After a long season of denial, the ruling party is finally, and one may add thankfully, coming to terms with reality.
They are busy not just counting their losses but also their dead.
Everybody in their camp is restive.
And for a reason.
Botswana Movement for Democracy has hemorrhaged them.
Of all the weapons at his disposal, a cabinet reshuffle is the most potent step left for the President to utilize.
Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, ever clear-sighted, has raised a hand offering help to save both the party and president from total collapse.
“The party needs a new communication strategy and I am the person best suited to implement it,” she has told President Ian Khama.
It is a gamble that may cost her a career, but she should be given credit for trying.
Her attempts, while reflecting BDP’s inner crisis, also go to show that she is a pragmatic politician who is in touch with reality.
The onus now is on President Khama to compliment her gamble.
For the President to successfully reform the BDP, he will need the active input of Ponatshego Kedikilwe.
The man’s political staying power is simply amazing.
PHK can only come to the party if he is promoted ÔÇô at both party and cabinet level.
This means appointing him Vice President and also making him a Central Committee member.
Put more crudely it means replacing Mompati Merafhe.
Clearly, this is not going to happen unless Khama disabuses himself of his near superstitious distrust of PHK.
Since his readmission back into cabinet a few years ago by former President Festus Mogae ÔÇô and it must be added against the express advice of then Vice President Ian Khama ÔÇô Kedikilwe has deliberately stayed clear of BDP’s dirty politics.
A former party Chairman who used to be kneed-deep in the party’s inner fights, PHK has lately concentrated all his efforts and time running the Ministry of Minerals and Water Resources.
He is by far the best performing minister.
At government level he has become the moral and intellectual engine room of Khama’s cabinet.
PHK’s apolitical posture has been the best form of loyalty Khama could ever have hoped for, given the two men’s tempestuous relationship.
What is not yet clear is the extent to which President Khama appreciates the attributes PHK brings along.
Khama should stop despising PHK for being ambitious. After all who is not ambitious?
The ground truth is that Khama will be all the poorer were PHK to walk away from cabinet.
Such a move would rob cabinet the semblance of integrity and respectability that Kedikilwe brings into it.
It is an open secret that PHK brings a lot of inspiration to Barata Phathi who have since broken away to form BMD.
Though officially with the ruling party, BMD privately acknowledge him, not just as one of their own, but also as their spiritual leader.
It is also worth noting that recent events have meant PHK also carries a lot of comfort among the A-Team who, though suspicious of him, are grudgingly grateful that he has not (at least up until now) publicly behaved in a manner as to be accused of rocking Khama’s boat.
Acknowledged and claimed by these two centres makes him by far the most powerful politician in Botswana today.
Weakened to the bone, the BDP know so well that PHK’s continued presence in their fold helps them to maintain an edifice of sustainability, however questionable it has become these days.
Thus a cogent case exists for him to replace General Merafhe.
I have the greatest respect for Vice President Mompati Merafhe.
In fact for many years, especially during his time at Foreign Affairs, I admired him for his sharp intellect and clarity of purpose.
It did not go unnoticed that under his watch, Botswana’s stature in the diplomatic circles grew quite exponentially.
His peers across the continent talked very highly of his leadership, especially following his meticulous handling of the turbulent period of the Commonwealth that ultimately saw Robert Mugabe pull out his Zimbabwe from the organization.
But some time last year I sensed that he was getting both inadequate and confused.
It was at a time when the country was gripped by anxieties surrounding extraÔÇôjudicial killings that I reached a conclusion that General Merafhe had been a bad choice for Vice President.
It has been a painful conclusion for me, reached against a person I used to hold in extremely high esteem.
Regrettably the Vice President has to date not done anything to prove me wrong.
His biggest undoing has been a failure to overcome his long smouldering hatred for his opposite faction; a loathing that seems to blind him to the fact that as Vice President he had to retire from a history of insurgency and belligerence and concentrate on helping his principal to engender unity and stability inside both party and government.
By far the biggest beneficiary of the BDP histrionics, Merafhe seems all too happy to encourage or allow the madness inside the party to play on.
An experienced public officer, Merafhe knows so well that continued anarchy guarantees his position as VP because the President simply feels too besieged and helpless to open yet another battle front that comes with sacking a Vice President.
Thus since becoming Vice President, General Merafhe has been wavering and dancing between vanity, self-promotion, trivia and faux pas.
I do not see how the BDP, or Khama for that matter, will be able to put up a credible fight against the BMD unless there is a change of guard with regard to the President’s Chief Advisor.
To successfully stem the tide, Khama has to bite the bullet, sack his Vice President and replace him with his erstwhile nemesis, PHK Kedikilwe.
Anything else means BMD will continue to grow as they continue to look up to Kedikilwe as their Godfather while Merafhe secretly grins as Khama next to him grapples with problems that threaten to bring down a government.