By Mpho Tebele
GABORONE- For the first time in history, President Ian Khama’s ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is poised to have the Vice President, who should automatically succeed the President, challenged at the party’s upcoming elective congress.
Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi is expected to succeed President Khama when his terms comes to an end in April 2018. The tradition of the BDP is that the Vice President should automatically succeed the outgoing President. But it seems Vice President Masisi will not have an easy march to State House. It is emerging that a number of BDP leaders has shown interest in jumping into the presidential race at the party’s elective congress scheduled for July this year.
Masisi is currently the chairperson of the BDP and the position gives him a competitive advantage over his opponents for the presidecy because he is currently in control of the party structures. It is for this reason that a number of senior BDP members, who have shown an interest in challenging Masisi for the BDP presidency, intend to first challenge him for the party chairmanship before they make any bid for the party presidency.
Former Botswana ambassador to Japan, Jacob Nkate, declared his interest in the party presidency. Another senior party member, Minister of Infrastructure, Nonofo Molefhi, has also confirmed that he has thrown his name in the hat for the chairmanship race, before taking on the more daunting task of contesting for party presidency, while Masisi has also confirmed that he is ready to defend his position as BDP chairperson.
“I have ambitions to be the president of this country and I will challenge Masisi for the presidency. Currently, I am campaigning for the secretary general position at the upcoming National Congress scheduled for July,” Nkate, who is the former Minister of Education, said. He explained that the party constitution does not bar any member from contesting for the presidency.
“For now, my main focus is on the July congress and I am supporting Masisi for the chairmanship position but when we go for the Special Congress before the 2019 elections, I will challenge him for the Presidential seat,” Nkate said.
He is also quoted as saying that the “the idea that I have a deal with Masisi and that he will make me vice president is not true. No deal like that exists”.
Nkate added that, “Upon arriving in the country from Japan, I thought let me hear what the situation is on the ground and my conclusion was that maybe I should support him so that I do not cause too many disruptions in my party. And then we can take it from there. If between now and 2019, me and Masisi do not agree, my rights are on the table. All the options are on the table.”
For his part, Molefhi recently told The Patriot newspaper that “Yes, I am interested in contesting for the position of party chairperson and will put my name forward in due time.”
BDP has also denied reports in the local media that President Khama wanted to cut a deal for the future of his younger brother, Tshekedi Khama, to become a future President. The party also denied reports that President Khama has ever persuaded Masisi not to contest for any position within the party.
BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, said the BDP constitution permits any member of the party in good standing to contest for any vacant position within the party.
“Since its founding in 1962, the BDP as a people-centred political organisation has remained true to a value system and certain principles responsible for the voter confidence it continues to enjoy. For this reason, Batswana have looked forward to BDP rule after repeatedly giving us the mandate to rule at every election,” said Ntuane.
He added that: “For the record, the President and his vice have a good working relationship both in government and in the party.
“The party wishes to categorically state that President Khama has never persuaded His Honour Masisi not to contest for any position within the party. The BDP constitution permits any member of the party in good standing, which His Honour Masisi is, to contest for any vacant position within the party,” said Masisi.