What happened to Mbeki shouldn’t happen to Masisi – Kgathi

‘‘When Masisi ascends the presidency, the chairman position that he will be vacating will be filled up by someone from within his central committee and this will guarantee him peace of mind and allow him to focus on his new role.’’


Bobirwa MP and defense minister Shaw Kgathi has warned the Botswana Democracy Party (BDP) against creating two centres of power whereby the president only controls government while the party is controlled by someone else who may not share the same vision- a situation similar to what prevailed during the Thabo Mbeki presidency in South Africa- which saw him recalled by the ANC.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Botswana Gazette at his office on Friday, Kgathi said his support for Masisi is based solely on Domkrag’s long held tradition and practice whereby the vice president ascends to party chairmanship before becoming president. ‘‘This has always been an unwritten law of leadership transition in the BDP,’’ he said. While he admits that other long held practices in the BDP have been done away, such as where it was always a given that the minister of Finance eventually becomes the vice president, Kgathi is of the view it will be suicidal of the BDP to do away with the practice of reserving the chairmanship for the vice president.
According to the Bobirwa legislator, previous congresses have even mooted the idea of including this practice into the BDP constitution so it becomes binding. Chief among his reasons for supporting arrangement is the fear of creating “two centres of power” within the party. ‘‘We should be very careful not to end up with Thabo Mbeki’s situation who was impeached from the presidency because while he was in control of government, he didn’t have control of the party’’, he warned.
Kgathi argues that by allowing the vice president to double as chairman, the party will have ensured that he settles well in the presidency knowing that the people who run the party at Central Committee are his team. ‘‘When Masisi ascends the presidency, the chairman position that he will be vacating will be filled up by someone from within his central committee and this will guarantee him peace of mind and allow him to focus on his new role,’’ he pointed out, reiterating that he will not support the establishment of two centres of power within the party.
Kgathi also confirmed that he would be defending his position as Deputy Secretary General at the upcoming congress slated for July in Tonota. ‘‘I am better placed to act as a conduit between the government and the party. That umbilical cord is very important,’’ he reasoned. Kgathi has served BDP in several positions since 2006 when he was in the Culture and Publicity Sub-committee now called Communications and International Relations. He was chairman of the same committee between 2013 and 2014, and this is an experience he says makes him fully versed in issues of party governance. Kgathi says also, as a minister, he is in a favourable position to ensure that congress resolutions are implemented as most of them have to filter through cabinet before implementation.
He however decried the BDP’s “habit” of “often” overlooking hardworking and dedicated members when it comes to allocation of party positions: ‘‘We tend to lose many young people who have made great strides in the party. We need a structural way that can take recognition for leadership positions.’’
On why he then does not yield for younger members who want to stand for the position of party Deputy Secretary General position if he truly believes they deserve a chance, Kgathi said one term in the central committee (2 years) is too little for one to achieve all their goals and be ready to hand over. He said perhaps the one thing the BDP can emulate from the ANC is their hierarchical development where one has to demonstrate their contribution and development in party structures. He is of the view that people should not be allowed to shoot straight to council or parliament before proving their mettle at lower party structures.
His analogy is that even in sports, one does not get picked for the national team before playing in lower divisions. ‘‘Just as the national coach is not expected to teach his players football basics such as chest-trapping, we shouldn’t allow councillors and parliamentarians to only start learning about the BDP once they have been elected into those positions’’, he opined.
Asked whether he has any favourite candidate for the position of Secretary General, Kgathi paused before explaining he would have no qualms deputising whoever won. ‘‘In fact I will even have no problem should anyone beat me to the position of deputy secretary general because our constitution allows members to decide who they want in leadership positions,’’ he said.