Battle lines are beginning to emerge in the race for Botswana’s vice presidency as President Mokgweetsi Masisi continues to fuel speculation about his preferred candidate.
Vice President Slumber Tsogwane’s fate has suddenly become a subject of public debate as the country moves closer to the 2024 general elections. President Masisi’s conduct over the past 12 months has not given his deputy any reassurance.
His latest antics at a rally in his home village of Moshupa were perhaps the most telling.
Addressing a Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) rally recently Masisi made reference to a recommendation from the recent Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of Constitution advocating for the constitution to be amended to make room for a specially elected member of parliament to be vice president.
Under the current law, only an elected legislator can become vice president.
According to the final report by the Commission: “During the consultations, there were people who supported the retention of the current system of appointing the Vice President, but proposed that the vice president should have a constituency.”
The report states further that: “The perspective was that the dual responsibility results in vice president neglecting their constituency as they duty-bound to represent the President at various occasions or act on his or her behalf.” Constituency responsibilities, the report says, make it difficult for them to focus on their vice presidential duties.
Masisi said at the Moshupa rally that should the current law be repealed specially elected Members of Parliament (MPs) shall be eligible for being appointed as vice-president, while also acknowledging Tsogwane’s proximity to the presidential seat.
“If anything happens to me or if I die, he (Tsogwane) automatically becomes the president of the party according to the BDP constitution,” Masisi said, going further to emphasize that the president of the ruling party automatically becomes State President.
He went on to list other possible candidates for the vice presidency should the law change, specially elected MPs Kgotla Autlwetse, Kefentse Mzwinila, Philda and Peggy Serame. “I’m saying this because currently they are specially elected MPs without constituencies.”
President Masisi failed to publicly support Tsogwane for the latter’s campaign for the Party’s chairmanship late last year (2022). It was the first time that a sitting BDP President did not support his vice president, breaking away from the precedent set by his predecessors including Ian Khama and Festus Mogae. The chairmanship has always been viewed within the BDP as a strategic position for one’s presidential ambitions.
Serame has been widely viewed as first in the list of Masisi’s preferred candidates to replace Tsogwane. The speculation has been fueled by Serame’s sudden political ambitions with the new BDP Women’s Wing chairperson rumored to be eyeing Goodhope-Mabule constituency, currently held by Erick Molale.
Unless the rumors of her vice presidential candidacy are something to go by, there is no other motivation for Serame to run for constituency office given she would still qualify for a second term as specially elected MP assuming Masisi retains the Presidency in 2024. Mzwinila has also been rumored to be Masisi’s other possible choice for VP.
BDP members sympathetic to Tsogwane are already on high alert, with secret meetings taking place to strategize for his 2024 campaign. “We have to stand up for our chairman,” a local businessman told Sunday Standard.