Minister of Foreign Affairs Pelonomi Venson Moitoi’s decision to seek another endorsement to contest for the African Union chair is reported to have divided the Southern African Development Community (SADC) ahead of the election which was postponed to next January.
Diplomatic sources told Sunday Standard this week that at the centre of the regional bloc’s ‘split’ is former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete’s decision to enter the race and unconfirmed reports that Venson-Moitoi will receive financial backing from the United States of America.
US Embassy spokesperson in Gaborone Ephraim Keoreng had not responded to Sunday Standard queries at the time of going press despite text messages requesting him to respond to the questionnaire.
Venson-Moitoi confirmed through her Tweeter Account that: “Next lap involves: Botswana will approach SADC once more to renew endorsement as we move forward to January 2017.”
She also confirmed in a brief interview that “we are waiting to consult SADC at the upcoming SADC Summit slated for Swaziland at the end of August”.
Observers say SADC faces dilemma because technically it will have two candidates in Venson-Moitoi and Kikwete. Should Kikwete enter the race, this would inevitably split the SADC vote.
Diplomatic sources have further reveals that America has urged Venson-Moitoi to go ahead and seek another SADC endorsement and have pledged to fund her campaign.
It has since emerged that the latest development does not sit well with some SADC member states that have picked the information from their diplomatic intelligence attach├®s in Gaborone. Member states want Venson-Moitoi to allay fears that America is not sponsoring her campaign.
There are worries that Venson-Moitoi may be an American Trojan horse in SADC and the AU should she win the election for the chair.
Botswana has broken ranks with the AU and teamed up with America on two crucial issues; AFRICOM and ICC, sources say. A number of SADC and AU member states have come out in the open against AFRICOM and ICC.
While she professed ignorance about Americans’ envisaged financial backing, Venson-Moitoi confirmed that the Office of the President and her ministry are in the process of drafting a budget paper for her campaign.
Moitoi also rubbished allegations that the SADC region was divided over her decision to re-seek endorsement. On allegations that some members states doubt her prospects of success and that the regional bloc needed a new candidate, Moitoi said the whole region had thrown its full weight behind her bid.
“Even at the recent elections in Rwanda, SADC was fully behind me. Even now as I intend to approach them seeking another endorsement, I know that they will fully support me,” she said.
Some countries wanted the alleged US involvement in Venson-Moitoi’s campaign to be to be clarified soon at the upcoming MCO meeting in Mozambique “but it was too late to change the agenda”.
It has also emerged that the issue of alleged US involvement has unsettled Lesotho and Zimbabwe because they supported Venson-Moitoi’s candidacy on the understanding that Botswana would not publicly criticise the political situations in both countries.
In a curious break from tradition, Botswana Government has not issued a public statement on the political situation in Lesotho and the recent political crisis in Zimbabwe.
A diplomatic source described the reception that Mugabe recently gave Venson-Moitoi when she sought his country’s support as uncharacteristic. Her visit was widely covered in the government state run media including the influential Herald newspaper, the source said.
Lesotho is reported to be against America’s involvement because it believes that it is interfering with that country’s political affairs by allegedly aligning with the opposition. Zimbabwe and America don’t see eye to eye because of the latter’s criticism of President Robert Mugabe’s governance.
Tanzania is expected to announce to SADC that they will be fielding a candidate and SADC will have to call for internal elections during the Summit in Swaziland; to decide between Venson-Moitoi and Kikwete. Tanzania is also a member of the East Africa Community bloc and should it lose at the SADC’s internal elections it has a fallback position, the source said.