The race for the Vice-Presidency is said to have taken a different shape as the ruling party’s old factions are said to have joined forces against what they see as a third force.
Those close to the race say the Baratha-phathi faction has joined forces with sworn rivals, the A-team to push for the ascendance of transport and communication minister, Nonofo Molefhi for the vice-presidency.
Meanwhile, some other central committee figures who are also close to President Ian Khama, are said to favour the election of Kitso Mokaila for the Vice-Presidency.
The seat of Vice-President will become vacant after Ponatshego Kedikilwe retires from office immediately after the October general elections.
Constitutionally, it is the prerogative of the President to appoint his deputy. After the retirement of the then Vice-President, Mompati Merafhe, Khama appointed Kedikilwe in 2012 and it was stated the man will serve only up to the end of Khama’s first presidential term, which ends before the October General Elections.
President Khama has been tight-lipped about whom he will appoint. At one point, in an interview with The Patriot on Sunday, he said he also was in the dark as to whom will become his deputy.
Some party watchers have said that Khama’s praise of Mokaila at a kgotla meeting in Ditlharapeng, President Khama this week Tuesday, has sent fears that maybe Khama favours Mokaila and that though he has been undecided, perhaps he is settling on him.
At the meeting, Khama sang laurels for Mokaila, saying the man, who is also the area MP, had applied himself well to represent his constituents.
He is also reported to have added that Mokaila has done a sterling job as a cabinet minister. “It is not easy to double as an MP and minister because most of the times you are engaged in Gaborone but I want to tell you that Mr Mokaila has managed to execute himself very well,” he said.
Who is Mokaila?
He is the son of Dingaan Mokaila, the man who once served as Private Secretary to the first President, Sir Seretse Khama, a position that under Ian Khama, went to one of Mokaila senior’s sons,Tefo. Kitso, is part of the inner circle of the current president. They are said to have known each other from childhood days when their fathers were working at the highest office in the land. Both Khama and Kitso Mokaila are former army officers, with the former having left the army at the top of its echelon as commander, while the latter retired as captain. Mokaila has been linked to the Third Force, a BDP inner circle that is not aligned to any faction in the party. Their allegiance is said to be to the BDP and state president, Khama and not any faction.
It is against this background that the group is said to be rooting for their man to be appointed to the Vice-Presidency, which is just a step away from the presidency. This is being seen as consolidating their powerbase and ensuring that even after Khama’s departure from the Office of President, they continue to hold sway over the presidency, having direct links and access to the president.
Mokaila is a very experienced cabinet minister who has served under the Festus Mogae administration as minister of environment, wildlife and tourism. In what was a clear test of his leadership skills, Khama was to later re-assign Mokaila to the ministry of minerals, energy and water resources, taking over from Kedikilwe at a time when the country was experiencing serious power and a water crises. Whether by sheer luck or his leadership skill, the Morupule B power plant suddenly came to life. The power load shedding came to an end and the whole country forgot the ‘dark nights’ that people lived under. Some people are saying that with his demonstrable leadership skills and a penchant for getting results, the trained engineer, is a good candidate for the Vice-Presidency. The President chooses his Vice-President and MPs have to assent to the choice. This post will require someone with a good support base within the ruling party so that first the MPs, once elected after the elections, can give that assent. On top of that, the fact that the position holder is in line for the presidency, it means he or she has to enjoy support of the structures of the party. Among other things, Mokaila has to first win the parliamentary elections in Borolong and competition is said to be stiff in that constituency as the Botswana Congress Party and the Umbrella for Democratic Change’s James Mathokgwane are making inroads.
The Barata-phathi-A-Team axis
It is not the first time that the two old factions of the party have joined hands to work together. After all these are all members of the BDP.
This time, they are said to be rallying against the Khama favourites, who are seen as inexperienced political mafikizolos who should take their time learning first the ropes of politics and imbibe the culture and traditions of the party. The two factions, who have been fighting amongst themselves for years to have control of the party presidency and state power through having a choice of their own in the top seat and in cabinet posts, are afraid that they are being sidelined by the Third Force. They want to come back from the periphery and have control of a party that they assert they have worked hard for over a very long time.
Who is Nonofho Molefhi?
Though his factional credentials are not clear, he is said to sympathise with the views of the Barata-Phathi. The former District Commissioner is a very diplomatic and efficient leader who has proved his mettle both at the Ministry of Lands and Housing and at the Ministry of Transport and Communication. Shrewd and humble, he is well respected even by the opposition. Some months back, MP for Selebi Phikwe West, Gilson Saleshando of the Botswana Congress Party said Molefhi is a good leader who is works well with people. Before the dissolution of Parliament on Friday, Molefhi was Selebi Phikwe East MP. To ascend to the Vice-Presidency, Molefhi, who was not challenged at the primaries, has to first beat the opposition to retain his parliamentary seat at the elections. Molefhi, a Mongwato, is also close to Khama and the president is said to trust him. However it is not clear if Khama will give him the nod.
Molefhi has been seen as a good candidate for the Vice-President seat. However, he has to
Barata-phathi have always maintained that they are not gunning for state power. “It is just that we don’t want the party to be hijacked by powerful selfish interests at the expense of national development. We are the guardians of the party. We don’t necessarily want the VP post or the presidency as they say. We just want to make sure that the one who ends up taking occupancy of the office is someone who will manage the party and run the country well, looking first at party interests and those of the nation before his,” said a source from the faction.