Saturday, July 4, 2020

Moyo-Guma says he’s coming back; will he seek a comeuppance?

If Samson Moyo-Guma is as reported itching for a latest round of a political fight, then he goes into it weaker than he ever has been. He has taken a real battering lately. His flight to South Africa last year marked his lowest point. The man has fought too many battles in his life. Too many of his traditional allies have had to switch allies, others have moved on. And yet many others have simply despaired and become fatigued of endless political fights.But to underestimate him is to literally underplay or even deny his ruthlessness. And that is akin to playing with fire.

Moyo Guma can be resolute and focused. He is systematic in all he does.Once he picks a target, he goes for it – with all his heart and all his resources. His resolve to win at all cost is unmatched.Over the course of my career as a journalist I have had an opportunity to interview Samson Moyo-Guma about a dozen times – including when he was sacked as junior minister of finance. Including also when he fought Pelonomi Venson to become National Chairman of the Botswana Democratic Party. And also when Ian Khama sacked him from that position only a few months later.I interviewed him when he dumped the BDP to go and join the newly created Botswana Movement for Democracy. And when he dumped BMD to rejoin the BDP. In all instances the man was self-obsessed and self-promoting. All the interviews were a catalogue of the many wrongs he felt. With vehemence he chronicled the evils that he felt were being meted against him. He was himself never on the wrong. And according to him never an aggressor.

He always saw himself as a victim. For him it was always a cut-and-dried case of being singled out.His sacking as assistant minister especially hurt him. He blamed the then vice president, General Mompati Merafhe for orchestrating the plot.All interviews were concluded with a similar message: watch the space. I will hit back at my enemies and I will win.Moyo Guma’s life story is littered with feel-good comebacks. And he likes it that way. He does not like to be an underdog, which he really is today because that connotes weakness on his part. And a macho that he is, he does not like to be seen as weak. He relishes to be depicted as a never-say-die stone-throwing political fighter.Moyo Guma is certainly brazen and even abrasive.

He is fearless and in business can be infinitely cold-blooded when it comes to deal making.He knows how to get what he wants. He enjoys living on an edge. His life in both politics and business is a litany of thin ice-skating capers.He has always had ready at hand a loyal army of disciples and hangers-on, many of them beneficiaries of his easy money honeypot. And they are always willing not only to take a bullet on his behalf, but also do political ground work as well as dirty work too for him.And because he likes to win, he is persistent.There are however a few things that Moyo-Guma is not; he is not loyal.Because of his ever readiness to fight, his celebrated business acumen often seems too exaggerated and even mythologised.He is not easily likeable.

But it is his swashbuckling attitude that has bought him acceptance and also access in the pathways of power.To younger people whose amoral worship of wealth is on the ascendance, Moyo-Guma’s personality and record, including brushes with the law that ultimately drove him into self-exile might be regretful but in the main enticing and even worth celebrating.For him the rules were few and there to be broken. He did that until he ran out of road in 2019, then fled away into self-exile. It turns out that even if you are Moyo-Guma one can have a run of good luck only for so long.In one of the more recent interviews where he announced plans to come back, he has made references to P6 million he says the taxman owes him. It is an instructive line.

This alone shows that on the back of his mind still lurks a clear knowledge that there are still outstanding issues of justice he needs to resolve upon his arrival back home.At his best he can be combative and even expansive.He likes to boast about his wealth. In private he can be generous and good-hearted. And gossip comes naturally to him. In public he retains a tough-front demeanour as he has been doing over the last three years while in self-exile in South Africa during which time political wilderness and effects of staying away from his cherished fanfare would no doubt have been at their worst.He likes to be known as brash. He also possesses a child-like yearning to be taken seriously.This is likely on account of the fact that many people dismiss him as a joke.The biggest mistake anybody could make would be to underestimate Moyo-Guma because he could be really destructive, especially when given opportunity to organize people, especially at grassroot.He resembles a Pitbull in his ruthlessness and tenacity.

Once he grabs he does not let go.His concerted and vulgar attacks against Tshekedi Khama the then minister of wildlife and tourism will forever stay as the height of his phony battles with the Khamas. Tshekedi was younger brother to the president, Ian Khama.The insults shocked even his own admirers. Many people despised and hated the Khamas. But they also thought what Moyo-Guma was doing was reprehensible, beyond the pale and against all the elementary tenets of decency and fairness.At the time Moyo-Guma was a ranking member of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.He dissected the minister’s sense of entitlement. To everybody’s bemusement he called Tshekedi Khama corrupt. Inside cabinet Tshekedi was known to have a low regard for then vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi.It was all political – a ravenous long run of fake and moralist grandstanding.He was positioning himself as Masisi’s attack dog, which he eventually did become.Exactly why Masisi in the end dumped him would be a subject for biographers.

But Moyo-Guma had expected to be made a vice president. If that passed him, he would at the very least accept the ministry of finance – his life-long ambition. That too was not forthcoming.Somehow he felt that instead prison term was coming his way.He chose to run away.His decision to run away from Botswana to South Africa caught everyone by surprise.He had given no warnings.It was an exact replica of his earlier decision to leave BMD.Everybody went to bed knowing Moyo-Guma was a loyal executive member of the BMD.At least in public everything was going well for the BMD.One evening a message arrived on my phone from the then BMD vice president Botsalo Ntuane – “We have received a letter of resignation from Guma. We do not as yet know his next political move. But everybody suspects he is headed back to the BDP.

As BMD we have accepted his resignation.”In subsequent interviews Moyo-Guma talked little save to say he would not be defending his parliamentary seat at the next elections as he would be retiring from politics.This turned out to be false. Not for the first time he was yet again playing the media like fiddle. And was in no time back at the BDP where he was received like a Biblical prodigal son.vMoyo-Guma says he has joined the Botswana Patriotic Front.He is certainly angry with President Masisi and also the BDP.But he has never had a stomach for rumble and tumble of opposition politics.BPF might be celebrating the big catch that he is. But for how long?

Moyo-Guma has always had an unwavering reliance on the media, as shown by the high-profile interviews he has giving to hype his imminent return. Already he is plotting his battles that are about to begin. And he is enlisting the media on his side.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.