Ian Khama: The man, the myth and all the sacrifices

01 Apr 2019

The Voice newspaper of the 25th January 2019 carried an interview with former President Ian Khama in which he told its correspondent, one Sharon Mathala,  that politics was never his chosen career path, that he had chosen another life for himself after the BDF and that he had personally sacrificed a lot to rule this country. Although Khama denied  that he meant  to say that Botswana owes him gratitude, it is quite clear  that is exactly what he meant. As I went through the interview I was first astonished by Ian Khama's apparent lack of modesty. But when read this interview with other remarks that Ian Khama frequently makes, such as he joined the BDF in order to defend democracy, that since his departure from the high office, Botswana has regressed and that President Masisi is a dictator who cannot move this country forward, I began to realize the man is presents an interesting psychological phenomenon. He has never really been in touch with what is happening on the ground in this country which for the last ten years he treated like his little backyard. What I find most shocking is the man’s claims that he has actually sacrificed for this country. What sacrifice I asked myself? But on reflection, I realize that the English language is Ian Khama's mother tongue and he has a better command of the language than I can ever hope to do a thousand years.  Ka na o amule  Selani as they  say in street lingo!. So may be the man is right after all depending on one’s take on the meaning of the word ‘sacrifice’.  Permit me to share with your readers some of the information, already in the public domain, that can perhaps help us better appreciate the Khama Psychological Phenomenon. The information shows Ian Khama’s career trajectory that has shaped and his thinking about himself and this country. This trajectory or journey, is littered with many  personal sacrifices, that some of us have not been able to see as such. Ian Khama trajectory or journey included the following sacrifices:

Sacrifice 1. Sometime in the mid-1970s, in his early twenty’s, Ian Khama is already a Senior Superintendent and Officer Commanding,  Police Mobile Unit 'A'  Company in Francistown. One Mathomola Thema, who is reported to have trained with Ian Khama at both Sandhurst Military Academy and in  Nigeria and apparently did better than Ian Khama,  is shunted aside and made a District Commissioner. His crime was that he had a BA degree from UBLS.

Sacrifice 2. Enter the Botswana Defence Force in 1977.  Ian Khama is appointed by his father as Brigadier and second in command of the newly established Defence Force. He enters  Guinness Book of records as the youngest Brigadier in the world. He is parachuted ahead of one Senior Mpala and one Senior Molemogi who are appointed to the rank of major, three ranks below Ian Khama, despite their experience in the PMU.

Sacrifice 3.  Appointed a Major General and subsequently a Lt General, again breaking  his own Guinness record by becoming a top general who has not worked his way up the military promotion ladder.  He joins that  rare breed of military men and women who have only  held  three ranks, namely Brigadier, Major General and Lt General.

Sacrifice 4, Through Seleka Springs, Ian Khama captures for his family the BDF procurement unit and all the lucrative military procurements are won by Seleka Springs with no tendering. It is through Seleka springs that the Business Weekly of November 14th 2015, appropriately dubbed  Ian Kama and his family “Botswana military millionaires”. There is no evidence to support Ian Khama claim that he joined BDF to defend democracy. The only evidence that is in the public domain is that he used BDF to amass wealth through Seleka Springs.

Sacrifice 5 Appointed Vice President, or more precisely, parachuted ahead of BDP stalwarts like Ponatshego Kedikilwe and David Magang, in a twist of events that left the country gasping for breath. Remember one Phandu Skelemani’s shock and amazement, and his exclamation:  ‘Uno penga’ when informed  that Ian Khama was going to be the Vice President.

Sacrifice 6. Realizing that Festus Mogae needed him (as a bouncer, I always tell myself and all those who care to listen), more than he needed Festus Mogae, he insists that one  Isaac Kgosi should come with him and be appointed at the senior rank of  Senior Private Secretary to the Vice President,  and  against the procedures and rules of the public service. This was  apparently  one of  the conditionalities of Ian Khama  leaving the BDF to become Festus Mogae’s  bouncer. See below.

Sacrifice 7.  Demanded  and granted the right to fly the BDF aircraft even though he was no longer a member of the BDF, and not subject to military rules, regulations and discipline. The Ombudsman, the late Lethebe  Maine advises against this. Festus Moage finds himself in quandary. What to do with the bouncer? Poor RraNametso caves in! Apparently this was one of the conditionalities of Ian Khama leaving the BDF to be Festus Mogae’s strongman.

Sacrifice 8. Granted an indefinite sabbatical leave by his head hunter, Festus Mogae. The sabbatical leave, which was to last for nine months or so, was regarded as unprecedented in the annals of post-colonial Botswana government leaders. But then Ian Khama is a man of many firsts.

Sacrifice 9. Declined to take up the role of the Leader of the House, a job traditionally done by the Vice President. Ian Khama could not bring himself to participate in parliamentary debates, and in questions and answer sessions. These were beneath him. For the twenty years that Ian Khama was Vice President and then President, he only went  to Parliament as an onlooker. This is the man who calls him a democrat, and calls Masisi a dictator, and yet he looked  down upon Botswana Parliament, its procedures and processes.

Sacrifice 10. The President special retirement package. This one takes the biscuit. In  a bizarre  turn of events, and with only two months before he left office, the Bank of Botswana  introduces a brand new  P10.00 note with Ian Khama  portrait on it, and a whole Act of Parliament,  The Presidents (Pensions and Retirement Benefits) Act is amended to suit what can only be described as Ian Khama’s idiosyncrasies. Now retired presidents will no longer be state property. This after the revelation that an amount of P34 million pula has been earmarked  for  President Khama retirement house.

The foregoing list of ‘sacrifices’ by Ian Khama, which list is by no means exhaustive, reveals  a trajectory of  entitlements,  preferential treatment and privilege  that has come to  characterize Ian Khama’s  military and political career. Now Ian Khama sees President Masisi as a little upstart who wants to upset his applecart. Buried deep in the recesses of Ian Khama subconscious mind is this false belief that this country is part of Seretse Khama’s estate, and that him and his immediate family are its rightful heirs.. Although I cannot claim to know the majority of the members of the House of Khama, the few that I know are courteous, respectful, unassuming and polite to a fault, even,   precisely because they are aware  that they are members of the House of Khama, and their public image matters. This Ian Khama is a breed apart, and so different from many of them. But if you were to ask me, I think Seretse Khama must be turning in his grave at this outrageous behavior  by his son

But Ian Khama’s uprising against President Masisi goes beyond fighting to maintain entitlements, preferential treatment and privilege.   The recent crackdown on corruption seems to have rubbed Ian Khama the wrong way. I was completely astounded and perturbed when he said in one interview that the crackdown is really targeting him. This to me is a self-incriminating  statement. If indeed Ian Khama is innocent, why would he make a statement like that? E seng gore ke ene yo o neng a roma batho boloi?

The BDP Congress is special in many ways. Seeing that Kang is not very far from Ghanzi, where in  2000 the BDP miscalculated and elected Ian Khama party chairman ahead of Kedikiwle, and lived to regret it, one hopes that this time around the BDP delegates will be wiser, and return  President Masisi. But consider this scenario: Pelonomi Venson  Moitoi wins the BDP Presidency (God have mercy on all of us) on the 7th April; she  becomes Botswana’s  new President, as President Masisi will be forced  to resign immediately to avoid  there being  two centers of power. Ms Venson Moitoi probably nominates  Tshekedi Khama her Vice President. All the pieces of the puzzle  just fall into place. Ian Khama’s  hangers on, who are currently fleeing in all directions, return,  with a vengeance.  The first to die will be one Peter Magosi, who will be  probably subjected to death  by a thousand cuts, (an ancient Chinese torture method or  ling chi) abolished  in 1905. This involves a very slow and excruciatingly painful death involving the slicing of the  flesh by cutting a small piece of flesh at a time.  And as your analyst correctly pointed out in the Sunday Standard of September 2 2018, Ian Khama’s  second coming, under  whatever guise,  will be more ferocious than his first coming. It is, in other words, just too ghastly to contemplate.