The arrangement of automatic succession is coming under heavy strain from inside the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), creating fissures that may possibly result in open revolt against the system.
While a number of party faithful have of recent talked openly against automatic succession, there are those who are working behind the scenes to undermine the arrangement if it is not repealed.
Names that frequently crop up as likely contenders that will put the arrangement to the test when they make history by contesting for the position of BDP President are Assistant Minister of Local Government Kentse Rammidi, former ministers Jacob Nkate and Boyce Sebetlela.
Although the party constitution allows for it, traditionally there has never been an open contest for the position of party President as the incumbent has always enjoyed unanimous nod from members.
But there are party members who feel only an open contest can break the juggernaut that comes with people who are imposed by outgoing Presidents.
This comes in the wake of President Ian Khama’s resolute commitment to stop the party from going for elections at a Congress due in July ÔÇô a decision that has bred a lot of subtle unhappiness and muted discontent within the party ranks.
Feeling hard done, some BDP members are already preparing for a life after Khama, with their primary target being Khama’s chosen successor.
President Ian Khama is still to name a Vice President who will go through the paces to ultimately succeed him as both State President and leader of the ruling BDP.
Apart from his advanced age the current Vice President Mompati Merafhe was never expected to succeed Khama as it was made clear from the beginning that he would be asked to make way for the heir apparent along the way.
Besides, Merafhe has not been well for sometime now and it is expected that he would want to bow out from active politics.
Almost Merafhe’s age mate is Acting Vice President, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, who is also not expected to be a formidable political force beyond Khama’s reign. Strong opinion is building inside the BDP that not only is automatic succession undemocratic it also shuts out potential contenders for the Presidency. Although any meaningful succession battle is still far off down the line there is a groundswell of opinion that whoever Khama chooses will face internal competition from outsiders thereafter. So far the two people who have benefitted from automatic succession are former President Festus Mogae and Ian Khama. Both of them were later to be unanimously endorsed by BDP Special Congresses as party candidates.
The name of who will become Khama’s eventual successor remains a closely guarded secret.
But there is strong public perception that Ndelu Seretse and Kitso Mokaila are front runners.
A refusal by President Khama to appoint a substantive replacement for Seretse, who is facing criminal charges, is seen by many as a hint that the former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security remains a central figure inside Khama’s succession plans.
Information picked by The Telegraph suggests that influential figures within the BDP are already lining behind Rammidi and Nkate in anticipation of the contest. For lack of a strong grassroots support inside the party, Sebetela has an outside chance. There is also a strong possibility of a collaboration that would see Nkate and Rammidi become running mates with an arrangement that one becomes President and the other Vice President.
Those backing Nkate and Rammidi count on the knowledge that neither Seretse nor Mokaila have strong political bases inside the party.
Contacted by The Telegraph on the matter, Rammidi said he would not want to discuss anything beyond the fact that he wants to become BDP Secretary General.
“My concern right now is to become BDP Secretary General. I’m not interested in anything else,” said Rammidi.
For his part, Nkate said he remains committed and focused on his job as the Chief Executive Officer of BEDIA (Botswana Export Development and Investment Agency).
“I have met people who have decried my absence in politics. They all tell me what a great contribution I would be making were I still active. But to all of them I have emphasized my dedication to BEDIA,” said Nkate.
A former BDP Secretary General, with a strong political network, Nkate took leave from active politics after he lost the Ngami constituency in the last General Elections.
But those close to him say he endlessly talks of a comeback.