Thursday, May 23, 2024

When the forlorn totters before crossfire of presidential hopefuls

Thousands of Selibe Phikwe residents who find themselves in the lurch following the collapse of BCL mine are believed to be collateral damage in the fierce presidential succession battle between Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi and area MP Nonofo Molefhi.  

The biggest winner in the ongoing liquidation of Selibe Phikwe BCL mine is likely to be Masisi who is currently battling to stave off a strong challenge from Molefhi.   The presidential succession battle between Masisi and Molefhi seems set to be lost and won on the ruins of the mining town, and the power jostling is already playing itself out in curious ways.  

Molefhi, who is Selibe Phikwe East Member of Parliament and Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, seemed to be losing the grip on his constituency and the presidential race last week after he was allegedly blindsided by the Vice President.   Government’s decision to place the BCL mine under provisional liquidation has made Molefhi the political fall guy while Masisi emerged as the go-to-guy. In a telling development on how the presidential succession race is shaping up, Molefhi was last week booed out of a public meeting in his constituency that was addressed by Masisi.  

Should Molefhi lose the Selibe Phikwe East party primary or national parliamentary elections, this would automatically disqualify him from the race to succeed President Ian Khama. And that is believed to be the grand plan.   Molefhi confirmed to Sunday Standard that his presence was greeted with boos and hisses during the meeting addressed by Masisi at Selibe Phikwe Stadium, but insisted that the show of disapproval did not come from residents of Selibe Phikwe East which is his constituency but from the other side of the mining town.   He stopped short of confirming that he was being made the political fall guy of the Selibe Phikwe crisis because people believe that as minister and area MP he has not done enough to save the town.  

“We have to distinguish between a government minister and an opposition member of Parliament in terms of what they say in public and how they say it. As a government minister I cannot stand in public and criticise government because I have a platform as a minister where I engage government on matters of Selibe Phikwe. Besides I had several meetings with union representatives; with the union committees composed of national and branch organs of Botswana Miners Union,” said Molefhi.  

“I also hold Kgotla meetings; six times a year in my constituency where all these issues are discussed. In these meetings BCL employees are always in attendance, raising issues affecting them, either personal or organisational, and I take them up,” said Molefhi. Masisi could not comment on this matter. He sent a message saying he could “not talk right now”. In another curious development, Masisi dropped Molefhi at the eleventh hour from the line-up of a Selibe Phikwe business community meeting they were scheduled to address jointly last Tuesday at Selibe Phikwe Hotel. Masisi also missed the meeting and assigned Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Minister Sadique Kebonang to address the meeting on his behalf. Kebonang is understood to be in the faction rooting for Masisi.   Kebonang told the business meeting that Masisi could not be present because he was not feeling well.

Curiously, the Vice President was spotted on the same day in a meeting with Ishmael Legwaila at Bosele Hotel in Selibe Phikwe.   Molefhi confirmed that Masisi did not attend the Selibe Phikwe Business Community meeting as planned because he claimed he was not feeling well and therefore excused himself. Molefhi further confirmed seeing the VP with Legwaila but he did not want to comment on their relationship and what they do in private or what their friendship is all about.   Sources close to the BDP presidential race, however, maintain that Legwaila is part of the plot to oust Molefhi and he is being groomed to inherit Selibe Phikwe East constituency.  

The grand plan is to field a candidate who will oust Molefhi during the party primary elections as a bid to stop him from contesting for party presidency. The name of Selibe Phikwe Mayor Amogelang Mojuta cropped up before as one of those who were approached by VP as possible candidates. It is understood that Masisi is now considering Legwaila to depose Molefhi.


Read this week's paper