As soon as Hon Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi announced her candidature in the upcoming Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) presidential election, the former President Lt Gen Ian Khama immediately endorsed her. It didn’t come to me as a surprise given the mindboggling stand-off between him and the President, His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi. To her opponents, this was a bad error of judgement owing to the excess baggage Khama brings from his presidency while to Hon Venson-Moitoi and her supporters, Lt Gen Khama’s endorsement wouldn’t have come at a better and appropriate time given the massive’ following he enjoys from across the BDP in particular and Batswana in general.
The stand-off between President Masisi and Lt Gen Khama is viewed by some as some poisoned chalice that could potentially turn back would-be supporters and voters from Hon Venson-Moitoi and consequently render her participation in the contest, a damp squib. Others feel without hard and persuasive arguments for me that is, that the former is disturbing and making it difficult for the current to govern while others feel the current is a ‘cry baby who likes attention’ and may be overwhelmed by the full plate of governing in front of him. These are subjective arguments in the body politic of the BDP whose proponents and protagonists may never agree upon. While there could be an element of truth in these arguments, it should be stated that people who religiously and blindly follow others in the mould of Khama cannot be easily persuaded otherwise. We have seen how some Zimbabweans religiously and blindly followed Robert Mugabe leading up to the time he was deposed notwithstanding their precarious socio-economic circumstances. We are seeing how some South Africans religiously follow former President Jacob Zuma notwithstanding serious corruption and malfeasance allegations against him. The point I am making is that while there will be past leaders with a serious chequered past like Lt Gen Khama, there will be people who still remain loyal to them nevertheless.
Hon Venson-Moitoi it could reasonably be argued strategically noted that she could benefit from the influence of Lt Gen Khama in the BDP given that it has been in the open that not all leaders in cabinet and parliament supported President Masisi now and in the past. Long before she announced that she was challenging President Masisi, she would have been aware of the divided loyalty to the President from these cadres. It is an open secret that President Masisi, and by his own admission, let the cat out of the bag that some of his colleagues wanted Lt Gen Khama to fire him from the position of Vice President. These individuals are still there in cabinet and parliament. The recent passing of the motion on the direct election of the President in parliament by some BDP MPs is a living example of a divided parliamentary caucus. Lt Gen Khama is better placed to take advantage of this scenario to influence it in Hon Venson-Moitoi’s favour.
The story carried by the Weekend Post (16-22 March 2019) headlined ‘12 MPs may quit BDP’ somewhat buttresses the divided loyalty. Lt Gen Khama, having played some part campaigning for these individuals to become MPs and some to become Ministers and Assistant Ministers respectively, would be more inclined to align with him as a token of appreciation. Without stating the obvious, these individuals would gravitate towards Lt Gen Khama as a sign of, and if you like, venting their political frustrations and showing absolute loyalty to their mentors. They would vote for someone challenging President Masisi. It goes without saying therefore that Hon Venson-Moitoi would benefit big time through Lt Gen Khama’s influence in getting these individuals on her side.
To run a campaign as robust, nerve-wracking and expensive as this one, Hon Venson-Moitoi would