Thursday, July 9, 2020

The way the cookie crumbles within BDP

President Ian Khama has pleaded with his younger brother Tshekedi to stop his support for Nonofho Molefhi.

Tshekedi has been openly supporting Molefhi against Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi in the ongoing tussle for control of both the ruling party and the state.

Tshekedi’s support for Molefhi has pitted him against his brother who has already endorsed Masisi.

Tshekedi is known to harbour his own “presidential ambitions”, and is said to have been terribly appalled when his elder brother declined to make him a second in command.

Insiders and close watchers say the younger Khama has thus far not honoured his brother’s request except to say his behaviour will be determined by the way Masisi treats him.

The younger Khama is alleged be deeply disdainful of Masisi.

“There are plans to negotiate a deal with Masisi to make Tshekedi his vice president in return for all the gestures and support he has been getting from the ‘big brother’ (Ian Khama) said a person well versed with events.

According to people familiar with developments, the younger Khama has almost been uncontrollable as he blames his elder brother for taking sides with Masisi and the head of DIS, Isaac Kgosi in sidelining Molefhi.

“President Khama feels helpless and badly let down by his younger brother. It is clear he regrets making him a minister. But Tshekedi is a strong-willed character who follows his heart, or independence. 

“He is preparing for an all-out fight confontration. By him the fight for presidency is far from over,” said one of Tshekedi’s confidantes.  

In the meantime, Masisi has told his supporters that he is still not wholly confident of his future.

As if anarchy was not enough, in a dramatic turn of events Minister of Foreign Affairs Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has surprised many in politics by going back on her previous decision to retire from active politics in 2019.

This has put her on a collision course with Dr Kolantle Malefho who was perceived to be her heir apparent at the constituency.

A former permanent secretary in the ministry of health, Malefho is now head of the Medical School at the University of Botswana.

His political ambitious as well as support for the ruling party are an open secret.

An insider from Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) told this publication that Venson-Moitoi might harbour some secret ambition of her own.

Sunday Standard can confirm that both President Khama and Masisi were not comfortable with the announcement by Venson-Moitoi that she was retiring.

Initially both of them felt she was angry with the way she was left on her own as she campaigned to become Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

She lost. But publicly she has maintained her loyalty to Khama.

Venson-Moitoi is the most senior member of Cabinet, having served longer than all ministers, including Masisi.

“It is highly likely that she has been promised to be vice president. We will soon know. She cannot change her heart for nothing. But then what becomes of Tshekedi?” asked the same source.

The insider said under the circumstances it could be that Venson-Moitoi had been promised a better position than the one she is currently holding and that is why she had made a U-turn.

Quizzed on why she took the decision Moitoi-Venson was quick to say that the party was in a serious problem and needs experienced leaders that can stabilise the situation.

She said people who had worked with constituents across the country were needed to help the party.

She said she was still to make her mind once and for all if she would be staying or going.

“What I can tell you is that I have assessed the condition of the party and I have realised that it is not an easy route to resign from politics while there are some people who need my service in the BDP. 

“BDP is currently going through turbulent times and we need to defend it. I don’t regret my words to retire from the politics. But I’m human and I stand to change decisions at any time looking at the circumstances that are prevailing at any moment,” said Venson-Moitoi.

Venson-Moitoi denied she has been offered position of vice president.

Venson-Moitoi admitted that while she has had a sterling career, it has not been without uneven patches.

Losing the contest for ruling party Chairperson in 2013 and that of African Commission Chair are two such moments.

She said although she had long made it clear after winning elections in 2014 that she would not stand for 2019 elections, she confessed that she might still change her heart.

Mahalapye East Botlhogilwe Tshireletso MP is one of those who have made it clear that she would not be standing for the 2019 elections.

“I have served this country at different levels. I have been a councillor for 25 years and MP for 15 years so I think it’s time I hand over to some people going forward and concentrate on my family while I’m still active because right now I’m 63 years old and I would be 65 years in 2019,” Tshireletso said.

Botswana Democratic Party Chief Whip, Likat Kably, confirmed names of BDP MP who had indicated their desire to retire from politics.

“I can confirm that Christian De-Graf, Botlhogile Tshireletso, Edwin Batshu, Kitso Mokaila, Kenneth Matambo and Venson-Moitoi have indicated that they would not be standing for re-election in 2019 but at the moment none of them have indicated any change of plans except allegations that Venson-Moitoi has changed. But nothing official from her has reached my office,” said Kably.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.