I am happy that our Vice President is retiring. I am even happier that he is also leaving his parliamentary seat. It would have pained me to see him leave public office as a back-bencher in parliament. Thumbs up! Your family advised you well on this one.
My close encounter with the Vice President was at the National AIDS Council. (NAC) I remember one day when we were debating issues he told me to my face “learn to accept NO”. That day he had gone into a combative mode. I stood my ground. During tea break the members of the NAC jokingly said to me, “You were lucky VP was not close to you, he would have slapped you”. I just laughed at the remarks. On that day I pressed the Vice President for feedback on the resolution of the NAC. The NAC had passed a resolution which Cabinet was to consider. Cabinet was called on to distribute condoms to prisoners. The call was led by the Minister of Heath Rev. Dr. Seakgosing and Rre Mogae. The VP rubbished the resolutions of the Council, which he was chairing and said the Minister of Health was speaking in his personal capacity. He did not say Cabinet rejected the resolution or at least say it considered it. He left me wondering why a resolution of NAC was reduced to the minister’s position. The issue which I tried to put across him was that it was not about the minister’s sentiments but about the resolution of council. It was at that point when I was told to learn to accept No. That remark made me feel the VP thinks I never accept No. I also recall, still at the NAC and out of nowhere the VP said people who are on antiretroviral treatment once they feel better start to “behave as if they are normal.” I remember how suddenly the house looked at me. Not because they thought the remarks were directed at me but because they knew the remarks were reckless and unfortunate. They believed I am ever ready to take on the VP if called to by circumstances.
The VP and his office tried to justify the utterances after BONELA issued a statement condemning the remarks. I remember saying no background or context could possibly justify saying HIV positive people behave as if they are normal.
An impression was created in the public eyes that I dislike the VP. In fact, one senior government officer once said to me that he used to think I am VP’s nemesis. He said this after I defended the rights of the VP when his health was failing him and the media was awash with demands to know what was wrong with him. I advised then that the VP has rights to privacy and we should back off. My friends decided to tease me about my defence of his rights. They asked, “why are you defending the VP, is he HIV positive?” I told them that I am not interested in his HIV status but his rights.
When I last saw VP we were at a function and he won an iPad together with a certain business man. The business man decided to donate his to charity and I challenged VP to donate his to BONELA. His response was sharp “I can’t transfer my luck to BONELA. I will rather donate my money to BONELA”. Now that he has more time post July, I will remind him of the donation, hopefully over a cup of tea at his farm.