The beleaguered minister of Education, Pelonomi Venson, says she has not disbanded the committee of strategists she assembled a few months ago when the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was besieged by defections that led to the party’s first split in history.
At the height of BDP troubles, Venson had approached President Ian Khama with a plan that had at its core a media strategy and an outreach programme.
Reeling from the split, the president relented and gave Venson a blank cheque to implement her idea on one condition: that it did not make an already bad situation any worse.
A risk taker, Venson quickly seized the opportunity and staked her career on what by all accounts amounted to a gamble.
She put together a group of no less than 15 professionals from university teachers to parastatal CEOs and public relations professionals, including her own son, Kabelo Binns.
She dubbed the group, “Friends of the BDP.”
While Venson was busy strategizing on saving the BDP, her political detractors inside the party, especially the publicity committee, became agitated that she was hogging all the limelight and possibly positioning herself.
It was not long before she was accused of having one of her eyes on the position of Vice President in the event President Khama sacked Vice President Mompati Merafhe.
Some key voices inside the BDP had called on Khama to sacrifice Merafhe and make him a fall guy as a way of proving that he was doing something to bring stability within the sinking ship that had become the BDP at the time.
“I am aware that some people inside the BDP had called me all sorts of names. What they choose to forget is that the party was in real trouble and all resources had to be harnessed to save it and that is just what I did,” a defiant Venson told The Telegraph this week.
She said she has never had ambitions beyond that which she has achieved.
“I think I am happy that growing from a poor family I rose high enough to become a Minister of state for this long. What more will I be asking for,” she asked rhetorically.
A former Permanent Secretary, Venson said she approached the President based on her knowledge of how the media works and also on strategy formulation.
“Those are my professional backgrounds. They are my areas of strength,” said Venson, who is also a former journalist.
While some had hoped that by now she would have disbanded her group of professionals, she said there was no need for her to do that and she is not about to.
“We meet as and when the need arises. Nobody has asked me to disband the group.”
The Telegraph can confirm that there are some elements that make up the BDP publicity committee that remain strongly hostile to Venson’s group and want it disbanded.