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The President’s right hand man

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The President's right hand man
VICE PRESIDENT: Slumber Tsogwane

Soft-spoken but no pushover

He was first introduced to political activism in his University of Botswana (UB) days as a Bachelor of Arts Humanities student.

Fast forward to April 2018; Slumber Tsogwane was nominated the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairman on the eve of the inauguration of the 5th president of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi.

A few days later he was to receive a total of 35 votes from MPs to be endorsed as the Vice President of Botswana.

Tsogwane acceded to the second highest office amidst questioning from political pundits on his overall strength, especially under the leadership of president Masisi.

After graduation Tsogwane like many Humanities graduates of his era went to teach at his home village school, Rakops Junior Secondary School in Rakops.

He would however later teach in various schools including Montsamaisa Junior Secondary School in Francistown.

At the time of his retirement from the teaching profession, Tsogwane was a deputy school head.

He joined partisan politics in 1999 when he became the Boteti North Member of Parliament and went on to become Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, and Assistant Minister of the then Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

Although soft-spoken and seemingly quiet, Tsogwane however is a no push over.

Visiting his office this week at the parliamentary building was The Voice reporter SHARON MATHALA for an interview that went as follows.

Q. You come across as one of the most reserved political figures in the country, would you agree?

A. I wouldn’t particularly say I am reserved; instead I would like to think that I am not a populist political head.

Q. What would you say to those that believe in todays era of politics; one needs to be less “reserved” and laid back especially for one who occupies the second highest office in the country?

A. Maybe you did not quite understand.

When I said I am not a populist I mean that when there is need to address issues I do not hesitate to speak out, but I wouldn’t just go out of my way to make myself a popular figure.

I am very authentic and very original and I consult on issues first before I can raise my voice.

Q. What would you say is your major role as the VP?

A. I am mostly a supporting figure to the President.

He sends me on assignments and I act on his behalf.

Q. Does that mean your office is powerless?

A. Being an assistant is different and with the Presidency it is even more complex and different from other offices.

You assist the President in any way and manner deemed fit by the President when HE requires assistance of that nature.

So you are given assignments.

Q. So basically you mean you cannot take or make decisions?

A. With my position you do not come up and say I am going to chart a parallel exercise with that of the Presidency.

Everything I will be doing I will be on assignment, I have already taken some of the assignments given by the President, remember I am assisting him.

As VP you are not running a parallel exercise to that of the Presidency.

I will be assisting Rre Masisi and he will give me assignments to carry out.

Q. How would you describe your relationship with HE Masisi?

A. Well to be honest Rre Masisi is a colleague, although he was in cabinet long before I was in cabinet.

I deputized him at the rural development council.

I see a result oriented president who wants work to be done and who doesn’t take kindly to excuses on why assignments have not been completed on schedule.

He is an inspiration and a great leader not just to me, but also to everyone around him.

Otherwise the president and I come a long way.

I joined politics with his late brother Tshelang and I worked closely with him.

Q. A while back you ‘introduced’ Minister Bogolo Kenewendo to the constituency, Does that mean you will not contest for the seat in the 2019 general elections?

A. Ms Kenewendo needs no introduction to the constituency. She is born and bred in the Boteti area.

What I simply did was an expression of appreciation of one of us.

She is the first from our area to become a specially elected MP.

For us and from me it was a sign of appreciation more than anything else.

Q. The general thinking from your endorsement was that you were paving a way for her?

A. Paving way is a given, at one point one has to pave way for others.

You can’t stay forever in politics. One day I’ll retire from active politics and anyone who wants to stand and not necessarily Ms. Kenewendo would be free do so.

So no I did not endorse her it was just a token of appreciation from me.

Q. Will you be contesting for elections at the coming Bulela Ditswe?

A. We have rules and regulations in the BDP, which we are governed and run by as a party and as the party chairman I will be last person to declare my interest when the Bulela Ditswe season has not yet been opened.

So you will just have to wait a little longer for that one.

Q. As the VP of the country what is your view on allegations of Political interference within our judicial system?

A. I do not believe there is any, no! The judicial system has always been and continues to be independent from any other body.

Q. And what about the infamous and often feared Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), what are your thoughts on critics who believe the body needs to be revisited?

A. Well just like any other institution, there is an Act that directs and governs the DISS dealings and its activities.

But remember that the DISS is not like any other public office; it holds and deals with sensitive government information.

I do believe however that the Directorate should improve its public education.

I have seen however that the DISS Director General tried recently to explain some of the activities but indicated he cannot go further with some information because it is classified information and that is exactly how it should be, I believe.

Q. As a former teacher yourself, should the teaching community expect a more relaxed environment with Government?

A. To be honest I do think there is some bad blood between Government and the teachers themselves.

I think it is the bodies representing the voices of the teachers, the unions, and some unions maybe a little bit militant.

But I am all for support of unions and we will definitely improve the relationship between the two.

Q. When were you told that you have been chosen for the VP seat?

A. I was informed I think a few hours before the announcement.

Q. TGIF, what are you up to this Friday?

A. I have not yet looked at the diary, but I will be officiating at a government event.