As reports of clashes within the Botswana Democratic Party members continue unabated over the preferred candidate to lead the party between Mokgweetsi Masisi and other candidates, Botswana Ambassador to Japan, Jacob Nkate, is said to be the secret bomb to be delivered at the appropriate time.
It is said some of Nkate’s supporters and volunteers are busy assembling teams of strong and influential men and women within the party who are doing the ground work for him in their constituencies and regions while he is still on official duty. Nkate, even though not active currently is said to be enjoying the support of some MPs and Ministers who are being frustrated within the party. The BDP faithful are said to be putting their hopes on Nkate despite his absence from the political scene. Nkate will return home at the end of this year after completing his diplomatic assignment in Japan. The alleged bickering between the Vice President Masisi’s camp and that of Infrastructure, Science and Technology Minister Nonofo Molefhi is said to be one of the contributors pushing some democrats to believe Nkate is the solution as his campaign is quiet and typically in alignment to the norm and processes of the Party. When contacted for comment, Nkate maintained that he would not discuss his candidature for now because he is still a civil servant. His team is said to be playing their cards close to the chest to allow him to finish his term in Japan.
A minister who is in support of Nkate’s candidacy said “a lot of people tend to think they know you just because you have been in the public eye for so long. Some even tend to dehumanise you. They forget that one is a normal human being with feelings, family and friends.” He further stated that “We people in public life also tend to allow others to define us and they define us through how they see us. With Nkate for instance, those who like him will say he is decisive, assertive and firm. Those who don’t feel so positively disposed will say he is impulsive and arrogant. So it may be important sometimes to help the truth as opposed to just letting the truth speak for itself.
That is why some of us are waiting for him to come home and publicly declare then would we rally behind him”.Botswana Guardian understands that the recent BDP special congress held in Mogoditshane gave Nkate’s supporters an opportunity to reach out to a wide audience during the same weekend. It is understood that during these informal chats their potential supporters were encouraged to carefully and objectively gauge those in the race for the leadership with a view to identifying the best candidate in terms of Party and Government leadership experience and ability to woo voters and the rest of society to believe in the Party again, especially the youth and the middle class and other members of the party who feel side-lined and excluded or have left the Party for various reasons. The supporters were energised by the fact that coincidentally, Nkate had a pre-arranged visit to the country during the same week. While he flew back to Japan on the same weekend, Botswana Guardian could not establish whether Nkate met his supporters for a brief on progress or not.
Nkate, who comes from the small village of Tsau, served in various structures of the party and in government. A senior BDP MP told this publication that as a politician Nkate’s path has been well traced. “I believe he is a conviction politician. He does what is right in his view for society, not for himself or his political career. That is why in spite of all that has been said you would not find that he has favoured himself, his family or his friends whether it’s at Lands and Housing, Trade or Education ministries or BEDIA. If you recall well he is the only cabinet member who resigned as Assistant Minister at Finance Ministry under Festus Mogae during the Zac Construction saga.”
The MP is of the view that Nkate’s resignation was motivated by his desire to clear his name while the rest of Government continued with business without being encumbered by his personal issues. “A mark of a leader indeed! He came back to Cabinet as a full Minister because there was never any fault on his part and therefore no need to clear his name either with the police or court. In fact, Nkate was legally and formally appointed as a Director of Zac Construction and was registered as such with the Registrar of Companies with a director’s fee attached to the appointment, as is the practice in the economy. I believe, where he has made mistakes, they have been just that, genuine mistakes”.
The legislator further said Nkate has proved to be a decisive leader in Government and is probably one of the few Ministers who have had to run Ministries that are perceived to be controversial and difficult such as Lands and Housing and Education. Said the MP in favour of Nkate, “he has had to take difficult and controversial decisions such as the demolition of Tsolamosese squatters’ houses. Here again, his Ministry was simply implementing a court order, yet some of us try to use this to adjudge him as arrogant. In my view our country and economy needs decisive leaders who are going to make unpopular decisions if such are for the good of all society and the economy”.
BDP insiders believe given his track record in government, private sector and his current diplomatic role as well as his legal training and practice, he would be able to have more people interested in the party even internationally. Confronted, Nkate said he would not discuss politics because of his employment. “I would rather not discuss political issues. Look I can only spare you time if you ask me about my current assignment on behalf of Botswana Government.”
The veteran politician has however indicated that he would only pronounce his next move at the right time. “Obviously when I am back home I will be free and ready to be “me”. Politics is my second nature and if I were called upon to serve and I and my family believe I can add value, I will gladly do so. However, there will be a lot of soul searching and conversations with colleagues in the party to be had as part of the determination of my next steps.” When quizzed whether he will be interested and consider standing for the position of president if called upon by his supporters he answered, “As far as I am concerned there is no vacancy in the presidency and again interest is one thing and reality another. Let us cross the bridge when we get to it”.