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Botswana is suffering a double whammy of a difficult presidential transition and questionable political stability as the country is torn between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama – it emerged in an exclusive interview with the president last week.
Masisi who has been caught in the cross currents of his predecessor’s residual political influence and traditional power revealed to the Telegraph and sister newspaper The Sunday Standard how his differences of opinion with Khama have divided the party and the country.
Masisi explained that Khama’s decision to remain active in politics even after his retirement has resulted in Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) faithfuls and citizens who were close to his predecessor wondering where to place their allegiance “particularly when there seems to be a difference of opinion between the two leaders.”
Masisi says the problem was compounded by the fact that Khama is a chief. “When you cloak the current with the fact that Lt Gen Ian Khama is a chief of Bangwato, clearly those for whom is chief usually as you know would pay their first call of allegiance to the royalty followed by others and that causes lack of smoothness in a transition.”
For the first time in the history of Botswana, the country’s stability is in question as a result of a difficult presidential transition. Quizzed on whether he was really in control of the country, Masisi explained that “I feel competently and confidently in charge. There may be arguments about the extent to which and these are nuances of stability more than my ability to make things happen.”
Khama has been leveraging his residual power in the BDP and his position as chief of Bangwato tribe to campaign against those perceived to have taken side with the current president and against him. Among his biggest victims was Minister of Defence Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi.
On the eve of the BDP primary elections Khama invaded Kgathi’s constituency - which forms but of the area under his sway as Bangwato chief – and called on the tribe to punish Kgathi politically for insubordination to their chief.
Masisi cited the incident as an example of how Khama’s active involvement in politics had undermined the smooth transition.