Specially Elected Member of Parliament (SEMP) Unity Dow recently relinquished a coveted cabinet position in what seems to be a selfless move to ease growing tensions between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and the backbench.
Even as speculation about an impending cabinet intensified, not many people would have put their money on Dow’s possible exit from Cabinet.
Her exit was of course not without controversy following what had all the hallmarks of a war of semantics between the Government Communications at Office of the President (OP) and the outgoing Minister.
The initial communique from Office of the President implying the minister had been fired from her position was followed by another letter indicating Dow had left cabinet of her own volition.
Speaking to The Telegraph a day after quitting Cabinet Dow said she had decided to step back to the backbench where she insists her contribution to parliamentary debates would be most useful, away from the shackles of a cabinet position.
She says she has no plans to quit her SEMP position, contrary speculation.
“As a minister you speak predominantly about your portfolio. But the backbench gives you the liberty to interrogate a wide variety of issues of national interest. The only limitation is my party position on a given subject,” Dow said.
While she would not admit it, Dow’s departure from Cabinet paved way for President Masisi to make amends to some disgruntled members of the backbench. There are elected MPs who allegedly feel hard done by the decision to appoint SEMPs as cabinet ministers at their expense.
Dow’s departure created a vacancy for elected Mmadinare MP Molebatsi Molebatsi, one of the backbenchers who had apparently expressed their frustrations at being side-lined by the President.
He is one of the disgruntled members who held meetings with the President to voice their displeasure. “Yes I have met with the President but we were only discussing the usual internal party issues. Nothing out of the ordinary,” Molebatsi told The Telegraph at the time.
Former MP for Mmadinare who lost BDP Primary Elections to Molebatsi, now Specially Elected MP Michael Mzwinila is one Masisi’s blue eyed boys.
The close relationship between the two has apparently left Molebatsi feeling completely isolated. Sources close to the party say President Masisi sees Mzwinila as a possible vice presidential candidate to replace Tsogwane. Mzwinila is highly expected to take over a new Mmadinare constituency after the anticipated delimitation exercise that follows the 2021 National Census.
The backbench have since elections grown increasingly impatient with the President who has been enjoying absolute power under State of Emergency following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
At least ten MPs including Mephato Reatile, Paulson Majaga, and Ignatius Moswaane were reportedly not averse to the idea of crossing the floor if the situation remained unchanged. Reatile, Majaga, and Moswaane have since been suspended from the party.
The three are some of those who had expressed concern about instability within the party.
“There are those who feel Masisi has neglected the north region in favour of the south which has resulted in some councillors contemplating a move to the opposition,” The Telegraph has been told. Moswaane has now resigned from the BDP and remains an independent MP.
He and fellow BDP backbenchers had not ruled out the possibility of following behind their councillors who they said were already in negotiations with the opposition.