Masisi speaks out
In exactly two weeks, President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi will mark a year since taking oath of office as the fifth President of the Republic of Botswana.
But as he lays down his winning strategy ahead of his party’s April Presidential election, the July Congress and the general elections, he knows that he is planning on limited time.
He is awake also to the reality that he has a mammoth task to prove, not only that he is the better man in the ongoing public spat with his predecessor- Ian Khama, but also that the seemingly gagging of political opponents by his administration is not a reflection of where he stands in relation to dissenting voices.
To get an insight into issues affecting his Presidency, The Voice staffer SHARON MATHALA had a candid chat with ‘Sisi Boy’ (as the president is affectionately called) in the serenity of the State House 2 gardens, an address, which he is yet to vacate to give way for the Vice President.
Humorously downplaying rumours of his reluctance to move into the adjacent State House as it is said to have been heavily bugged during Khama’s tenure, Masisi cheerfully chirped, “I’ve never heard about the bugging, please tell me more!
All I know is that the place is still being renovated and when the contractor is done, I’ll be happy to move in.”
The tone of the interview however gets a bit more serious as he parries away suggestions that he has not quite clearly explained his road map.
He is also reluctant to talk about his soured relations with Former President Ian Khama, choosing to simply say he would rather not go into ‘THAT NARRATIVE” at the moment.
Q. But from your end what would it take to reconcile with Former President Ian Khama?
A. I would rather we don’t go there.
I have been working with elders on this issue and we had an engagement not so long ago and I await an update on, from them.
But I will tell you this, there is never a total shutdown of possibility to do with the human relations, I mean look at the apartheid era between the whites and the blacks, some thought it will never be resolved but look at where we are now.
Q. Could you share with us your road map for the country?
A. I have made a declaration that I shall respect the constitution and be committed to the rule of law.
The laws of Botswana are applicable to all; the application of the laws will affect those affected without I causing an interruption.
It would mean by extension without I initiating the effect of those laws.
I made it clear that my priorities are on employment creation, diversification of the economy and attract as aggressively as I could investors, it could be investment from within or that is foreign based.
I want to also heighten the fight against corruption.
I am keen on promoting social dialogue, the hallmark of our democracy, and that is what I have been working on.
But through my party we will soon launch our manifesto, which will outline all of these.
Q. You have been travelling the world over, meting other Presidents and leaders, what would you say from your interactions is the biggest misconception about Botswana?
A. Sometimes when people don’t know enough it is often categorized as misconception.
I have come across a lot of people who have little information about Botswana.
Q. You have recently talked about empowering ‘Motswana wa sekei’ and this has been met with a lot of excitement but can you break it down for us what it is exactly you will do?
A. I want to reach a population threshold but you know even amongst those ‘Batswana Ba Sekei’ they are hardly participating in certain sectors in the way that is needed.
When for example land systems are such that they limit people and this maybe brought about by price, brought on by the demands of investment of that land, it knocks out many, so when you make it a little bit more accessible and affordable many more participate.
I want to grow this base, I want to grow the total number of people who are wealthier than they are now, that will increase the tax base therefore revenue income for government.
Q. Why have you not moved into the state house? There are talks that it has been bugged?
A. Not that I know of.
I am hearing this for the first time from you.
All I know is there is renovations going on.
I was meant to move in February and they moved it up, I am more than ready to pack and go, I am delaying the Vice President from moving in here.
Q. A few months after being appointed into the highest office, you fired the former Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security services (DISS), Isaac Kgosi, why did you do that seeing that he also took you to court over the matter?
A. Those reasons are privileged, I will not tell you.
Q. There has been alleged death threats targeted at yourself, how true is that?
A. I have not heard of death threats against me.
People picked information and packaged it the way they wanted.
I have had incidents as the VP, but they were just incidents.
Q. But you have recently beefed up your security, could it be because of these alleged threats?
A. I am not responsible for my security, please don’t accuse me.
Q. Botswana has recently been blacklisted by international bodies for ‘dirty money’ linked with sponsoring terrorism, what does the President have to say about this?
A. It is true yes, and this is because there are certain standards that international bodies who make assessment want to see fulfilled, we were audited and found lacking in a number of them.
But I will tell you that the EU put us on that list unduly.
But I will admit that there were shortcomings that generally maybe termed as a threat that it could be opening of funding for terrorism.
We need to clean out our legislation processes and I can tell you that there are some that have passed through cabinet and we are reviewing them.
Q. Next month we will see the BDP presidency being challenged for the first time ever. What do you think may have influenced this?
A. I guess it’s a development of democracy; we are deepening our diplomatic culture, because it is provided for in the constitution of the party, it did not need to wait for anything extraordinary for anybody to access it.
It is fully within their rights, there is always a first time for everything.
Q. But you have questioned this decision for your challenge, saying some people are suffering from nostalgia but maybe its personal ambition for those who have showed interest.
A. Personal ambition is not good enough, it is not serious, and you don’t campaign for a Presidential seat because “Now it’s my turn
Q. Mma Venson says she alerted you of her decision and you kicked her out immediately.
A. She is telling an untruth as usual.
I am beginning to get used to those constant untruths.
Q. There is an obvious case of division within the BDP, how do you intend on uniting the party going into the last lap of the election year?
A. That is totally wrong there are no divisions within the BDP.
We just have a difference of opinion.
People have strong views about how to move forward but that is not to say the BDP is divided.
What would you say if we went to congress and we all agreed on everything?
Q.But there have been breakaways before as a result of these divisions or differences of views.
A. You should analyse what led to the breakaway, analyze and see if that which led to the breakaway still exists.
Q.We hear of another motion of no confidence against yourself coming, who do you think is fuelling these motions?
A. Motions of no confidence can come anytime and I wish them luck.
Those that are fuelling the motions are those that don’t want me, as President and they are many.
You Know I would wish for you to at least credit me for one thing; I have enabled for people to express themselves, and I cherish it.
When last was that so and why was it not so? Why the sudden excitement about newfound freedom?
Q. You recently talked of people fuelling tribalism, why do you think this is so?
A. Tribalism is cancerous and manifests itself in our appeal processes.
When people want to reject and remove others because of tribal ability that is a problem.
I saw some try to forge a fallacious association between my appointments of person with regions.
I don’t work like that. I never have worked liked that.
I am very hostile to tribalism.
Q. But many years ago you were part of the Pitso ya Batswana, a tribal pressure group associated with the promotion of Setswana in a country with many different languages.
A. But you see as soon as I realized what it may imply I moved away, sure I was a part of it.
Q. What does the President get up to when he is not busy with country relations and party politics?
A. I read The Voice, I read newspapers, I read books and I am a farmer.