The Minister of Infrastructure Science and Technology Nonofo Molefhi is reported to have approached President Ian Khama to inform him about his intention to contest for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s Chairmanship.
Molefhi who is also the Member Parliament for Selebi-Phikwe East has been linked to a faction of the BDP that believes he is the right candidate to lead the party when President Khama is expected to step down in 2018.
Molefhi would not be drawn into discussing allegations that he has approached President Khama.
“At the moment I can’t comment on that. If there is something to that effect, I will comment when the right time comes. I’m not saying there is something like that but I’m saying if there is something like that in the future then I will be able to share with you,” said the soft spoken minister.
Molefhi forms part of possible candidates to challenge Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi when the party goes for its elective congress. These are Jacob Nkate and Tshekedi Khama. The latter is the younger brother to President Khama while Nkate is a former minister and secretary general of the BDP. Nkate is currently serving as Botswana’s Ambassador in Tokyo, Japan.
Molefhi is said to have been reluctant to accede to one of BDP faction’s demands to challenge Masisi. But insiders said recently that he has relented and agreed to approach President Khama to make his intentions known.
“He met with the President recently to brief him about his intention to stand for the Chairmanship of the BDP when that time comes,” said the source.
But it is understood that President Khama advised Molefhi to reconsider his decision. This has stoked speculation that the President wants to reserve the race for the Chairmanship of the party for Tshekedi.
Masisi has made it clear to his detractors that he would ascend to the Office of the President. He was recently quoted by one of the local publications that he would lobby Molefhi to support him defend his position as the party’s Chairman. It is understood that the decision by some BDP members lobbying candidates to challenge Masisi is dividing the party ahead of the 2019 general election.
But at a press briefing recently, Masisi described his relationship with Molefhi as cordial.
“In fact when we go for our 2018 elective congress I will ask honourable Molefhi to vote for me as BDP chairman and will also support him in any position that he will be contesting,” the Vice President, who is also the MP for Moshupa/Manyana was quoted as saying.
Since becoming Vice President and national chairman of his party, reports indicate that Masisi has had to contend with growing threats that some BDP members would challenge him for the presidency at the 2018 BDP congress.
The matter was not helped by the fact that ahead of the Mmadinare congress, five candidates showed interest for the chairmanship. But Masisi convincingly won despite allegations that the decision to contest for the position by five contestants was a sign of vote of no confidence in him. Whoever wins the chairmanship stands a good chance of challenging Masisi for the presidency.
Reports also indicate that when faced with a revolt of the Botswana Democratic Party parliamentary caucus in late 2014 over who was going to become the Vice President of the republic, President Khama called all his Members of Parliament into a private meeting room and asked each one of them to write down on a piece of paper their choice for Vice President.
According to sources close to events at the time the person who scooped most nominations was Molefhi, followed by Pelonomi Venson (Minister of Foreign Affairs), and then Masisi and lastly Tshekedi.
There were a number of people who got single nominations raising suspicions that they had nominated themselves.
The president had from the beginning made it known to Members of Parliament that he would not in the end read out the verdict but that he wanted to use the outcome as a benchmark with which to inform himself of the preferred choices among his Members of Parliament.
After the secret ballot exercise the President went on to nominate Masisi as his Vice President.
The secret ballot exercise had come at a time when the nation had ground to a halt over whether the election of the Vice President by Parliament should be by a public show of hands or through a secret ballot. Its results have never been made public.