Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Botswana elects first female Speaker

Botswana's President Seretse Khama Ian Khama

Botswana's President Seretse Khama Ian Khama  

By WENE OWINO, NATION Correspondent

GABORONE, Wednesday -- The Botswana parliament made history of Wednesday when it elected Dr Margaret Nnananyana Nasha as its first female Speaker. The former cabinet minister was elected unopposed.

She was nominated by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which won 45 of the 57 seats in parliament. Dr Nasha is a former civil servant who first entered parliament in 1994 through nomination by then president Sir Ketumile Masire who appointed her to the cabinet.

In the 1999 elections, she contested the Gaborone Central seat where she ousted then presidential candidate, Michael Dingake of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP). She was appointed to the cabinet again by former president Mr Festus Mogae but come the 2004 general elections, she lost the Gaborone Central seat narrowly to the youthful Mr Dumelang Saleshando of the BCP. She retired from active politics this year

But she had the last laugh when she was nominated to parliament to be re-appointed to cabinet. Dr Nasha is a blunt speaking and jocular politician known for her pithy wisecracks.

Her deputy, Mr Pono Moathlodi, the Tonota South BDP MP is a fast-talking and hilarious politician famous for his open fealty to the Barataphathi faction of the BDP that is at odds with President Ian Khama and his allies in the A-Team faction for the control of the party.

The choice of Dr Nasha as Speaker and Mr Moathlodi as her deputy is perhaps an attempt by the BDP to balance its factions.

The Botswana parliament has also re-elected Lt-Gen (rtd) Mompati Merafhe as vice-president of the country. The former armed forces chief has been vice-president since April last year when President Ian Khama took over power from Mr Mogae. President Khama served as Lt-Gen Merafhe's longtime deputy in the military before assuming overall command in 1989 when Lt-Gen Merafhe retired to join politics.

President Khama later resigned from the military to become Mr Mogae's vice-president and anointed heir from 1998-2008. He appointed the septuagenarian Lt-Gen Merafhe as vice-president but made it clear that he is not his successor.

The overwhelming endorsement of Lt-Gen Merafhe by parliament is another victory for President Khama over a parliament which was expected to give him problems because of factional fighting in the BDP. The Barataphathi faction was expected to team with the opposition to frustrate President Khama but so far this has not happened staring with the smooth endorsement of the four MPs he nominated to parliament on Tuesday.

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