In the final days of the battle for control of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and as direct response to senior party members endorsing President Mokgweetsi Masisi, the opposing New Jerusalem faction is planning to dump compromising information on the president through friendly media channels in Botswana and South Africa.
The mudslinging media campaign against Masisi which is being masterminded by South African mining Moghul Bridgette Motsepe, her side kick Malcolm X and Hotwire advertising agency boss Kabelo Binns is expected to roll into motion this week with a series of sponsored news stories attacking Masisi.
Sunday Standard investigations have turned up audio tapes of the conversation between Motsepe, Malcomn X and Binns outlining their media campaign strategy against Masisi and additional interviews with sources close to the planned mudslinging onslaught.
Last week, 39 former BDP MPs (31 of them former cabinet ministers, one a former Vice President as well as two serving High Commissioners) released a joint public statement through which they expressed support for Masisi who is ahistorically being challenged for the party presidency by Serowe South MP, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.
Sunday Standard has turned up information that in retaliation, New Jerusalem will, during this week, release confidential information that it deems highly damaging to the person and candidacy of the president. In much the same way that the endorsement by the 39 MPs rattled New Jerusalem, the dissident group hopes that its information will rattle Masisi and his supporters.
One of the masterminds behind the strategy is Malcolm X, who is believed to have pushed stories of the former Debswana Managing Director, Louis Nchindo’s alleged relationships with young girls to South African tabloid newspapers. The mudslinging campaign against Masisi is expected to be fashioned along the same lines.
In the political lingo of the United States, a PR tactic of this nature is called the “October Surprise.” The US holds its general elections on the first Tuesday after November 1 every four year and to gain the upper hand, parties typically precipitate an unexpected, dramatic last-minute event which potentially alters the outcome of an election. In the case of the 2016 election, there is general agreement that the October Surprise was the Wikileaks information dump that greatly compromised the candidacy of Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, and bolstered that of her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, who went on to win.
New Jerusalem is hoping that its April Surprise will have similar effect, especially given that Venson-Moitoi is not doing too well in terms of notching up pre-congress endorsements from regions. Given how much dirt Masisi would now have on New Jerusalem on account of being president, this tactic might blow up in the faces of New Jerusalem leaders. Not only does Masisi have access to compromising information about individuals on the other side, revelation of such information might mobilise public support for prosecution of culprits in instances where there is criminal culpability. It is unclear who is masterminding New Jerusalem campaign but earlier this month, former president Ian Khama, said that he has spies in the security establishment who are feeding him with intelligence.
Ever since the BDP’s formation in 1965, an incumbent president has never ever been challenged. That has changed this year, with Masisi facing a challenge that forced him to launch an equally unorthodox campaign. The party’s constitution says that members in good standing can run for the presidency. Some time back, senior party members made video endorsements of Masisi to convey the impression that he was in better standing than his opponent. That campaign is being ramped up with 39 former MPs signing a statement that reads in part: “It is our collective observation as former BDP Members of Parliament that HE MEK Masisi has made a good start as president of the BDP and the Republic of Botswana. He has particularly committed to the Vision 2036, rule of law, stakeholder engagement, poverty eradication, aggressive empowerment of citizens and the fight against corruption to mention a few flagship programs in his road map for the country.” Mention of “rule of law” on that list appears to be a deliberate dig at Khama because having overseen the most kleptocratic government in Botswana’s history, he can never credibly make similar claim.
Most notable among the statement’s signatories is Ponatshego Kedikilwe, who served a stint as Khama’s Vice President. Two other signatories are noteworthy given the positions they currently hold: Duke Lefhoko, who is High Commissioner to Kenya, and Lesego Motsumi, who is High Commissioner to India. As president, Khama demoted Motsumi to High Commissioner, reportedly as punishment for failing to “protect the government.” Her fault was giving an honest answer to a parliamentary question about the dealings of the army with Seleka Springs, a company owned by Khama’s own younger brothers, over lucrative, multi-million pula tenders that were never advertised. Last year, the questioner, Francistown West MP, Wynter Mmolotsi, bragged about “banishing” Motsumi to India. As a joke, this statement was only half-funny because it was indeed his question that resulted in Motsumi’s demotion and apparent banishment to New Delhi.