Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has announced to his inner circle that he is now in the race for the position of National Chairman of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. Masisi joins the fray after seemingly extracting a concession from Tshekedi Khama who was also viewed as a portent threat against Masisi’s ambitions. Tshekedi had wanted to contest for the position of Chairman. Tshekedi Khama, who is cabinet minister responsible for wildlife, environment and tourism is also the younger brother to president Khama.
Insiders say Tshekedi will now throw his support behind Masisi. It is not yet clear what trade-off was made to placate Tshekedi and more importantly convince him to climb down. Potentially that trade-off would include a promise to appoint Tshekedi as his Vice President in case Masisi ascends in 2018 when Ian Khama retires. For the position of BDP National Chairman, Masisi will contest against Tebelelo Seretse, Ndelu Seretse, Seteng Motalaote and Dithapelo Tshotego. Masisi was reported to have been acutely hurt when Tshekedi’s ambitions for the Chairmanship hatched.
Suspicion was that Tshekedi was probably standing at the blessing of his elder brother, which if true would have put into doubt Masisi’s designs to ultimately succeed Khama as president of the ruling party and country. “He [Masisi] has announced that he is standing. In fact he says his campaign team is already on the ground,” said a BDP person who attended a meeting at which Masisi announced his candidacy. As it turns out, one of Masisi’s early and foremost supporters is Samson Moyo Guma, a former Chairman of BDP himself. Ever a political chess player, Moyo Guma was said to be pained by an earlier announcement that Tshekedi was standing which if it had materialised would have put paid, Masisi’s ambitions.
“It is true that I support Masisi for the position of BDP chairman. He is the Vice President and I am one of the people who endorsed him only six months ago. Under the Constitution of Botswana he will be the president of this country. Unless there something that says he is not suitable to become Chairman I think as a Member of Parliament I have a responsibility to rally behind him,” said Moyo Guma. Moyo Guma said he did not see anything risky with Masisi putting his name as a contender in a crowded field the outcome of which is becoming increasingly hard to predict. He also ruled out that a protracted contest is likely to be damaging to the party.
“Let BDP members choose. I will definitely support Masisi, but of course without disparaging other candidates,” said Moyo Guma. Moyo Guma, who is also likely to be Masisi’s chief financier said it was good that Masisi, given that he is destined to assume a higher role of state president arrives there through a more difficult route so that his true credentials are put to the test. “A true leader is the one who shows leadership during difficult times. But in the end it is democracy at play. If later on other people challenge him for the position of president that also will be good. He has to get through hard work,” he said.