Monday, October 19, 2020

Venson-Moitoi refuses to show her hand

Botswana authorities fear that should they avail their African Union chairmanship campaign strategy for Foreign Affairs Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi to SADC Member States and its Secretariat some officials could pass the information to her rival in the event that primaries are held within the bloc.

Sunday Standard has raised documents showing how SADC is requesting Botswana authorities to share Venson-Moitoi’s campaign strategy with the regional bloc member states and its secretariat in Gaborone.

The documents “urge the Government of Botswana to share a strategy for the SADC candidate to garner support from AU Member States”.

At a press briefing this week, Venson-Moitoi confirmed that she was not in a position to publicise her campaign strategy. 

“Strategy … No I can’t discuss that strategy, not that I don’t trust you but the people who will read what you wrote. I do have a plan, I do have a plan as to what I should do,” Venson-Moitoi told reporters in Gaborone.

She added that: “I have to play the cards to play the cards to my chest; I worked like that to get my 23 points.”

Perhaps what amounts to a dilemma for Botswana authorities is the documents’ request that there is need to “set up a campaign team consisting of SADC Ministers of Foreign Affairs from the southern Africa region of the AU, with the support of the Secretariat”, to spearhead the campaign for Venson-Moitoi.

The request by SADC has thrown a new dimension to Venson-Moitoi’s campaign following reports that former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete is reportedly joining the race.

The documents do not outline a time-frame as to when Venson-Moitoi should have submitted her campaign strategy to SADC and its secretariat.

However, there are fears that by sharing her strategy with SADC and its secretariat, Venson-Moitoi could compromise her strategy campaign as some senior management at the secretariat could pass it to her rival, Kikwete. The SADC Secretariat is currently headed by Dr Stergomena Lawrence-Tax from Tanzania.

Asked by reporters if she was aware of reports that there could be another candidate within the region joining the race, Venson-Moitoi said: “There is always a possibility that there will be a candidate from SADC; I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be another candidate; we will go to Swaziland and find out, before we went to Kigali we held primaries (within the region).”

The documents also recommend that Venson-Moitoi’s campaign should draw heavily on the current AU Chairperson Nkosidzana-Dlamini’s past campaign strategy.

The documents “note the need to develop a strategy based on lessons learnt from the campaign team that spearheaded the campaign of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and to establish a campaign team composed of Ministers of Foreign Affairs assisted by the Secretariat to enhance the campaign for the SADC region candidate in and beyond the SADC region.”

The documents also “note that the Republic of Botswana confirmed that Honourable Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi will still represent the region at the next elections in January 2017” and urge SADC Member States to continue supporting and campaigning for  the southern Africa candidate for the position of the AU Commission  Chairperson.

The elections were postponed after six rounds of voting when no candidate for the position attained the required number of votes ÔÇô two thirds of the voting countries.  Elections were postponed to January 2017, in Addis Ababa. 

While she did not win, Venson-Moitoi fought gallantly for the position gannering 15 votes in the first round while 28 countries abstained. In the second round, Venson-Motoi also won all the rounds of voting but ended up with 23 votes, which was less than the two-thirds majority necessary, while the other two candidates were eliminated.  Venson-Moitoi needed at least 36 votes cast in her favour to win.

It also emerges in the documents that prior to the elections in Rwanda, three CVs were submitted to SADC by Botswana, Malawi and South Africa respectively for the following:

Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi – Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation;

Dr Jane Mayemu Ansah – Judge of Appeal, Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal; and

Angela Thoko Didiza, Member of Parliament.

Malawi withdrew its candidate for the position; SADC considered submissions from Botswana and South Africa and selected Venson-Moitoi as the region’s candidate.

Reports indicate that before elections there were queries from some quarters that all the three candidates from Botswana, Equatorial Guinea and Uganda were below the calibre desired for the AU Chairmanship, which was demonstrated by the large number of countries that chose to abstain from casting their votes.

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