Venson-Moitoi: In politics, there are no permanent enemies

SHARE   |   Monday, 23 September 2019   |   By Adam Phetlhe
Venson Moitoi Venson Moitoi

Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi recently resurfaced at a Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) event after being AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave) for sometime where party President M.E.K. Masisi was the main attraction. Mma Venson-Moitoi would have attended the last party event immediately before December 2018 when the wheels of camaraderie between herself and the President began to fall off. What subsequently followed was  animosity of epic proportions particularly with the President and the BDP in general culminating in her dismissal from cabinet. The little chronology of the foregoing notwithstanding, Mma Venson-Moitoi may very well have confirmed the saying that in politics, there are no permanent enemies but permanent interests. It is this interest that has given rise to the question whether something should be read in her sudden resurfacing. Better still, has she been promised by her ‘erstwhile’ adversary something just too good to ignore? Has she betrayed those who stood by her immediately after her dismissal from cabinet up to the BDP elective congress? I will try to answer these questions hereunder.

By stating her intensions and actually challenging President Masisi to the presidency of the BDP though eventually all in vain, Mma Venson-Moitoi was simply making it known to all and sundry that she has the wherewithal to lead the party and by extension, this Republic. Something tells me that the intention to lead the BDP is still truly on for her notwithstanding the enormous setbacks and personal despicable insults she suffered particularly on the way to the BDP elective congress in April this year. The very people who hurled these despicable insults (not that there are other acceptable insults) at her have suddenly turned into her praise singers. Mma Venson-Moitoi I want to believe, is without doubt still deeply hurt and humiliated by her own party for simply attempting to run for a political position and any suggestion in the form of forgive and forget is simply cosmetic to say the least. On any other day and if she were any other person, she would have drawn the curtain on her political career. Not so for Mma Venson-Moitoi it would seem!


When those who supported her in her quest to dethrone President Masisi and not least her comrade in arms Lt Gen Ian Khama bolted out of the BDP, she stood firm as a BDP member in good standing to this day. And probably against all expectations. It was thought that she would undertake the Great Trek to the BPF at some point as a gesture of solidarity and appreciation to the unqualified support she received from the now BPF members and its patron, Rre Khama. But she has stayed put and loyal to her BDP vows. It was in her interest to further her ambition of one day leading the BDP and potentially this Republic by remaining right at the belly of the BDP than by decamping.  But her quest to give her presidential bid another shot if this is what still occupies her mind, could potentially be scuppered by the fact that her main supporting constituency of the first instance is out of the BDP and with Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). The bulk of the current BDP membership led by amongst others the Women’s Wing is made up of those who were, and possibly still are, against her for daring to speak truth to power or challenging the tradition that the sitting President has never been challenged before. Nothing remotely suggests this position has changed. The point I am making is that while she may still be harbouring the ambition of leading the BDP which I believe is still an unfinished story for her, the obstacles to do so may be too steep to overcome than before. But given the shrewd politician and the diplomat she is, Mma Venson-Moitoi will pour cold water over any suggestion that she still harbours the BDP presidential ambition. Time will tell.

Has she been offered a position or some responsibility too good to be ignored? It may very well be the case or not. There are speculations that President Masisi may have offered her a diplomatic posting or the Speakership of the National Assembly in the event the BDP won this election. These are possible and reasonable propositions to make in order to cure the rift that arguably, has brought the BDP in this perilous position particularly in an election year. In the event she has been offered and accepted such diplomatic posting, it will permanently derail her BDP presidential ambitions. Presidents who felt threatened by one of their members in one respect or the other often choose this route and if the recent circumstances between Mma Venson-Moitoi and the President are anything to go by though it will be suggested that they have kissed and made up, this route will better serve the latter. If the speakership or any other local position is the case, the presidential ambition project could be resuscitated to the detriment of the President.


It has been suggested that Mma Venson-Moitoi is better placed to diffuse the real or perceived influence of the former President Ian Khama and by the extension that of the founding of the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) particularly in the Serowe constituencies and its immediate hinterland. Given her political pedigree, I will agree that she has the wherewithal to deal with the political developments in that area that could have a negative impact on the prospects of the BDP in this election. Ever since the political developments in that part of Botswana unfolded with some members of the BDP reportedly aggrieved by the manner the party was run on many fronts and in the process quitting, no notable interventions by the party were undertaken to stem the tide. In fact, the narrative was that these were bitter people who had lost in the party’s bulela ditswe (primary elections) and could therefore not harm the BDP in any form or shape. I wonder if the party and its operatives still hold this view given what obtains on the ground. My view is that it is as good as shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

If Mma Venson-Moitoi is expected to go and neutralise the BPF influence for this election and the future, it will be as good as walking her into the lion’s den. The point of departure is that it may very well be too late to achieve any meaningful and desired outcomes given that the BPF appears to be up and running. It is not clear whether and if indeed she undertakes such an expedition, she will be courting those who have already left to come back or whether she will be preventing further damage. The only viable option for the expedition to succeed is to significantly collapse the BPF influence for it to be as far as possible, irrelevant in this election. The question is whether this is possible or not. All things considered, it appears no is the answer. It is probably unimaginable how Mma Venson-Moitoi will muster the courage at this stage of political madness to look BPF members in the eye to persuade them to return to the BDP or better still, not to collaborate with their strategic partner in the form of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). But if this is part of the deal between her and President Masisi and assuming it is, it should reason that it is inescapable for her not honour her side of such deal.   


When all is said and done, it is fair to suggest that a lot can, and should be read in Mma Venson-Moitoi’s resurfacing at a BDP event where the party’s parliamentary candidate for Mochudi West constituency was launched. While it will be suggested that her presence thereat is nothing out of the ordinary, I am arguing that she is keeping her chances of challenging for party’s presidential position alive by reconciling with the incumbent President Masisi in particular and the party in general. But given the political developments post the BDP elective congress in the form of her supporters exiting to form the BPF, it could present her with the near insurmountable task of establishing new supporters within the party structures for her dream to take off again. Is she using the same strategy used by President Masisi against Rre Khama where he became overly loyal to him only to show his true colours at a later stage? It may very well be the case. While the jury is still out there on my position in the subject matter, the following weeks could give an indication in which direction the wind blows. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise. Judge for Yourself!


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