The year 2018 beckons with array of anticipated mouth-watering events politically, economically and legally. PHILLIMON MMESO warns that more technocrats will be fired and others hired; cabinet ministers shall be demoted and new others elevated while a new army commander shall be unveiled. Brace for a year that will shock and blow your mind!
1. POWER EXCHANGES HANDS
Botswana will welcome a new president on April 1, with Mokgweetsi Masisi succeeding Ian Khama who will be coming to the end of his 10-year reign. President Khama has already started his farewell tour where he is widely being praised for respecting the country’s constitution that limits presidential terms to two. It is this seamless exchange of power that has attracted Botswana international accolades while critics protest that the automatic succession under which the Vice President of the time takes over is unfair as one man – the president – determines who will assume state power. However Masisi will be inheriting a ruling party which has seen its popular vote shrinking to 46 per cent and will be under heavy pressure to restore confidence in his party and ensure that it survives a combined opposition onslaught in the 2019 General Elections.
2. MASISI TO FIRE, HIRE TECHNOCRATS
At the top of these is a change of Government which will result with a big shift in the top echelons of state administration. New President Mokgweetsi Masisi will end almost 10 years of many technocrats who served at the mercy of President Khama. He will go further and reshuffle cabinet – throwing out those he sees as excess baggage. Unfortunately for him he has no luxury of time and has to move with decisive speed in turning around the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to make it appeal to voters in the 2019 General Elections.
3. CABINET RESHUFFLE
Masisi will be ushered in as the 5th President of Botswana on April and will immediate announce his new cabinet. Some of the backbenchers who are expected to find their way into cabinet include MP for Tati West Samson Moyo Guma who has publicly expressed his loyalty to Masisi. Having served previously as Assistant Minister of Finance, he could be set for a full ministerial post. There is a possibility that the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Eric Molale could be moved to Defence, Justice and Security with Shaw Kgathi taking over from him. Another surprise might be the moving of Tshekedi Khama from the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism to a different one after his poor handling of the Botswana Tourism Organisation’s (BTO) administration. It is possible that Kitso Mokaila could be returned to the ministry. Having worked with his colleagues and being the primary evaluator of their performance as Vice President, it is quite possible that he will completely overhaul the ensemble and promote some of the backbenchers including economist Bogolo Kenewendo and Mephato Reatile who were brought into Parliament as Specially Elected members following a Constitutional amendment. A number of those who campaigned against Masisi in the BDP Congress elections could find themselves in the doldrums of being demoted.
4 MOSHUPA/MANYANA BY-ELECTIONS
As he ascends the Presidential seat, Masisi will create a vacancy at Moshupa/Manyana constituency. Months before that all parties are setting off to see how and through whom they will fill the gap left open. In 2014 Masisi won the constituency with 6831 votes, beating Ngaka Monageng of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to 3231 votes and Benny Stegling of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) who got 2557 votes.It will be seen whether Botswana’s newest political party Alliance for Progressives will contest the by-elections or join the UDC campaign.Masisi’s close ally Karabo Gare is viewed as the preferred candidate to represent the BDP in the by- election. Ahead of the Tonota elective congress, Gare was the treasurer of the Masisi team. He previously worked as a business advisor at the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) and has in previous media interview expressed interest in replacing Masisi.
5 PRIMARY ELECTIONS
All political parties will hold both their parliamentary and council primaries in preparation for the 2019 General Elections. The BDP will hold its first primary elections in January in opposition held constituencies and political sparks are expected especially in Mogoditshane where Khama’s blue-eyed boy Tshepang Mabaila will face BDP labour committee member Kgang Kgang. Already there is tension with Kgang accusing Mabaila of buying votes through his charity events. Another interesting battle will be between MP for Gaborone South Kagiso Molatlhegi who is likely to be challenged by Meshack Mthimkhulu who joined the BDP after contesting 2014 as an independent candidate in the area. The interesting part will be to see if the Associates for Progressives (AP) will contest in constituencies currently held by UDC. AP has stated that they will go it alone in 2019, thus creating the repeat of 2014 when BCP went it alone. An interesting development will be at Gaborone North where incumbent MP Haskins Nkaigwa has stated that he is a member of UDC and no more a member of BMD. The constituency has been allocated to BMD and if Nkaigwa doesn’t decide soon, the BMD might field a candidate there and push Nkaigwa to AP where he said his political soul lies. BCP will also make a decision on which constituency their party president will stand as Gaborone Central belongs to BMD. BMD leader Sidney Pilane has indicated that they are not going to give away any of their constituencies.
6 PAC REVIEW NATIONAL PETROLEUM FUND
With Parliament having resolved to call a meeting of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) with the assistance of Auditor General to probe the National Petroleum Fund, skeletons are expected to tumble out of the closet. The public will know about the full scale misuse of funds by the DISS and how they managed to get funds without the approval of Parliament and Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. It will also put in the spotlight the involvement of Kgori Investment and Basis Point Capital on their performance as the fund managers.
7 UDC CONGRESS
The UDC will hold their first major congress in February to among other things will adopt the new constitution. Fireworks are expected at the congress especially the role of the two Vice Presidents within the party which has caused confusion among the contracting. Another thorny issue is the Botswana Peoples Party’s (BPP) concerns which have not being solved especially the allocation of constituencies and failure by UDC leadership to consult them on some issues affecting the alliance. BPP has not being included in the countrywide tours undertaken by UDC President Boko and Deputy Dumelang Saleshando.
8 IEC REGISTRATION
Voter registration for the 2019 elections is expected to start in September and according to the new Electoral Act they will be no supplementary registration. This means that this will be highly contested registration which will see parties going all out to ensure that they would register as many of their members as possible. It is highly possible that one of the parties could file a court case against this to protest the unfairness of the law which is likely to leave a good number of eligible voters out particularly first time voters who are likely to reach voting age in 2019 and months before the poll is taken.
9 CHANGE OF GUARD AT BDF
The commander of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo and his deputy Major General Morake are expected to reach the statutory retirement age of 55. Incoming President Mokgweetsi Masisi will have to appoint a new commander and Major Generals Mpho Mophuting Molefi Maikano and Seleka Innocent Phatshwane are those Masisi will be looking at. The current Director Support Services General Mophuting is one of the favourite to take over as the new commander of the BDF in 2018 and has recently returned from some courses in USA. Mophuting is one of the Generals who were promoted recently and one of the officers who are said to have good leadership qualities. "He was groomed by President Khama while he was the commander of the BDF and was destined for military leadership," revealed a source at SSKB. Major General Molefi Seikano – the commander of the Ground Forces and going by history of BDF succession – is the most favourite to take over. Most of the former army commanders have previously headed the Ground Forces Command. He has previously commanded second Infantry Brigade – the largest in the army – thus giving him the much needed experience as the army commander. General Seikano is viewed in the army as a humble leader but very tough when it comes to discipline as dictated by his special forces training. General Phatshwane is viewed as one of the cream de la crème of the new BDF leadership. Commander of the Air Arm Wing, General Phatshwane's promotion has been phenomenal having been promoted from Colonel to Brigadier in 2011 and appointed deputy commander, Air Arm in 2012. In 2015 together with General Seikano they were promoted to the rank of Major General and he was appointed Commander of the Air Arm command.
10. APPOINTMENT OF NEW CHIEF JUSTICE
With the incumbent Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo having reached his retirement age of 70, Botswana is set to have a new Chief Justice. Dibotelo had been given a contract extension last year that now expires mid-2018. The new president Masisi will therefore have an important decision to make on who becomes the country’s leading judicial officer. Dibotelo was appointed Chief Justice in February 2010, succeeding the late Julian Nganunu. He attended the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS) from 1970 to 1975, where he studied Bachelor of Laws (LLB). In obtaining his LLB degree he studied and passed courses such as Criminal Law, Law of Contract and Delict, Government and Administration, Customary Law, Law of Property, Evidence and Procurement, Sociology, Criminology, International Law and Organisations, English Language and Literature and Law of the Sea etc. He was admitted as attorney of the High Court of Botswana on June 17, 1977.