Guma's grief

Known for his no nonsense attitude during parliamentary proceedings, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big-wig Samson Moyo Guma does not suffer fools gladly.

Visiting the outspoken Tati East Legislator at his office, he is busy on the phone for over 30 minutes before he finally invites us in.

His office is sparsely decorated – apart from a desk and a couch there is a bookshelf at the far end of the room with just three books about bill amendments, constitution and Government gazette.

It is a surprisingly bland space for such a colourful and often controversial character.

In 2013 Guma dramatically resigned from the BDP Chairmanship after serving for just five months.

This week he sat down with SHARON MATHALA to talk politics past and present, including giving his views on those challenging Vice President (VP), Mokgwetsi Masisi for the party’s Chairmanship position.

Q) Thanks for your time, let me take you back a bit, why did you resign from the Chairmanship position?

That one is history. I do not want to talk about it. Both the party and I have moved on.

Q) Okay, lets talk about the Chairmanship position – what is needed for one to occupy that position?

While I do not dismiss the importance of leadership qualities, and the more distinguished the better, it is established practice that matters here.

Our (BDP) tradition is to vest the VP of the country and the Chairmanship of the party in one person.

Upon becoming President of the country, the VP relinquishes the Chairmanship of the party so as to better concentrate on his much greater role.

The Central Committee then elects a party Chairman from among its members and co-opts an additional member to fill the then President’s position.

The new President then appoints his Vice President and Cabinet at executive level.

At party level the President is the face of the party and ensures that a new party manifesto is in place to take the party to the next general elections and causes primary elections to be held.

At a later date, the President dissolves parliament ahead of the general elections and calls a Special Congress four months before the elections to elect a party president.

We can now see that instead of on individuals, emphasis is on tradition and processes.

Let us say the President is replaced four months before the elections, he then qualifies for the benefits of a former President as others before.

The new President of the party focuses on taking the party to the elections. And this is not an easy task to accomplish within four months.

A full grasp of these dynamics is contingent to any person who aspires to become party Chairman and eventually party President.

Q) But this is not the case this time because three names have been forwarded for the Chairmanship – what is your take on that?

Essentially all three must put the country and the party first and conduct themselves in a manner that suits people who can lead both the country and the party.

It is not about them as individuals because these positions are not for self-gain. Our values and traditions as a nation far precede personal ambition.

However, because the BDP is about democracy and merit, competition to select the best people for the leadership of both party and country is encouraged.

Q) BDP has been rocked by factions recently – what could be the problem?

I appeal to you to kindly define ‘faction’ within a political context for me.

Politics is about competing, even conflicting views.

At any rate, no one can or should hold a position permanently.

No matter how different and distant people’s views may be, the point is that there is always a common denominator that binds them together. This is the case with the BDP.

Q) But which alleged ‘faction’ between VP Mokgweetsi Masisi’s and Nonofo Molefhi’s do you sympathise with?

I am uncomfortable with references to factions.

I see myself as part and parcel of the values of the party, which are informed by the values of the nation regarding who we are as a party and as a people.

Therefore, you can see that I do not subscribe to any individual person’s thinking because it can be parochial.

Having said that, I am fully behind the Vice President Mr Mokgweetsi Masisi because this is how we have always functioned as a party.

This is in line with the tradition and practice of the party as drawn from the Constitution of the Republic on automatic succession.

Q) There has been debate on the recent amendment of the president’s exit package; some believe the amendment is ‘unfair’ and is meant to benefit certain individuals. What are your views on this?

Unfair? I do not think so. Of course the package is meant to benefit individuals in the persons so far of three people – former presidents Masire and Mogae, as well as Khama when he retires.

The mistake we make is to think that it’s for President Khama alone.

Q) Batswana have rejected the Electronic Voting Machine but it looks like government is determined to go on with it – what are your views?

Nothing comes in a vacuum. Let me quote the National Stakeholders’ Evaluation Report For 2014 General Elections at Item 22: ‘Use of electronic gadgets in registration and elections: Stakeholders recommended that Botswana should adopt electronic voter registration and electronic voting.

There is compelling evidence of the success of this in the case of Namibia.

Botswana should consider the use of technology in the next general election.

It was, however, recommended that the introduction of such should be done only following widespread education of stakeholders on these and also extensive research on their reliability in our context’.

Having said that, it is clear that the EVM concept did not come in a vacuum.

What is important is the process leading to the implementation of this recommendation of stakeholders, particularly pertinent being consultation and voter education before implementation.

Use of EVMs is now law but the views of the people must be taken into consideration before final implementation and where possible amendment to the law made.

Q) There is also a debate on the huge sums of funds that were directed to the BDF and DIS, what are your thoughts?

This is history. The budget has long been passed by Parliament after much debate in the House.

Q) You recently had a heated discussion at the PAC with Minister Tshekedi Khama – some said it was personal; can you shed more light on this issue?

It is not proper for me to discuss matters that are still before a committee. We must wait for a full report from the committee.

Q) Will you be contesting for your constituency?

Of course.

Q) If the BDP wins the seat come 2019, is there any cabinet position you are eyeing?

You mean elections, I suppose? The BDP will win the elections – that’s for sure! However, cabinet appointments are the prerogative of the President.

He appoints those that he feels are fit to advise him.

As a legislator I am in the vast pool from which he appoints and I cannot very well disdain the President should he request my service.

Even so, the pool is quite wide and the probability just as wide.

Q) There are allegations that you allegedly use ‘your money’ power to sponsor a certain faction within the party. Is this true or are they just mere allegations?

I view your question as insulting to Batswana whom I hold in high regard.

What makes you think that Batswana are purchasable commodities who follow the jingling of coins?

But in case you were not aware, Batswana – both inside and outside the BDP – are an intelligent and upright lot who take a reasoned approach to issues.

Your suspicion is right that your charges are mere allegations. Worse, they are unsustainable fabrications.

Q) Do you have any aspiration of being the Party President?

As you well know, honour is bestowed rather than aimed for as a personal goal. To say more is unnecessary.

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