> Timo Shihepo
WINDHOEK – The Namibian government denies allegations that it did not support Botswana’s Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi for the African Union Commission chairperson post, stating that it, in fact, supported the SADC candidate.
Since the failed bid to land the top AU Commission post, media reports claimed that the region short-changed Venson-Moitoi. It is, however, impossible to point out exactly which country voted for who because the elections were done via a secret ballot.
The Southern Times is reliably informed that a section of the Botswana government feels betrayed by the region’s failure to support “one of their own”.
Botswana Deputy High Commissioner to Namibia, Taboka Matlapapir, however, refused to comment on the issue and the Botswana High Commissioner to Namibia, Claurinah Tshenolo Modise, could not be reached for comment either.
Director of Information and Research in the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, Bertha Amakali, told The Southern Times that Namibia did not sabotage the SADC’s candidate. She said Namibia was in fact one of the SADC countries that rigorously supported Venson-Moitoi – which enabled her to get to the third round, after the candidates from Senegal and Equatorial Guinea fell out. Namibia was also among the first countries to publically endorse Venson-Moitoi’s candidature in March last year, following a Cabinet decision to support the SADC candidate.
The Namibian government, at the time, issued a statement saying that following the postponement of the election, Namibia was selected by the SADC Campaign Team on SADC’s Candidate to form part of an Outreach Committee to solicit support from other AU member states. During this period, Namibia actively reached out to AU member states entrusted to the committee.
Meetings at the level of Heads of State and Government and Ministers in support of SADC’s candidate were held on the margins of the 28th AU Assembly, in which Namibia participated. According to Amakali, although Venson-Moitoi’s campaign did not score her the victory, the support from SADC member states was a sure demonstration of the unity and bond in the SADC family.
Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat was eventually elected as the new chairperson for the next five years. Amakali also attacked the Botswana daily newspaper, Mmegi, for its article titled ‘28th AU Summit: SADC sabotages Venson-Moitoi’, which alleged that Namibia was one of the countries that did not vote for Venson-Moitoi.
“Against this background, the Ministry of International Relations [and Cooperation] strongly repudiates the misinformed article by ‘Mmegionline’, published on 31 January 2017, and calls upon the Editor to retract these fabrications against Namibia.”
Why Venson-Moitoi lost?
A senior official in the Namibian government informed The Southern Times that although Namibia and other SADC countries voted for Venson-Moitoi, she never stood a chance. And no, this had nothing to do with gender.
Mahamat, who is a former Chadian prime minister, had an advantage of previously holding a senior position at the AU. He was the chairman of AU’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council. He knows AU inside out! He knew how and when to canvass for votes.
The official further said, Venson-Moitoi was, in fact, no competition to Faki as she had to battle other candidates who were more fancied than Faki for the post. These include Amina Mohamed of Kenya, and Abdoulaye Bathily, of Senegal.
Al Jazeera, in its assessment of elections results, labelled Venson-Moitoi as not ‘favoured’. “The other candidates, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, a veteran minister from Botswana, and Mba Mokuy, from Equatorial Guinea, were never favoured.”
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe also blamed Botswana President Ian Khama for Venson-Moitoi’s failure to land the post, saying Khama did not lobby enough for his minister. “We worked behind the scenes and the poor lady tried her best,”
The Patriot quoted President Mugabe as saying. “But the other countries were arguing that ah, you are a daughter whose father never appears at the AU and sometimes takes contrary positions (to those of the bloc). So she had no chance.”