The air is getting thick that Vice President, General Momati Merafhe, will retire from office sometime in November.
This will bring to an end a public career spanning close to fifty years.
Although Merafhe’s health has failed him lately, those close to him say he is also unhappy with a number of issues, including the direction that the country has taken.
Critically, he has felt left out of the loop in many key decisions. And this despite his avowed loyalty to President Ian Khama.
Below we look up at five possible replacements for Merafhe; a distinguished public servant who many believe despite his occasional outbursts and divisive leanings has executed his mandate with dedication and integrity.
Ndelu Seretse ÔÇô Up until he was charged with corruption, Seretse was by far the favourite to succeed Merafhe in the position of Vice President. Although many of his critics like to unfairly attribute his star to his blood relations with the President, Seretse, it must be pointed out, has been a successful politician in his own right. Criminal charges aside, Seretse was a star performer during his days in cabinet.
Representing one of the ruling party’s Serowe constituencies, Seretse has a formidable constituency backing that is almost a prerequisite for one to ascend to the high position of Vice President.
Before he resigned from cabinet, Seretse had served as a minister responsible for defence, justice and security ÔÇô a powerful position that from early on sent signals that he was being groomed for bigger responsibilities ahead.
There is no question that the President must be terribly disappointed at how things turned out. But Seretse remains a serious contender ÔÇô assuming he does not go to jail, that is.
It must also be added that Seretse has remained very loyal to President Ian Khama. A plus for him is that, like Khama, he has a strong military background which in the past has proved one of Khama’s key criteria when making appointments to key and sensitive positions. Though not given credit for it, Seretse comes across as a shrewd debater whose clarity is often lacking among many of our politicians.
Kitso Mokaila ÔÇô He is yet another key Khama loyalist. As is the case with the president’s men, Mokaila served in the army before he ventured into business and ultimately into politics.
His weakness though, is that unlike Seretse, Mokaila does not have a very strong political presence. Owing to his half-hearted interest in politics (he likes business more) the opposition BNF has been making strenuous inroads in Mokaila’s Barolong constituency. This may count against Mokaila’s chances when a decision has to be made based on his value additions in as far as political strengths are considered.
Truth be told, to Ian Khama, Mokaila is also a family retainer. The two men’s fathers worked together in the 1970s and 80s.
And history shows that Khama likes to work with people who he can easily relate with at a personal level.
By any account Mokaila meets the bill, if only he could start working more at becoming a politician and less at being a businessman.
Mokgweetsi Masisi ÔÇô another family retainer and a rising star in BDP politics, Masisi has recently been promoted to the all too powerful position of Minister of Presidential Affairs. His loyalty to the president has been absolute. If ever there were any doubts about his loyalty they were laid to rest during the recent public service strike when he, literally, and perhaps a little carelessly, one might add, volunteered to take the bullet on behalf of Ian Khama.
Together with Mokaila, Masisi has been a leading member of a team tasked with brokering the president’s initiative to suspend electoral contests inside the ruling party until such time that some semblance of unity had come about.
Although he does not have a military background ÔÇô which may count against him, Masisi is one of the few ministers who enjoys the ear and direct attention of the President. Masisi’s father, it has to be pointed out, was one of the senior ministers in the founding cabinet of President Ian Khama’s father immediately after independence. He has all the qualities of a great politician in the making.
Pelonomi Venson ÔÇô Up until the recent revelations by Wikileaks, Venson was looked at as one of the people who President Ian Khama trusted most. It is difficult to say how that can still be the case.
Although the extent of the fallout is still to play itself out in public, there is no doubt that Khama would be thoroughly disappointed by the comments attributed to Venson, not least because Khama cherishes loyalty and he expects nothing less from those he admits inside his closed circle of confidants.
That said, BDP insiders say Venson is one of the few people from outside the army who know Khama inside out. She knows the man’s way of thinking ÔÇô and she plays to it as she skillfully manipulates her way around the maze.
She has used her mastery of Khama not only to outfox her competitors for the president’s attention but also to always come out on top when everyone would have ruled her out.
Even as her loyalty is currently in doubt, her experience of the public service as well as a long running friendship with Khama is likely to increase her chances. For now, I will, however, not put my money on her. But then I have ruled her out before only to be proved wrong.
Ponatshego Kedikilwe ÔÇô The most experienced and intellectually formidable in Khama’s cabinet, Kedikilwe is also the most distrusted. Grudgingly and against his will, Khama has found himself forced to work with Kedikilwe because of the immense skill, indisputable talent and experience that the veteran politician brings to the table.
Ever since he stood against Khama for the position of BDP chairman, Kedikilwe has been a marked man, branded an ambitious rogue that could not be trusted. Once an exuberant politician, PHK has spent most of his latter years in politics brooding and keeping his cards to his chest.
By any account, his is an outside chance.
His strategy has been to stay above party politics while performing the tasks assigned him by the President in his role as a senior minister.
Over and over again, the President is said to have confided with his associates how he respected Kedikilwe’s work ethic and could simply not do without him.
The President easily ranks Kedikilwe by far the most resourceful and competent performer in cabinet.
But, sadly for Kedikilwe, history continues to interfere as to muddle his chances to his ultimate preferment.
Insiders say the hawks dominating Khama’s inner circle were not amused by Kedikilwe’s soft approach towards trade unions during the recent public sector strike. After the then Acting Vice President spurned attempts on him to adopt a hard-line, they used his demeanour as a stick with which to beat him in their attempts to prove that he was still not converted as to be one of them.
But again and again, President Khama has found himself having to rely on Kedikilwe on some of the more technical aspects of running a government. To his credit, Kedikilwe has not disappointed.
Despite his proven abilities, Kedikilwe remains an outsider.
And if he has any chance of becoming a Vice President, it is only because he has brought the much needed stability and credibility to cabinet.