feels they can deploy a suite of tactics to arm twist the president.

While his sponsors say Molefhi’s strength is that it is morally abhorrent for President for Khama to choose a brother as successor, what is perhaps little known to many is that Molefhi is also a close blood relation of the Khamas.
To be fair to him, Molefhi has been a loyal Khamarite ÔÇô even as he was at one point wrongly and unfairly accused of trying to embarrass the President.
This followed an incident at a BDP Congress in Mahalapye where he had stood up to make a clarification which, lost in translation was interpreted as taking a swipe at the President
Margaret Nasha ÔÇô After five years as Speaker of the National Assembly she has established herself as an embodiment of that which Ian Khama stands for; Separation of Powers and the independence of Parliament from the executive.

This has earned her the wrath of Khama and she has in every sense become his number one nemesis.

Never a person to keep her views to herself, Nasha has been the thorn on the side of the executive.
She is unrepentant in her assertion that if she is re-elected Speaker, she will once again push the boundaries by increasing the independence of Parliament.

In her memoir she has come out strongly to accuse Khama of what amounts to gossip mongering.
Never the one to let bygones be bygones, Khama has made it clear that she will do everything to undermine Nasha’s re-election chances.


Read this week's paper