Today marks four years since President Mokgweetsi Masisi ascended to the highest office in the land.
His arrival was welcomed with joy from all corners of the country and a promising hope for all the sectors of the society and economy. He came to office at a time when many had had enough of his predecessor, Ian Khama who during his reign lost favour with many, and was openly called a dictator.
In fact, Khama’s office tenure was characterised by behaviour and decisions that created a perception that he would not agree to vacate the presidency when the time arrived.
The charismatic Masisi has however in his four years of office turned up a mysterious man within the political landscape of the country and worse within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
He has created a perception of a man who does not value loyalty. Unlike many political leaders, Masisi’s reward for loyalty is either never fulfilled or short-lived.
Many within his circle have fallen off, while those who remain are kept at arm’s length. Masisi shot to power within the BDP first through a Sub Committee introduced by Khama as the party leader. Masisi is currently not seeing eye-to-eye with Khama, the man who appointed him vice president. His fight with Khama is well documented and has polarised the country.
Masisi became the chairman of Communications and International Relations Sub-Committee of the Central Committee - a committee which has come to be a powerhouse within the BDP politics.
Masisi has since never subscribed to precepts of loyalty. While other leaders nurture or cut linkages or throw their close associates out of their circle with discreet, with the BDP leader it is a total different ball game.
His tactics have left many frustrated, confused and some of his new associates doubting where they stand with the fear that one day in the not so long distant future they could see themselves on the other side of the fence, facing the man they once reached at their fingertips.
Throwing people out of his circle of loyalists started with the likes of the late Roseline Pansirah-Matshome and Samson Moyo Guma. Before that he pulled the plug on former BDP Secretary General and Ambassador to Japan, Jacob Nkate.
In the build-up to the BDP Tonota Congress, Nkate was part of Masisi’s Camp Dubai as Secretary-General-elect but would later be dumped after the media reported that Nkate had hinted a desire to become party president.
Masisi replaced Nkate with current Secretary-General Mpho Balopi without even notifying Nkate. The same Balopi has lately fallen from Masisi's favour without any explanation. As to what he has done to the man he walked side by side with for many years, no one knows.
The late Panzirah-Matshome and Guma who played a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth-sailing for Masisi both at Mmadinare 2015 and Tonota 2017 elective congresses, became casualties after Masisi took oath of office for the presidency.
These were some of the top key players to bite the dust. It is alleged that the president had promised them the moon and the sky when he was preparing for the presidency, but would later somersault.
Panzirah-Matshome who was believed to be more influential and had many secrets on the president and understood all his tactics, changed gear and supported Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi in her bid to challenge for the party presidency.
Following the Kang debacle, while many had hope on reconciliation between Masisi and Venson-Moitoi to bear fruits, Pansirah-Matshome dismissed it as a gimmick and to this day it has never materialised.
Guma who also was looking at a bone to chew started having problems with the law enforcement agencies while the taxman could not stop knocking at his door.
He was forced to flee to South Africa risking his constituency, Tati West, being handed on a silver platter to current MP and Minister Douglas Letsholathebe.
While the duo was known to be frontrunners in Masisi’s success and leadership growth, there were others behind the scenes that ensured that the wheels do not come off the promising and highly-decorated leadership.
There were the likes of former Lobatse MP and Minister Advocate Sadique Kebonang, Lawrence Ookeditse (who has since defected to BPF and is now its Publicity Secretary), Councillor Collen Mochotlhi, who worked wonders on the electoral process allegedly especially on the delegates’ selections and various committees’ elections and Councillor Jeffrey Sibisibi.
All these have also counted their losses and moved on. Adv Kebonang was dealing with the financial and resource mobilisation together with Sibisibi who was the campaign manager, while Ookeditse belonged to the BDP war-room until he left post 2019 elections where he indicated that Masisi has derailed from what they had discussed and agreed in their meetings in terms of how they would run the country and serve Batswana.
MCC responsible for Gaborone Region, Tebogo Masire, a very close ally of the President is also allegedly having a difficult time accessing the president like before. This is the man who at one point was tipped for specially-elected MP and minister of Defence, Justice and Security.
He was alleged to have been among the president’s advisors and he was mostly engaged on security matters, a link alleged to have been cut off with minimal communication.
Balopi, who has become the latest casualty, set tongues wagging about the president’s level of respect, appreciation and contribution that his loyalists sacrifice for him.
The fallout with Balopi started showing post the 2019 general election. Things worsened during the last quarter of 2020 up until Balopi gave in and decided to jump off the moving train, which was certainly bound to crash him at the party’s coming elective congress.
Many are still asking questions as to what could have triggered Balopi’s downfall. Could it be that he maintained ties with Khama whose fight with Masisi, has attracted regional and international attention?
Balopi’s appetite also to rise through the ranks of the party and the government enclave is also said to have soured his relationship with the head of state. Ahead of the 2019 general election, Balopi who has boastfully indicated that he would ensure the party wins the national polls even though it went through a split mid-2019, was said to be eyeing the top ministry of presidential affairs, which houses the office of the president.
To his surprise he was given less influential ministry and Kabo Morwaeng who rejoined the BDP from Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) - the BDP 2010 breakaway party, got the ministerial post. Prior to the total fallout Masisi pulled the rug under Balopi’s feet when he pardoned and welcomed back to the BDP one of Balopi’s nemesis, Kabelo Muhiriro-Kgwarae. He would later appoint him into the communications sub-committee.
At one-point Balopi had issued a letter to party members indicating that Muhiriro-Kgwarae is not a party member and should not be allowed to participate or have a say in any party activity.
He has however participated in some of the party activities before being welcomed back to the party including participating in the Youth Wing Elective Congress in Rakops.
President Masisi has since kept close those he recruited from the opposition during his time as Chairman of the Communications and International Relations Committee and as the Vice President and party chairman.
Among these are Deputy Mayor and Gaborone Regional Chairman Lotty Manyapetsa, Youth Minister Tumiso Rakgare, Youth Wing Chairman Karabo Gomotsegang and current Communications Sub Committee chairman Kagelelo Kentse.
While they are among the few currently enjoying cosy relations with the president it’s said that their time to be booted out is fast approaching.