Cabinet minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi stands a good chance of becoming the most powerful woman in Botswana politics. She has only one thing to do; win the Botswana Democratic Party chairmanship position. To achieve this Venson Moitoi has to clear the hurddles on her way and defeat the other aspirants.
Not the one to shy away from a fight, sources close to Venson-Moitioi are adamant that she has made up her mind about contesting the BDP chairmanship at the party’s elective congress next year. It is said that she fully understands that the fight will be enormous and is ready to go to battle.
She has already instructed her foot soldiers to begin testing the waters before she could officially announce her candidature to the structures. Her main opponent is expected Samson Moyo Guma.
In the BDP circles Venson-Moitoi is not only a powerful leader but also one of the most respected party leaders. Venson- Moitoi is described by many as a strong willed woman who has fought many battles, lost few and won plenty. In fact some are quick to point that in an era where, women participation is low, Venson-Moitoi is the ‘last woman standing’ in BDP politics.
Who else is remaining?” they ask. Tebelelo Seretse-her number one political rival- finally settled for a diplomatic post in the United States of America (USA) after successive failures to wrestle Serowe South constituency from her. Seretse eventually lost in her bid for the BDP secretary general position in 2009 in Kanye.
Another leader, Margaret Nasha, a prominent politician who was at one point tipped to be the future party leader is the Speaker of the National Assembly and has since ceased to be active in partisan politics. “Who else is there? Current crop of BDP women in parliament are no match to Venson-Moitoi. “Mma Tshireletso is a very good grassroots politician but can she match
Venson Moitoi’s intellect and influence within the party? The answer is obvious,” commented a former MP who once worked with Venson-Moitoi. At the government level she leads one of the most troubled ministries– education and skills development-often called the ‘exit’ ministry.
While she is loathed by the teacher trade unions for allegedly failing to improve teachers’ working conditions, those close to her this week said that she is a humble servant who has the interests of the teachers [and other ministry employees] at heart.
Venson-Moitoi, a factionalist who has always been associated with the Kwelagobe-Keadikilwe faction since the start of her political career in the late 1990s is a smart politician, according to her acquaintances. Despite her association with the Kwelagobe-Kedikilwe faction Venson Moitoi has not publicly endorsed the faction. “She has always been part of our faction, and contributed immensely to the faction.
One thing that you have to admire about her is that she loves the BDP. She has never done anything intentionally to tarnish the image of the party,” said an MP who previously belonged to Barata-Phathi faction. Her backers are upbeat about her chances of leading the party, but before that she needs to win the hearts of BDP members around the country.
Her supporters are convinced that Venson-Moitoi is well known within the BDP structures, having served as the party deputy secretary general from 1999 to 2003, deputising Daniel Kwelagobe. It doesn’t come as a surprise now that speculation is rife that Kwelagobe is pushing her takeover from him when he retires next year.
“Kwelagobe introduced Moitoi to politics when she was still a political novice, that’s why she will always be loyal to him to this day.” Venson-Moitoi is also said to enjoy a special friendship with president Khama.Observers believe that in order to win the chairmanship position, Venson-Moitoi will need Kwelagobe more than ever. “I don’t see how she can win without Kwelagobe, she knows it, he knows it,” a BDP councillor told Botswana Guardian.
A reluctant candidate
Despite receiving backing from Kwelagobe, Venson-Moitoi appears to be a reluctant candidate. Even some of her would be backers are surprised that she has not yet started to assemble her campaign team for the position let alone come up with a lobby list.
Only Philip Makgalemele who recently announced that he was interested in challenging the incumbent secretary general Mpho Balopi is believed to be in Venson-Moitoi’s camp. On the other hand Guma has already assembled a team of campaigners and has finalised a team of running mates. Guma’s supporters are said to be frequently bombarding BDP members with calls and messages seeking support.
“She is playing a very dangerous game. I am sure she hasn’t received proper advice from her handlers. If she doesn’t show us where she stands she is going to lose. She has to energise her base and reassure them that she is still in the game,” commented a Francistown supporter sympathetic to her.