VENSON-MOITOI VIES FOR BDP CHAIRMANSHIP
She doesn’t shy away from challenges. When she talks, it is with so much confidence that her listeners cannot help but give her the due respect.
After years of loyalty to the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), the Serowe born Minister of Education, Skills and Development, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has decided to vie for the Chairmanship of the party.
Prepared to battle it out with some male party heavy weights for the prestigious position in Maun this weekend, should she win the position which comes with power and influence Venson- Moitoi would have made history as the first woman to be in that seat.
She would also be the most powerful woman in Botswana politics.
In an interview with MMIKA SOLOMON, Venson-Moitoi explains her reasons for contesting for the BDP Chairmanship.
Q. Good morning Mma Moitoi.
Hello Sir. How are you doing? You are the first journalist to interview me on a holiday especially here at my house.
I normally don’t give interviews at my house.
Because, I prefer to separate my work from family time. You must be blessed.
Q. Indeed I am blessed. It is now public knowledge that you are contesting for the position of BDP Chairperson.
What motivated you to stand for that position?
My interest in the position of party Chairperson is to offer my services.
I have served the party in various structures.
In 1993, I was privileged to be a member of the party’s Central Committee.
Now that the generation of the likes of Daniel Kwelagobe, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Mompati Merafhe, and Kebatlamang Morake have all retired, I felt there was a need to provide a smooth transition to tomorrow’s generation.
And as a result there is a lot that can be done in the party which I would like to achieve should democrats vote me in.
The party has a lot of history which is still unfolding.
I would like to document all party activities.
There should be records of all party materials and events.
We have a lot of researchers within the BDP who are ready to document the activities of the party.
They just need guidance. I want to create a museum or a library for the BDP.
Q. Are you campaigning on a gender card?
That is the cherry on top. First and foremost I am campaigning because I believe I have what it takes to be the chairperson of the party.
Mind you I am not the first female democrat to challenge for that position.
Dr Margaret Nasha and Tebelelo Seretse have all tried their luck.
Q. It seems the female democrats are not lucky with that position.
We will try until it happens that we win the position.
Of all the 57 constituencies, who is on your side?
I am not comfortable in discussing that.
These are the dynamics of my campaign. People have pledged their support for me.
So it wouldn’t be okay for me to discuss them now.
My campaign team has covered all the ground work that needs to be done. We are both comfortable that we will win.
Q. How influential are you in the party?
I don’t know that one. The people can tell you.
Q. As a matter of fact you are close to the outgoing Party chairman and to President Ian Khama.
How have they influenced the delegates to support you?
President Khama has many friends within the BDP.
I respect him as my leader.
I will not share with anybody what I discuss with him. I have known him since our days in Serowe.
As for Daniel Kwelagobe he has endorsed me publicly and I am humbled by that.
Q. What will you change if you win?
I want to unite the party and make it stronger. I am not a fan of factionalism.
I believe in team spirit.
I was so excited when Rre Patrick Balopi who was contesting declared that he will rather rally behind me.
This shows team spirit and for that I thank him.
Q. What about the Women’s wing?
After the Women’s congress which was held in Kang, both the winning team and the team that lost have come forward and declared their support for me.
Contrary to public perception women do support each other.
Q. BDP is not at peace with itself. You are challenging for the position of chairperson at the time when there is instability within the party.
How are you going to address this instability?
What instability? There was that hiccup of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) but now the party is more stable than ever before.
BMD issue was cosmetic.
However, I will be naive to say we don’t have internal problems like any other organisation.
I can say certainly, we are managing our problems.
They are not as huge as some people would want to believe.
Q. In the event that you lose, what will happen to you?
Nothing will happen to me. I will continue to serve the party as its servant.
Q. Does the position of Chairperson have any monetary rewards?
The reward is that you are working for the party.
You are not different from an old woman from a rural village who works tirelessly for the party.
Q. Now where is the power in the position?
Good question. The role of a Chairperson is to lead the National council and National Congress. That is all.
You are given a programme and a speech to read. In my case I write my own speeches.
You basically help the party achieve its policies which are discussed at the congress.
You make sure all the structures of the party are alive.
Q. Huh! Tell me about this thing of business people aligning themselves with the BDP so as to benefit from government tenders.
BDP encourages entrepreneurship and our government is not involved in scheming with entrepreneurs.
The awarding of tenders is fair for everybody to see.
Our people benefit from these entrepreneurs because they get employed.
If tenders are awarded dubiously, the DCEC is there to intervene.
In short the BDP does not flirt with entrepreneurs.
Q. Have your constituency given you the green light to contest for the position of chairperson?
My constituency has given me their blessings. I don’t know of any strong contender.
The person who could have been my strong contender Tebelelo Seretse is on my team together with her supporters.
So who could be a stronger contender than her?
Q. You managed to make peace with teachers and you are still struggling to make peace with the students’ community.
What is happening exactly at your ministry?
Teachers and I were not on the same page regarding information sharing.
We have managed to find a centre point.
We both understand how we should work together.
I am even learning all the jargons that go with teaching. I know all about the syllabus and the scheme books.
I understand their job and they understand mine.
With the students, we are still in discussion on how we can resolve our differences.
We have formed a students’ consultative body with tertiary students where we discuss issues over coffee.
The issue of book allowance is top on our list.
Q. I bet it won’t be a smooth sailing with students…
We have disagreed on issue of allowances.
I personally believe that students who should be given an allowance should be students from needy families.
The issue of students allowance will have to come to an end at some stage. It is not sustainable.
Parents should take responsibility of the welfare of their children.
We are the only country in the world paying students allowances.
Q. Politics, I must say is an interesting game.
Do you make lots of money out of this game?
Not at all. In-fact you lose a lot of money in politics.
I will not even advise my kids to go into politics, not when I am still alive.
Q. So where is the thrill in the game?
It is national service at its highest.
Those who want to serve the nation are free to do so.
Q. So if young people want to join politics what would be your advice?
As much as I want young people to be involved in politics.
The advice is that no one can make a living out of politics.
Q. Do you aspire to be the President of Botswana?
Some people say I am not ambitious because I always tell them that I concentrate at the job at hand.
Q. After 2014 national elections, will you accept an offer to head the Ministry of Education again?
Apparently, the teachers want me to head the Ministry again. As for me, it will be a tough assignment.
I will not want to go back to the same ministry again.
But should His Excellency request me to head the same ministry again, I will not disappoint him.
He is my master and I will gladly accept the offer and serve diligently.
I am not afraid of challenges.
Q. When will you retire from active politics?
That is a good question which you need to ask some of these older politicians.
When the time is right I will announce my retirement.
Q. Thank you and good luck.
You are most welcome.