Khama putting his vindictive character on full public display

11 Feb 2019

Twice before former President Ian Khama has found it difficult to observe protocol by rising to his feet when President Mokgweetsi Masisi made an entrance.

As the rivalry between the two men intensified, Masisi felt the need to publicly address the issue for the very first time in his first state-of-the-nation address. Soon thereafter, before even the Leader of the Opposition could respond to the presidential address, Khama put out a rebuttal headlined “Press Statement from Former President Dr. Ian Khama.” Never once did he address Masisi by the honorific that has been used since 1966 to address a Botswana president – “His Excellency President ….”

If Khama is as successful in popularising this protocol breach as he was in popularizing the philanthropic spectacle and supposing his plot to return to power through a proxy succeeds, it is likely some Masisi supporters will return the favour by not rising to their feet when President Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi or Vice President Tshekedi Khama make an entrance. Venson-Moitoi wants to challenge Masisi for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) presidency and it is widely expected that she will operationalize continuance of the Khama legacy by appointing Tshekedi her Vice President.

After Sunday Standard published a story about Masisi having foiled an “Israeli-sponsored coup”, Khama got so riled up that he felt the need to grant a video-taped interview to, Argus Online, another one of his favourite media houses. In the video, he refers not to His Excellency President Masisi but to “Masisi.” In the same video, at one point Khama refers to the former Director-General of the Directorate of Intelligence Services and Security, Isaac Kgosi, as “Colonel Kgosi.” The latter was his aide-de-camp in the Botswana Defence Force and later Senior Private Secretary at the Office of the President. After Masisi took over, he fired Kgosi and replaced him with Brigadier Peter Magosi, whom Khama had fired from the BDF.

When the Botswana Democratic Party held a strategic retreat in Palapye a fortnight ago, Khama showed up late (possibly to contrive a rousing welcome) and alongside other security chiefs, Magosi was on hand to welcome him. Khama couldn’t dodge Magosi’s extended hand but mere seconds later when Magosi says something, an unsmiling Khama neither made eye contact nor said anything back. This is not the first time Khama has ignored Magosi because, as army sources say, he (Magosi) was passed up for promotion to head the Military Intelligence Unit in favour of Kgosi.

Khama’s vindictiveness is an open secret but with his post-office conduct, such character defect is now on full public display. Via an interview with The Voice, the public recently learnt from former President Festus Mogae (who made Khama his Vice President) that when Khama can’t get his way behind closed doors, he throws a temper tantrum. Mogae was describing someone who was deputy army commander for 11 years, army commander for 10 years, Vice President for 10 years and President for another 10 years. The sort of conduct Mogae described is usually not associated with properly-functioning adults and Mogae’s choice of words appears to have been designed to communicate a message about Khama’s level of maturity.

A vindictive character put on full public display could bode ill for Khama’s chances of winning the battle he is currently locked in with the BDP leadership. There will be party members and indeed other non-BDP people who will frown upon this conduct in a leader.

Khama’s vindictiveness has a very important implication for a scenario in which he wins the current battle. This should give some people pause. Since April 1, some netizens have been pouring scorn on him online, at times using language both highly assertive and offensive. One of the first things that will happen if Khama wins will be to take over DISS through a proxy, most likely Kgosi. The nature of technology is such that nothing published online can ever be deleted and it will very easy to recover anything (Facebook posts and tweets) that were published between April 1 last year and when Khama wins.