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BY ADAM PHETLHE
His Excellency the President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his former boss Rre Ian Khama may have let the cat out of the bag to their current and ugly stand-off if their recent no holds barred interviews with the weekend newspapers are anything to go by. We now have a fairer understating of what caused their relationship to break down possibly to irretrievable levels. It would require individuals of Biblical proportions endowed with King Solomon’s strength to restore it. President Masisi’s bare all interview was widely covered in the Sunday Standard newspaper edition dated November 18-24, 2018 under the main front page headline ‘Masisi breaks silence on differences with Khama’ while Rre Khama’s was also widely covered by the Weekend Post’s edition dated 24-30 November 2018 under the headline ‘Khama reveals classified secrets.’ From the outset, I am inclined to believe with some measure of caution that the President’s story is less convincing and unbelievable while with the same measure of caution that Rre Khama’s is attractive and compelling to believe. This view I must emphasise, is based solely on the two newspaper reports.
It would have done us a great deal had the newspapers comprehensively interviewed Rre Parks Tafa and other person who may have been familiar with the political deals between the President and Rre Khama such that one is sufficiently informed to offer a balanced opinion. For now, I will deal with what is available. For starters, let me refer to their stories as reported in both the Sunday Standard and the Weekend Post respectively.
The President’s Sunday Standard story is premised firstly on the suggestion that Rre Khama wanted him to appoint his younger brother the Vice President, secondly that he offered to resign from the Vice Presidency on four occasions and that Rre Khama refused to accept such offer, thirdly that Rre Khama seems not to appreciate that his desire to have access to State aircrafts whenever he desired is regulated by the law and in the end, at the sole discretion of the sitting President circumstances permitting and fourthly that their stand-off has ‘harmed the country, government and the BDP.’ I fully agree with the President on the fourth point on the basis that as the ruling party, any internal instability therefrom is bound to negatively affect government whose responsibility is to properly govern Botswana for Batswana.
Now that the President has come out to tell his story on the confusion of whether he had undertaken to appoint Khama Jr his Vice President, he does not provide a context to this confusion. Anticipating that the former President is now talking freely to the media; that he is behaving like a betrayed and bitter individual, he was more likely to lay bare any deals otherwise not meant for public consumption to attract public sympathy. I believe he has not done himself any favour by not pre-empting Rre Khama’s disclosure on his younger brother’s claim to the Vice Presidency issue. It is hard for me to accept and believe that there were no deals around the former Khama Jr ascendency to some powerful position in the party or government.
On the question of the President’s four attempts to resign from the position of Vice President in 2017, it would appear that he never commanded reasonable support from his cabinet colleagues. This point has been in the public domain long before Rre Khama vacated the presidency that there were deep-rooted attempts by such cabinet colleagues and the BDP caucus to influence Rre Khama then to relieve Rre Masisi from the Vice Presidency. It has long been reported that Rre Masisi’s name was not in the top three from a poll conducted allegedly by Rre Khama from the BDP caucus to decide on who was better preferred by such caucus to become the Vice President after the 2014 general election. It has been in the public domain that Rre Khama resisted these attempts and stuck with Rre Masisi whom he believed was a competent individual. It would reason therefore that Rre Masisi was politically vulnerable then as he is currently that Rre Khama stood by him. One presumes that Rre Khama stood by him on the understanding that he (Rre Masisi) would stick to the deal and deliver it at the appropriate time. It has since emerged that he has failed to stick to such a deal never mind delivering it. Like I have said, he has not taken some of us into his confidence to convince us that there was never such deals.
Rre Khama may have been under false pretences that he would have unfettered access to State aircrafts after vacating office. But he would be expected to know which he does that this was subject to the sitting President’s endorsement as I have alluded to above.
From Rre Khama’s interview with the Weekend Post, it has become pretty clear that his story is premised on the stand-off largely precipitated by Rre Masisi reneging on the deals they cut back then. It would appear from where I stand that the biggest catalyst to this stand-off from Rre Khama’s corner is the failure of Rre Masisi to bequeath the BDP chairmanship position to Khama Jr when he (Masisi) became the President. In this way and as per the BDP tradition, Khama Jr would have ultimately become the Vice President. It emerges from Rre Khama’s interview like I have already stated that this deal was hatched as far back as 2016 or thereabout. Should Rre Khama feel betrayed by Rre Masisi for not delivering on the deal? Naturally and generally speaking, anybody who feels betrayed for whatever reason would behave in this or that manner. I have always given examples of how Uncle Bob (Robert Mugabe) behaved after he was removed as the President of Zimbabwe and also that of Msholozi (Jacob Zuma) after he was removed as President of South Africa. To this day, these former Presidents exhibit signs of betrayal by their erstwhile colleagues.
While President Masisi’s own version of events has not (as far as I can recall) been corroborated, Rre Khama’s have been by Rre Tafa. It is acknowledged that other factors outside the deals have played some significant role to the stand-off. It is also important to note that deals are always hatched in politics which are always gentlemen’s agreements. It is widely rumoured for example that Hon Kagiso Molatlhegi is not standing for re-election in his current Gaborone South constituency because he has been promised the speakership of the National Assembly in the 12th Parliament should the BDP win elections next year. Should the party renege on this deal next year if indeed such exists, Hon Molatlhegi will justifiably feel betrayed. It is common knowledge that Rre Masisi has of recent created an impression that his stand-off with Rre Khama has been caused in the main by his failure to appoint Khama Jr his Vice President. Other factors like accessibility to aircrafts and the widely talked about removal of Rre Khama’s staff were simply fillers to complete the bigger puzzle. Now that Rre Khama and Rre Tafa have told us that there was a deal for Khama Jr long before 1 April 2018, Rre Masisi on the other hand somewhat suggests that the Khama Jr issue emerged after he became the President. The ball is therefore in Rre Masisi’s court to tell us if indeed such a deal existed, whether he was part of it and whether he had agreed to it.
In the meantime and without emphatically rebutting boRre Khama and Tafa story as it appeared in the Weekend Post newspaper I am afraid, Rre Masisi’s argument that his stand-off with Rre Khama has been precipitated in large measure by his failure to appoint Khama Jr his Vice President after becoming President of this Republic becomes to some extent and with respect hollow, largely unbelievable and unconvincing. Consequently and if there is no such firm, emphatic and believable rebuttal, it could negatively affect Rre Masisi’s political journey in the BDP and government going forward. More importantly, Rre Masisi should take Batswana into his confidence by stating his side of the story with respect to Khama Jr’s chairmanship and Vice Presidency claims because his stand-off with Rre Khama has become a national talking point which Rre Masisi addressed in his recent SONA. It is no longer a BDP exclusive matter. Under the circumstances, he has no option but to clear tis matter. Judge for Yourself!