Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Nkate: down but not out

Botswana’s Ambassador to Japan, Jacob Nkate, has made it clear that he wants to complete his diplomatic tour before he could rejoin active politics.

Speaking from Tokyo, Nkate said he is very much aware of talk that he could be on his way back home.
It would be wrong, he said, for him to dabble in politics when he has an assignment for Botswana and Japan.

In that regard he has said for as long as he is Ambassador he will stay away from party politics.
“The passion for politics is still there. In fact, it never left. It is only the respect for my job, my country and my hosts that have put me away from politics,” he said.

A former senior minister and Secretary General of the governing Botswana Democratic Party, Nkate has over the last twenty years been at the centre of Botswana’s national politics.

When he lost the Ngamiland constituency to Botswana Congress Party there was expectation that given the two men’s close relationship, President Ian Khama would put Nkate’s name forward as one of the five Specially Elected Members of Parliament.

When that did not happen, Nkate was left personally devastated and politically vulnerable.

An army of his erstwhile political travelers also deserted him, with some of them writing him off as belonging to history books.

A friend says this lack of loyalty by people he had over the years worked and socialized with left him hurt and heartbroken.

While Nkate had wanted to stay in politics, he was instead offered a job as Chief Executive of the then investment agency, BEDIA.

It was a take-it-or-leave-it arrangement. He accepted the job, grudgingly, if not for anything, then at least because his options had literally come to an end.

His stay at BEDIA was short, uneventful and clearly humiliating.

He had a fraught and often tempestuous relationship with Dorcas Makgatho Malesu, who, though politically much more junior, was now Trade and Investment Minister; assertive, somewhat bully and all out to prove to Nkate that she was now in charge.

Public humiliation came to a head when Nkate was forced to resign under circumstances that are still to be explained. He took the fall for a mistake by his officers, and a public impression was created that he had committed an act of ethical impropriety.

When he left BEDIA, Nkate was personally broken and politically vulnerable as it also became clear to all that President Khama was no longer willing to come to the rescue.

This notwithstanding the fact that Khama and Nkate had been longtime political bedfellows having fought numerous BDP battles from the same corner over many years.

The wedge between Khama and Nkate significantly increased after Nkate made known his ambitions for state presidency when Khama’s time comes to an end in 2018.

“By the time he left for Tokyo, Nkate had all but made it known to all who cared to listen that he had presidential ambitions. This put him further and further away from Khama who as it turned out had other plans. Sending him to Tokyo was effectively an act of banishing him into the political wilderness,” says a friend who has kept in touch when scores of others left.

“There is a lot of pressure from friends for me to come back home. Others had even suggested I should come back now. I intend to see my assignment through. There has been a lot of talk on the matter. But rest assured that when I come back I will be the first to announce it,” said Nkate.
Next year, President Khama will appoint a Vice President who is expected to take over when Khama’s mandatory term comes to an end in 2018.

It will be interesting to see who that person will be, not least because before the next General Elections in 2019, the BDP will have a big internal decision to make in determining who they want to lead them into those elections which opposition parties, paradoxically insist will also usher in their turn.

But for now, the important question in everyone’s mind is whether or not Khama’s choice will be strong enough politically to brush off war scarred political heavy weights who will have an ax to grind, among them Jacob Nkate.

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