No retreat, no surrender

Botswana Democratic Party(BDP) has announced April 5th as the date for their special elective congress where former Minister, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, is expected to battle it out for the party’s top seat with President Mokgweetsi Masisi in Kang.

This week, The Voice staffer, SHARON MATHALA, visited the ruling party’s presidential hopeful, Moitoi, to talk about her preparedness for the election and why she decided to make history by becoming the first person to challenge a sitting President in 52 years.

Q. Good afternoon, Mma Moitoi, with just less than two months to go, how ready are you for the race?

I am ready, after speaking to you today, I am going to go to the regions to campaign. I am ready and I am confident that I will emerge victorious.

Q. Should you win the election, what would be your focus areas?

You see, I am running for the presidency in a sitting Government.

I have no intentions of pretending that I will start anything new, except to change engines of a running machine, only thing is that I will be offering something different, but we have issues immediately on employment and youth unemployment.

Government has spent a lot of money on the department of agriculture, but we are a country that is arid.

For me, it is an area on interest to find out why our agriculture is not doing well, it is an interest area because that is where food comes from and food security is a major area.

Q. What about women? you have been accused of taking the back seat when it comes to advocacy on issues that affect women.

I know I have been accused of not being supportive in advocating for women’s rights, but this is wrong.

it is only because I have not stood in the street with a placard, but in my whole working life I have paid attention to the needs of women and even build houses for poor women with my own resources in my constituency.

Maybe I have not paraded people before the media to say I have helped so and so. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t helped other women in various ways.

Q. Should you win power, how would you help advocate for women’s rights then?

Women are part of the society and they have their needs, but just as much as their brothers have needs.

I will adopt a holistic and inclusive approach to the needs in a society comprising women, children and men.

Q. Your decision to challenge has been seen as dividing the party even further, did you not consider the best interest of the party when you decided to challenge in the year of elections?

Are you taking sides? There is nothing divisive about my decision.

The constitution says you can only run in the year of elections, so if there’s any blame to be apportioned, then blame the BDP constitution, not me.

Q. What about your relationship with your opponent, President Masisi?

What about it? Masisi and I are on talking terms. In fact, I just sent him a text message. He is still my president.

Q. But in public, you seem to be fighting. Masisi has even gone out to point an accusatory finger at you in his public spat with former president, Ian Khama.

Masisi is fighting with Khama and not with me. I wish they could fight far away from my campaign.

I was not there when they had their agreements about who will appoint whom for the VP position.

Q. There is talk of you possibly fronting for former presiden, Khama, so that he continues ruling from the grave, your comment?

I am a 65-year-old woman, I can make up my own mind. This decision is mine. Of course Khama chose to support me.

If he saw it as a chance to get back at his old friend, where do I fit in?

You accuse me of being sent by Khama, now tell me, who sent Masisi?

I am getting tired of people thinking that old as I am, I would allow myself to be used. I am putting my life on the line here, people get killed for doing what I am doing.

Q. And the rift between former president, Ian Khama, and Masisi, how has it affected the BDP?

I tried to reconcile those two gentlemen myself. Their rift is obviously hurting the BDP but it is what it is.

I went to both men to talk to them and they each gave me their reasons, which of course I won’t share with you.

Q. President Masisi was recently quoted as saying that in fact he saved your ministerial job, is this true?

I saved him, twice in fact. You can ask any minister.

Q. Running for such a high office must be costly, who is financing your campaign?

It is costly, yes, but I am not telling you my financiers. I will not tell you anything.

I am getting help locally, there are people who are sympathetic. I am cleaning out my savings.

Q. The 1999 Presidential commision and the Christie report has come back to haunt you, hasn’t it?

I don’t care! I am not worried about that.

It is a public document anyone can access. It was taken to court, Government failed to honour the court order and they withdrew the case themselves.

I don’t know why anyone would think they could use that against me.

Q. It is alleged that it was infact your friends within Government, who helped you to be acquitted of the charges and even got you a job in South Africa where you enjoyed immunity?

That was my own doing. I was employed by the ANC of their own volition. That was no hook up.

Q. But is it fair that your other co-accused were indicted and one of them – Rabana to be specific – is still wanted in Botswana to face the charges?

I am not them, that is their problem. I worked with them but I am not them. They were the employees of the BHC, not me.

I was accused because I was the chairperson of the board as the PS.

When people committed the crime, the question was, where was I?

That was the extent of the accountability, that is how I was involved.

If you continue with that line of questionin, I will walk out of this interview!

Q. But in the same report, you were alleged to have awarded a P20million construction job to Wade Adams without putting it to tender.

Those were allegations that were tested in court and they failed.

I did not handle the tender of the BHC, those were for the executives – Rabanna and them.Those allegations are very irritating.

There are things I hate in that report and I don’t want to go back there.

It took me years to forgive those lies, I don’t want to go back there.

The report was put together by a bunch of liars, working with a liar.

If you ask me about this again, I am going to beat you.

Q. At what point did you decide to come back after you had announced your retirement from active politics?

After I realised that the squabble between Khama and Masisi would not end.

The way they carried on, I realised they will be at each other’s throats until election time, which would possibly cost the BDP elections.

I decided to run for the benefit of the BDP because there is no possible reconciliation.

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