To many people, Nonofo Molefhi was not a very popular politician until he interpreted for President Ian Khama during his inauguration in April 2008.
He later headed the Ministry of Lands and Housing and is currently the Minister of Transport and Communications. And when the ruling Botswana Democratic Party split in 2010 he was rumored to be on his way to the new party Botswana Movement for Democracy but that was never to be. In this interview with Voice reporter Phillimon Mmeso he talks about his political life, state of affairs in Selebi-Phikwe and his relationship with the former Phikwe mayor Lekang Mokokomani.
You came straight from the civil service where you were the District Commissioner for Phikwe, joined politics and contested BDP parliamentary primary elections in 2004 in Selibe Phikwe East. Why didn’t you contest in your home village of Serowe?
I was approached by some people in Phikwe East to contest. I considered that and resigned from the public service in 2003. Phikwe was my last duty station and I already had connections with the people of this town.
When you joined the BDP the talk was that you were aligned to the Barata Phathi faction how far true was that?
I was never aligned to any faction. When I joined BDP the two factions were very strong and some of my councilors were aligned to either one of the factions. I avoided being aligned because I wanted to be the unifying factor. If I had aligned myself to a certain faction I would have lost other members. I had to play my cards well to increase my chances of winning the elections.
But obviously you sympathized with one even though you are saying you did not belong to any of them?
I embraced all the factions and to me the party was more important than individuals
You have always won elections with slim margins, how do you interpret that?
In the 2004 elections the margin was very slim I agree but in 2009 the gap widens to more than 500
Will you say there was sabotage from those who lost in the primary elections?
Yes, they were those who tried to sabotage my election campaign but to me consolidation was and is still key in my political life. During the 2009 elections I helped even those councilors who were not supporting me during the primary election and financed their campaigns.In Lobatse the BDP lost because those who won the elections did not bring those that lost along and they voted with the opposition.
Phikwe councilors are notoriously known for always fighting for mayoral position something which people of the town feel is derailing development. As an MP for the area how do feel about it and have you ever talked to your councilors about it?
It embarrasses me to see that happening, because it shows that they are more concerned about themselves than serving the people who voted for them. I have spoken to the mayor about the issue and advised them as BDP councilors to have party caucus.
When BMD was formed you were one of the MPs who were rumored to be on their way out and some councilors in your area felt that you were quiet about the issue since you knew it was true. Is it true you were contemplating ditching red for orange and if so why did you stay or you were one of those cowards who stayed?
I am aware of those rumors and know the people who peddled them. My first reaction when I heard those rumors was to go to my constituents and assure them that if I was going they would be the first to know. To my utter dismay some members of the BDP led by the former Mayor Lekang Mukokomani wanted to call a press conference to tell people that they were not going anywhere.
And it is said you wanted to stop them…
No I just advised them that the party is going through turmoil and they must consult the party secretariat and legal department before they hold the press conference. They did not even inform the party chairman or the secretary about the press conference.
After that they went around and told people that I wanted to block the press conference so that my defection won’t be exposed. Mind you the very same people who spread the rumors are the ones who have defected from BDP to BCP.
But why would they want to discredit you?
I think they wanted to discredit me for their own opportunist agenda and mind you this was after he (Mukokomani) connived with BCP to vote him as mayor against party caucus.
Some of those who peddled the rumors are still in the BDP and how is your relationship with them?
After that I became aloof but did not allow them to sidetrack me from what I was doing. Your relationship with the former mayor Mokokomani has never been cordial.
Yes it has never been good because I believe he has a hidden agenda against me.
Most people are not happy with the performance of SPEDU in helping to diversify the economy of Phikwe since it is reliant on the BCL mine. What is your take on SPEDU performance?
SPEDU could have worked if it was a parastatal because in that way they would be able to attract investors to Phikwe. Currently they are governed by the public service act and it is difficult for them to execute their mandate.
You once made a radical suggestion that SPEDU must get rid of cattle farming and embark on something sustainable because this area is prone to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth. You suggestion received a lot of criticism especially from farmers. Do you still stand by that statement?
Yes I still stand by my word. The reason being that ostrich farming has been abandoned yet it is one area that SPEDU can explore. The ostrich farming that we have now is just a scratch on the surface. Imagine one ostrich can give you 60 eggs per year which translates to 60 chicks per year whereas one cow gives one calf per year. And this region can open industries that deal with ostrich bye products like the skin and others.
Still on the development of Phikwe you must have been disappointed when Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) was taken to Palapye instead of Phikwe?
Phikwe was going to be sustainable because the buying power of the students and lecturers could have helped diversify the economy of the town.
There is a concern about the road worthiness of buses that ply the Phikwe Francistown route. Since they fall under your ministry what are you doing to address that?
In the near future we are going to meet the bus owners not only in Phikwe but the whole country to address the issue. Yes it is true some of the buses leave a lot to be desired.
Lastly 2014 is just around the corner are you going to stand for elections?
I have not yet decided on that but will state my position in the near future