Friday, September 30, 2022

Khama’s disdain of Lesego Motsumi will undermine his credibility!

It was clear the moment government spokespersons started steering the press towards her direction that Lesego Motsumi was going to be the biggest victim of a cabinet reshuffle that everybody in the presidency had started talking about late last year. Her execution, initially set for mid-December, was postponed because her pride and capacity for self assertion enabled her to stand up to all presidential coercion, at least for a while.

She was told to go in December, but she resisted.

During the interim, civil servants, led by Government chief spokesperson Jeff Ramsay continued to lubricate her selfÔÇôimportance principally by denying any knowledge of her looming unceremonious departure. To her discredit she also participated in the charade.

Not only did she deny she was on her way out, she also stubbornly drove around the city in a black BMW 7 series even as she, more than anyone else, understood it for a fact that her career as minister and Member of Parliament had been cut short by the same political gods that came to her rescue after she lost the BDP primaries in 2008.

In an interview, she even hinted to us how she was planning to throw her name in the hat for her party primary elections due in 2013. It does not get any crazier than that! There is no doubt that Lesego Motsumi, one of the most ambitious politicians to ever come out of Botswana, was arm-twisted into leaving politics.

Officially, she will be taking up a diplomatic post. But the manner and speed of her departure is nothing short of enforced political banishment.

She is likely to spend whatever remains of her productive years languishing somewhere in Asia. I have never been a great fan of Motsumi, not least because of her glaring failures when she was a minister of health after taking over from the exceedingly gifted Joy Phumaphi.

Her failures were not only administrative. Her political skills, as she has demonstrated late last year during BDF tenders expos├®, are also poorly developed. Under pressure from opposition to say just how the Khama brothers got wind of the military contracts when they had not been advertised, Motsumi buckled and said she also did not know.

In political terms this was tantamount to saying, like all of us she suspected insider trading. No one gets away with saying such things about the Khama family.

Since then, sources at the Office of the President have been briefing that Motsumi was not up to the job. The same sources have literally nudged the President to get rid of her even before Khama had made up his mind, emphasizing how unwise it was to entrust his very legitimacy into the hands of such a fragile minister.

That Motsumi had all along been a loyal subordinate had become immaterial.
As part of exposing the boss’s back she had to go.

I am told a week after the BDF gaffe, Ian Khama gently suggested to Motsumi that she might benefit from a change of scenery ÔÇô India or Japan – a suggestion which Motsumi resisted in very spirited tones.

For that I salute her.

Although she has ultimately given in, I’m not aware of any one minister who has ever given Khama a “No” for an answer. But the altogether unfair treatment she has suffered leaves me cold.

Her first being saddled with the onerous responsibility of running two very demanding ministries, then having the Vice President award her embarrassingly low marks for poor performance and then having her lowly placed scorecard leaked to the media for public parading before being sacked by the President are to me appallingly crude, hypocritical, insincere, dishonest and, above all else, insensitive. The fact of the matter is that Motsumi has become a sacrificial lamb.
She is a victim of Khama’s personal weaknesses.

In turn, Khama is himself a victim of the ineptitude with which he managed internal dissent, a failure on his part which led to a BDP’s first split in close to fifty years. Politically, Khama is no longer as strong as he was before the split. I worry a lot that he may never fully recover to his pre-split full strength. The honeymoon is gone and events have started to discount him as a political genius we were made to believe he was.

That the BDP split has made an imperial mess of things is no longer in doubt!

The President wants to reshuffle his cabinet but however hard he looks around there is nobody from who to choose. He would want to sack his Vice President, but for now that is out of the question. It is calculated that although his health is failing him Mompati Merafhe still has the potential to stir up trouble.

Khama worries about a probable backlash, not to mention a possible turf fight that may ensue. The end result is that a real and meaningful cabinet reshuffle is functionally impossible under such circumstances. With eight more years to go as a two term president, there is already a whiff of a lame duck President about Ian Khama. This profound weakness at the centre of power is the primary cause of the ongoing confusion. I wish Lesego well and hope that somehow she will in future find her way back to her first love ÔÇô politics, by which time I hope she would have learnt the follies of not staying true to one’s convictions.


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