A cabinet minister from the southern part of the country will challenge Vice President Slumber Tsogwane for the position of chairperson of Botswana Democratic Party under the group led by Pelonomi Venson- Moitoi.
The name remains a closely guarded secret as the aspiring candidate is making final arrangements before coming out in the open. No one is willing to shed light on the matter, not even the group leader, Moitoi the first woman to contest for the presidency of the party.
Speaking to Botswana Guardian Moitoi said, “I cannot tell you who is going to be my chairman, as we are still negotiating. I have asked several people, and the person who has agreed will be announced shortly. I will inform you after our agreement”.Asked to confirm if that person is not Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Nonofo Molefhi, Moitoi said: “I have spoken to Molefhi and he said he does not want”.
She said others were of the opinion that “since there is talk of BDP being aligned between North and South, then we agreed to allow our followers from the South to come up with their candidate or submit a name and I agreed to that”. Moitoi could only reveal that their candidate is a cabinet minister coming from the Southern part of the country. Other names that were believed will contest for the chairperson under Moitoi is Minister of Youth Empowerment Sports and Culture, Tshekedi Khama. “Tshekedi’s name cropped for the position, many talked about him that he has always been promised the chairmanship, first by his brother, former President Ian Khama, but was asked to pave way for President Masisi in Mmadinare. In Tonota again he was asked to step back as Masisi will appoint him chairman and vice president which is apparently the cause of today’s fights.
“Tshekedi was hoping that now he can run for chairman. I had expressed serious reservation that my running should not be tied to a Tshekedi chairmanship because it continues that baggage of the wars currently going on. I do not want to fight an extension of those as I am not privy to any agreements and or promises made to each concerning these positions which are not theirs but belong to the nation. I made my position to Tshekedi and he understood my point. I am very thankful to him that he understood my position”.
Moitoi said she is standing in order to exercise her democratic right. Asked why she wants to stand now, was it because they feared former President Lieutenant General Ian Khama, she said, “Yes, maybe. But you heard in the past weeks former president Festus Mogae expressing some regret, I do not know what they are regretting.
“I never said I am quitting constituency politics, but I said I am quitting politics in order to have time and run my consultancy services which I have been doing even in South Africa. If I were to quit BDP, how would I answer if asked why did you leave at this stage? My conclusion is that the party is not in the form I found it in 20 years ago. This is one of the main reasons I decided to say I still have a role to play hence my decision to make an offer to contest the presidency”.
Moitoi says just like she struggled with the AU (African Union Commission) campaign and other campaigns she is starting with what she has then talk to her friends. “I do have friends that I always rely on in times of need and these are locally-based friends. I am careful on who I talk to”.
Dismissing allegations that Khama is one of her sponsors Moitoi said: “I will ask Khama to assist if need be just like I will go to anybody else. But, what people should know is that twice Khama fired me from his cabinet and twice he returned me after interventions of some people.
“He fired me because I was able to face him and tell him what I believe is right instead. I wonder if this is when he can be my ally and ask me to contest when I do not want to; No, I took an independent decision. For now I must say I will approach him like any other as he too is influential. I must confess that I had spoken to him and he promised me support, I do not mind him or others”.
Moitoi was relieved when Masisi announced at the BDP special retreat in Palapye on Saturday that he will contest the election against her. Masisi said Moitoi’s challenge is within the party’s constutition and he embraces it and is ready to compete.
Speaking to Botswana Guardian before attending the retreat Venson-Moitoi said she believes she has been declared a candidate. “But instead of the elders calling me if they thought I had done anything out of order, they endorsed the other candidate. That is interesting, that shuts the door on my face as the other candidate.
“I am now declared a candidate I believe because when I wrote a letter expressing my interest hoping that I will be called to explain myself. I was more or less endorsed by default to run which I am now doing in full force
Although she is confident about victory, indications are that Moitoi is facing an uphill battle as numerous factors are against her. For example, women who are in the majority and some party structures are not rallying behind her.
Moitoi says the structures of the party such as Women’s Wing have a dual role. They have an adjudication role, but the members have an individual role as voters.
“For instance, the Chairperson of the Women’s Wing has a vote as an individual. But, she also carries a responsibility to pronounce on behalf of the Women’s Wing the word of the collective, so the two are embodied in one. But the question then comes in to make sure that when one carries the word of the collective, it is not clouded by the intentions of the individual”.
She said the position of the women’s wing, she is a member of, is not known because there has not been a congress yet. “We are waiting, normally it takes place before the national congress. As far as I am concerned there has not been a women’s congress. So they cannot purport to be a resolution at the women’s congress. There was a recommendation at the general assembly attended by all women. I am party to that recommendation which said we must support the president for the next 10 years”. “I facilitated all the groups. Later I made my announcement. The normal sequence of events will be now that a member of the women’s wing has made an announcement at the next congress, the women must now debate a decision of one of them against a recommendation they had already made committing to the president.
“They debate that and decide whether they support one of their own or stay with the president. That debate can either win or lose by a vote. That is when the chairperson of the women’s wing will then pronounce the position. For now I do not know what the chairperson was pronouncing”.
As for the circulating videos which showed party elders in the bodies of members of the council of elders endorsing President Masisi, Venson-Moitoi said they are unfortunate. “These are people to whom we run when we feel injustice has been done. So much damage has already been done by the structure. The chairperson of the women’s wing caused damage by making a declaration which does not exist, the elders take sides how do we make peace?
In my view what peace do we make when we were running over the things that build peace?”
“I am standing because I am a Democrat who has a constitutional right to do so. When I used the word women it is because the person attacking me was a man who used language that was demeaning to me as a person and I was responding to him.
“I was asked are you okay, what is this, this has never been done before. I felt that there was intimidation. Those who say I have never supported women do not know me well. Those are women who know nothing about my track record.”
Venson-Moitoi added, “we support women in various ways. Some of us are placard carrying, others are demonstrators; others help women daily in our daily assignments without going to TV to announce... if you go to my constituency you will find houses that I have built for destitute women. “You will find girls who originally dropped out of school that I have helped and are now working. Today in Gaborone, there are 10 women working as taxi drivers, who I took out of poverty as Minister of Education. I do things differently, just because I did not win a court case against women and children.”
Will Moitoi accept the outcome?
“Yes, I have always accepted the outcome of elections. How many times have I lost elections? I have lost elections even in the BDP. I have lost against Moyo Guma who is now my Secretary General in Maun. I have lost against Tebelelo Seretse, except that this time I am not going to lose”.