Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Pelonomi Venson Moitoi has been endorsed as the African Union Commission Chair candidate by Southern Africa.
She is vying for the chairmanship with Algeria’s Ramtane Lamamra, who has served two terms as an AU commissioner before.
Elections for the new chairperson will be held in June in Kigali, Rwanda.
This week, Voice reporter, Onneile Setlalekgosi sat with the ambitious woman to chat about the campaign.
Q. Good day Madam, we appreciate your international ambition of contesting for the African Union Commission Chair. We understand that head of state should be at the forefront of the lobby team, how is the President assisting with the campaign?
Well, President Ian Khama is assisting with the campaign together with vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi.
So far all the embassies have been charged with responsibility for the campaign wherever they are and all our African nations are campaigning spots.
All our ministers, when they travel throughout Africa during this time, they campaign.
Former president Festus Mogae has been appointed as the lead envoy for the campaign and in addition, President Khama has written to all African presidents, first to SADC thanking them for the endorsement and to strategic partners seeking support, particularly to Northern Africa, thanking them for the support.
Q. Was it your idea or the president’s to seek the chairmanship of the AU?
The decision to run for the post was mine, I asked the president’s permission to do so and he supported me.
Q. Your predecessor, Nkosazana Zuma was a woman from Southern Africa, don’t you think your timing could disadvantage you as some might feel that it is too soon for the AU to be led by another woman from Southern Africa?
This was the first time a woman held the position. We were hoping she would hold it for eight years.
But when she resigned mid term, we decided it would be great to conclude what she had started as she has put some excellent plans in place, which we are convinced, as SADC, are plans worth pursuing.
I will be able to pick up where Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma left off for the remaining four years because Botswana has been a key part of it, we are familiar with ideas she has put in place.
Q. There were three candidates in Southern region that vied for the position, South Africa, Botswana and Malawi but after lengthy discussions they settled for you, why so?
It was just a consensus that the Southern region meeting followed, of course the candidates were not involved, so I would not say what process was used but I am grateful that the two countries, Malawi and South Africa conceded and endorsed Botswana’s candidature as part of the team.
And I am thankful that we will be part of the campaigns sitting in the Southern region spirit and this is why SADC has remained a solid region because of the sisterhood or brotherhood we always shared.
I am happy that the team agreed to endorse one candidate.
Q. Botswana has the death penalty, and has been abhorrent to gay rights, which continue to rub other countries the wrong way; don’t you think that may be a disadvantage?
I don’t think on the continent this is an issue which is found culturally offensive because in the African culture, we believe that we need to be given time to evolve.
As Botswana we have made it very clear to western societies that as much as they needed time to evolve and accept the things they find normal in their cultures, we too need time to evolve, we too need our cultures to evolve at their own time and at their own will.
And therefore on the African continent we are at various stages of cultural evolution and cultural acceptance of matters relating to the death penalty and matters relating to gay rights.
And you will find out that on the African continent there are countries that still uphold death penalty, and there are countries that still have laws criminalising gay rights.
It is matters that are being debated on the continent.
I don’t believe that it is a matter that can harm the campaign and we have pronounced it at the AU and the AU is open to discussion of the matter; we have been very open both at the AU and at the Human Rights Council.
Q. The current AU chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma believes in the Empowerment of women, she is part of the Gender advisory committee. How are you willing to empower women?
I believe in the empowerment of women very strongly because women are the backbone of every household in that they are the ones who manage each household.
What I can do to empower women I can never do it as an individual. The AU has a comprehensive programme for women empowerment, and it is a priority.
Dr Zuma worked very hard at this programme and I will be very happy to get the opportunity to continue the programme, because if you are going to fight poverty, education for children, health in the family, you have to work with women, so the empowerment of women is the only guarantee you have to change the society.
Q. Do you see any chance of scooping the chairmanship of the African Union commission?
It is my wish, big wish, there is always a chance. I am a very optimistic person.
Q. Do you think the African Union Commission is effective, share some of its achievements?
Some of the AU achievements include the signing of several treaties to reach common ground on peace and security.
The AU has brought African countries together, and they often assist each other in tackling different crises.
There is now common benefit; African countries unite in challenges such as wars and diseases.
This is the new Africa that we did not have before and these are the efforts of the AU.
Q. Let’s discuss vision 2063; don’t you think the vision is far and too blurry?
No, the vision is not too far even though it is a 50-year plan, it is broken down into 10 -year blocks.
Q. There have been lots of reports, behind the scenes, of you wanting to challenge the current Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi in the line for presidency, are you eyeing the country’s top post?
As a citizen of the country, I think I qualify to contest for the Presidency, but I have not contemplated, I just haven’t.
Those were mischievous reporters trying to use my name in a deliberate attempt to fuel confusion.
They know I am running for the AU, I dismiss that as mischief.
Q. You once said you are an agent of the sustainable transformation agenda geared to become influential player in global affairs, how so?
My whole working experience, I have worked and served in Botswana where sustainable development is the order of development within this country, our whole economy depends on natural resources such as diamonds and tourism.
We depend on the land, its diamonds, Agriculture and mining and we learn to use without depleting.
Therefore to move from that to modern technologies, there is no how you can develop without learning.
And also in Botswana, we have devised a method of developing by including everybody around us through consultations so as to be inclusive.
Others were saying in Botswana we waste a lot of time consulting you cannot be inclusive if you don’t spend time consulting.
To buy support of a community and for democracy to flourish, you do have to consult.
I have the experience, which I believe I can share with other regions.
Q. There are some allegations that some campaigns are already ongoing among BDP members who are eyeing your constituency in the event that you win the chairpersonship of the AU, are you aware of any campaigns?
I am aware that the campaigns are ongoing, but it is very wrong and it is unfortunate because it is against party rules.
It is too early for them to do that but that is the nature of politicians.
Q. What’s your vision for the African Union Commission, in case you win the upcoming elections?
One of the greatest wishes of all the AU members is to ‘Silence guns’ on our continent, to see all school going children attend classes and get education.
Above all it is to see democracy flourish.
Q. Few days before the weekend Madam Minister, any plans for the weekend, would you be at the bye- election?
Ha-ha-ha Friday I will be joining my BDP friends to advance democracy in Francistown.