Two major events that occurred in Botswana recently, the constituency tournament debacle and the recent cabinet reshuffle by President Ian Khama, last week conspired to cause chaos in Parliament when acting Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Shaw Kgathi refused to answer questions in parliament.
Kgathi, who was transferred from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture during the reshuffle, steadfastly refused to answer to questions from Gaborone Central Member of Parliament and President of the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP), pertaining to the constituency league hot potato, which has pitted Botswana against FIFA and sparked fears that the nation may be suspended from all FIFA activities.
When he was due to respond, Kgathi referred the question to Minister of Health, Rev Dr John Seakgosing, who ever since the winter session began last week, had been answering questions and other related motions on behalf of Vincent Seretse, the acting Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture.
“Before you could say I am well informed over some of these issues, I believe parliament procedures should be followed. I never undermined Honorable Seretse’s request. Honorable Seakgosing has been answering questions on behalf of the Minister,” Kgathi argued, refusing to stand for his former Ministry as suggested by Deputy Speaker, Pono Moatlhodi.
Before the question could be postponed for another day on which Seretse would be present, Saleshando revealed that he had consulted both Kgathi and Seretse over the issue.
“Kgathi told me he could not be delegated by the acting Minister (Seretse),” he said.
Political pundits said Kgathi’s move was a master stroke that enabled him to elude a political trap from Saleshando.
“By refusing to answer the question on the constituency tournament, Kgathi avoided the risk of rubbing President Khama the wrong way. Sadly, he also highlighted the mess that President Khama’s cabinet reshuffle has caused. No one can be held accountable for anything,” they said.
In an interview on the sidelines of Parliament, Saleshando said the BCP has been vindicated as it was now becoming increasingly clear that Ministers were refusing to account for the mess at the Ministries that they manned before the reshuffle.
“We warned government that this reshuffle was a ticking time bomb ready to explode. We long anticipated this mess. All what the BCP wanted to know was the position of government following media reports of a clash between Botswana and FIFA over the constituency tournament. We wanted to know if the government of the day will ever hand over the tournament to BFA as suggested by FIFA,” he said.
Once again, Saleshando accused the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) of using the constituency tournament as a political tool.
In a previous address at a BCP rally, Saleshando said there was infighting between Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, a Minister of Education who is now on Special Assignment and acting Minister of Education Mokgweetsi Masisi, who are both products of the recent reshuffle.
Botswana faces a threat of being expelled from all FIFA activities if it does not surrender administration of the constituency league to the Botswana Football Association (BFA). The issue has become a political hot potato and a diplomatic time bomb for Botswana. On the one hand, government, especially President Ian Khama, who founded the constituency league, believes the issue was politically motivated by his detractors. Recently, both Khama and Kgathi accused their political opponents of politicizing the constituency tournament issue. However, Botswana is still to respond to FIFA’s charges and the deadline date is looming.
The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has also joined the fray, commending FIFA for its decision to instruct the government of Botswana to hand over the running of the constituency football tournaments to the BFA. In a statement released recently, Gomolemo Motswaledi described the constituency tournament as a populist campaign strategy by President Khama, similar to his habit of parading poor people receiving donations from him on national television.
Motswaledi also pointed out that FIFA is clear that football cannot be controlled by politicians.
“This conduct, which FIFA essentially accuses Botswana government of in its letter to the BFA, is a classic case of interference and abuse of the people’s game for their political purpose. This typical reckless conduct by the Government of Botswana has now come back to haunt and embarrass this nation. We continue to call upon the Botswana Government to leave football to football administrators at BFA and FIFA. Let it be left as simple as that”, writes Motswaledi in the statement.