GABORONE: If Odirile Merafhe, the son of Vice President and ousted Botswana Democratic Party Central Committee member Lt. General Mompati Merafhe, thought he was in control on the evening he directed the proceedings at the University of Botswana Foundation dinner, he only humiliated himself and the faction of the ruling party his father jointly leads with Minister Jacob Nkate.
The young Merafhe, when introducing the keynote speaker, former President Sir Ketumile Masire, wade into deep waters by standing tall as an advisor on conflict resolution. He paid tribute to the statesmanship of Sir Ketumile in his different roles as mediator in the conflict-ravaged Africa and even showcased Masire’s memoirs as a must read for the large crowd that graced the event. But he volunteered counsel to a man who has been around and seen it all.
“Our own Rra Gaone is a great leader. I am now learning from the press that he is mediating our cousins (Basotho) problems. The problems with this continent begin with elections. My advice if I can give it, which I am going to give anyway, is that ÔÇô let the weak guys win elections and then allow the strong ones to take over control,” said Merafhe, to a thunderous applause and nonchalant laughter.
His remarks were not mistaken for what they aimed at. His father’s faction, known as the Nkate-Merafhe or A Team, was walloped hands-down in Kanye a week ago by the Barata-Phathi, led by Minister Ponatshego Kedikilwe and Party Chairman Daniel Kwelagobe, but went on to suffer embarrassment when the Party President Ian Khama appointed 77 members in party sub-committees all aligned to the A-Team, including all those who were trounced at the Kanye congress.
When he took the podium, the wise old statesman in a diplomatic and subtle tone thanked Merafhe for the “unsolicited advice“.
“You are kind enough to showcase my reflections on democracy in this country as contained in the pages of the memoirs. In one of the conversations that I had with some of you elsewhere, I asked a rhetoric question ÔÇô do you ever advise the President? I usually have answers to such questions but perhaps in answering some of it tonight, I want to refer to the conversation I had with Kgosi Moapare once, who said to me, the reason our democracy is mature is because we respect one another’s point of view. I thought he hit the nail on the head,” said Masire to a cheerful crowd.
Masire then zeroed in on the respect for other people as integral to the fledgling democracy and in nurturing the principles of good governance that Botswana is known for.
“We may have joined the race later than some countries in Africa, but we are the longest surviving democracy in Africa by far. The university is the cradle of democracy and because that is where young graduates learn to apply theories and principles of good leadership in their career life, I think this democracy must at all times be nurtured. There are people who fear to take risks and such people should be in their graves for, if you don’t take risk and make a mistake, you can’t learn and grow. We need the daring ones like Pono Moathodi and Ntuane,” chuckled Masire, again to an explosive laugh in the hall, who understood him to be driving the point home about the internal feuding of the BDP where the outspoken are gagged.
Masire cautioned against muzzling people or stifling opinion within a democratic setup, saying it could breed discontent that can tear apart the institution.
“One might appreciate that occasionally, they might be bridled, but let them not be foot-held ÔÇô a ba tsenngwe ditomo mme ba seka ba panwa!” stated the calm Masire, whose comments were seen as representing the views of those belonging to the Barata-Phathi faction, who media reports show they do not enjoy the favour of the party President.