President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Vice Presidential plans face a major threat with his Vice President Slumber Tsogwane facing competition in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s upcoming primary elections.
While unconfirmed reports had earlier suggested that he had no plans to contest the 2019 General Elections, fueling speculation of a transitional Vice President, Tsogwane’s decision to contest Bulela Ditswe indicate the VP may be a crucial component of President Masisi’s long term plans beyond 2019.
Tsogwane, currently the longest serving Member of Parliament, is facing competition from Tlale Setumo and Emmanuel Kgaboetsile. Should the VP fail to come out tops, it is likely to throw Masisi’s plans into a spin.
While some analysts are of the view that the party should have called for a compromise and saved themselves and the VP possible embarrassment should he lose, BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi insists democracy should take its course. “We strongly believe in our democratic principles as a party,” Balopi says. “It is upon our constituents to look at a prevailing situation and decide whether a compromise would be a preferred option for the party or not. As leadership we can never impose such decisions on our membership.”
President Masisi may possibly find himself facing the same predicament as that of his immediate predecessor, Lieutenant General Ian Khama.
Ironically, it was the same predicament that worked in Masisi’s favor, leaving him the only preferred choice for Khama’s VP at the time.
Khama’s succession plans had initially suffered a blow when his then possible candidate for VP Ramadeluka Seretse, then Minister of Defense, fell out with the President’s blue eyed boy, then Director of the Directorate of Intelligence Security Services (DISS) Isaac Kgosi. Seretse would later suffer a humiliating defeat to the now incumbent Serowe North MP Kgotla Autlwetse in the BDP primary elections leading up to the 2014 General Elections.
With Seretse out of the picture Khama pinned his hopes on his next choice, the then Goodhope-Mabule MP Kitso Mokaila. As fate would have it Mokaila also suffered a devastating loss to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) candidate James Mathokgwane in the 2014 General Elections.
Khama’s ambitions were however given a lifeline when Mathokgwane resigned from Parliament to join the newly established Selebi Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU). Khama pinned his hopes on former Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP), Eric Molale. Again, things did not go according to plan as Molale lost the Goodhope-Mabule Parliamentary by-election to another UDC candidate and Barolong Paramount Chief Kgosi Lotlaamoreng. Khama was now left with the almost impossible choice of handing down the baton to his younger brother Tshekedi Khama, replacing Masisi. It was a risk he was not prepared to take. He was stuck with Masisi. And now, only four months into his Presidency, Masisi has all but thrown loyalty out the window, adopting a tough stance against his predecessor.
But Masisi could also face the same predicament as Khama. And the possible Vice Presidential dilemma may just be the beginning of Masisi’s headache. He is also likely to lose some of his most senior cabinet ministers in the upcoming primaries. With Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Botlogile Tshireletso, and Unity Dow on their way out Masisi’s pool of Ministerial choices cannot get any shallower. Most of his senior ministers are facing an uphill battle in the coming Bulela Ditswe. All his Ministers standing for re-election including Shaw Kgathi, Tshenolo Mabeo, Nonofho Molefhi , Vincent Seretse, Dorcus Makgato ,Alfred Madigele, Kefentse Mzwinila , Patrick Ralotsia , etc. are facing tough competition. Secretary General Balopi says however that filling up ministerial positions has never been a challenge for the BDP. “We have never failed to appoint credible candidates for ministerial positions.”