Dr. Venson-Moitoi’s AU loss is an insult to Botswana

SHARE   |   Monday, 25 July 2016   |   By Simon Gabathuse
Dr. Venson-Moitoi’s AU loss is an insult to Botswana

There are suggestions that Dr. Pelonomi Venson–Motoi could not meet the required threshold for African Union (AU) Chairpersonship bid because of President Ian Khama’s non-participation in African Union forums. Analysts insist that this was also fuelled by the position of Botswana regarding the International Criminal Court (ICC) where some African countries have called on AU not to recognise it as they see it as deliberately created for and targeting African leaders. It is of concern that since the formation of the ICC, no non-African has been tried there. ICC is funded by western countries, specifically the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA). The USA, on the other hand, is not a signatory to ICC and has various agreements with varying countries such as the Republic of Botswana that in the event that an American citizen is wanted for crimes against humanity by the ICC, and if such a person is in Botswana, the Botswana Government shall not hand such a person to the ICC.

Botswana is one of the countries that poured scorn on the South African Government for creating a legal quandary domestically and internationally over the violation of a High Court order to arrest Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir during the AU summit in June 2015 to face crimes against humanity. The head of Public Affairs at the ICC Fadi El Abdallah had noted then that the ICC Judges will have to – after considering South Africa’s views on the matter – make a decision as to whether South Africa violated the Rome Statutes. African countries had opted then to not make any public proclamations and Botswana opted to air her frustrations to the suspicion of African countries. Botswana has been seen by other African countries to be an ally of the Western countries. This trend and view of suspicion is almost as old as Botswana. It gained momentum during the reign of former President Dr. Festus Mogae when Botswana was alleged to have agreed to host AFRICOM centre. This is a position Botswana continues to deny. It is important to note that we were long viewed with suspicion even before it was thought President Khama will join politics and ultimately become head of state. To therefore narrate that Dr. Venson-Moitoi did not ascend to the AU chair because of President Khama is a fallacy. I seek herein to debate the matter with facts that I believe have been neglected.

“Botswana's foreign policy, especially rooftop diplomacy where the country has gained a reputation of openly criticising others, has been cited as Moitoi's major undoing. While analysts and commentators agree that Botswana's foreign policy is principled and objective, they also suggest that different factors could have contributed to Moitoi's failure to secure enough votes. Botswana's open criticism of other countries, led by state President Ian Khama, has isolated the country from fellow African states who strongly believe in quiet diplomacy among peers. This makes the small Southern African nation very unpopular among other states, coupled with Khama's open unsavoury comments dismissing the AU as just a talk shop. Khama has never attended any AU Summit, choosing to delegate his Deputy (Mokgweetsi Masisi) as was the case in Kigali over the weekend. The large number of countries abstaining from voting has opened the contest further, with the possibility of new candidates joining the race ahead of the January, 2017 re-run.”

I seek to debate herein that the events that led to the elections of the chairperson of AU being moved for a re-run cannot be blamed sorely on President Khama not attending AU forums or the statements made by Botswana Government against the AU and some of African states. The events emanate first from the statements made by other African countries where pronouncements were made that none of the three candidates were capable and experienced. Instead of concentrating on bashing the Botswana Government and the credibility of Dr. Venson- Moitoi, perhaps one should recall that even before we learnt that some countries were hell-bent on boycotting elections, there was already talk which bordered on undermining the capacity and experience of the contesters. I deliberately choose to focus on one candidate being Dr. Venson-Moitoi.

Let us recall the brief history of Dr. Venson–Moitoi so we handle the matter with needed comprehension.  She is the eighth Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Botswana, having assumed the office on the 31st of October 2014. She was born on the 13th May 1951 in Botswana and is married with two children. Her areas of specialty in Public Service Management and Administrative Systems Analysis and design. With a Diploma in Local Government from the Institute of Public Service in Connecticut, USA, she also holds a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University, USA.  She was awarded an honorary doctorate in Social Development based on a review of her work and writing on Government and governance. She started her career as a journalist for a private publication in 1970 until 1973 when she joined the ranks of the Public Service. Her service lasted for 20 years between 1973 and 1993 in which she held various positions, the last as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Lands and Housing. Post Public Service, Dr. Venson–Moitoi pursued other interests in the private Sector in line with areas of her specialisation.

Among others she took the role of Chief Executive Officer of the Kalahari Conservation Society from 1993 to 1994.  She followed that with tenure as Head of the Institute for Local Government (INLOGOV) in Cape Town, South Africa from 1994 to 1998 and also carried out private Consultancy work in Local Government.  During the same period she did projects for UNDP in Zimbabwe and Gambia as well as GIZ in South Africa. As a long-time member of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), she served in various capacities within the party before she was elected as Specially Elected MP in 1999. Her political career has seen her win subsequent elections and continually holding various Cabinet portfolios in Works, Transport and Communications, Trade and Industry, Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Science and Technology as well as Education and Skills Development. If this cannot be seen to be having capacity and experience, then I don’t know what capacity and experience is.

The current Chairperson of AU, Dr. Nkosasana Dlamini – Zuma, born 27 January 1949 has no other history of public service experience and capacity except of being a South African politician and anti-apartheid activist. She was South Africa's Minister of Health from 1994 to 1999, under President Nelson Mandela, then Minister of Foreign Affairs from 17 June 1999 to 10 May 2009, under presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe. She was moved to the position of Minister of Home Affairs in the Cabinet of President Jacob Zuma, her ex-husband, on 10th of May 2009, a capacity in which she served until her resignation on 02nd of October 2012. On 15th of July 2012, Dlamini-Zuma was elected by the African Union Commission as its chairperson. If African countries saw comfort in her candidacy and voted her to be the chair of AU and yet come back to view us as without capacity and experience, then we can simply conclude that the current momentum can only mean capacity and experience in the African Union countries’ context is; fighting, or being in the struggle, or as in her case, being an anti-apartheid activist. This then means we can never qualify to lead AU. Then if we can’t qualify to lead AU on the basis that we never “went to the bush”, it then defeats logic as to why we should be a part of AU in the first place. Maybe what we should be seeking going forward is the nature and understanding of capacity and experience in the view of African Union members.

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