Khama sheds all notions of how an ex-President should conduct himself

09 Aug 2018

In the disruptive, rul e s -breaking arc of Khama’s statecraft, his conduct the past few weeks has marked a new milestone. He has gone where none of his predecessors has ever gone, flouted the most deeply held traditions and shredded all the customary standards in Botswana of how an ex-president should behave. Khama has become so unfathomable on so many levels that it has brought to the surface a question: What is his end game?

A political commentator Lesego Ramphaleng who spoke to this publication said “Khama has clearly shown during and aft er his time in office about feeling no allegiance to the country’s institutions. His performance the past few weeks was so unbalanced that it is now provoking some political lords to nudge him off .”

The relationship between President Masisi and Dr. Khama became unpleasant when Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Air Wing was instructed not to allow Dr. Khama to access military aircraft . In what is perhaps the fi rst of many more retaliations to come, in July Dr. Khama travelled to the United States of America to a Conservation International (CI) board meeting without informing Offi ce of the President and said he was not entitled to inform the OP of his travels.

Th e former president’s motive seems to fight tooth and claw, for what he believes are his entitlements as the son of the fi rst president. As a result he has pointed the accusing finger at everybody but himself.

Given his history of self-defeating behaviour, it is safe to say Khama is clearly not suffering from the early stages of dementia, but is afflicted by the self-harm syndrome.

What other explanation do we have for his continued destructive behaviour?

Khama once promised not to intervene or meddle in Masisi’s presidency.

More so, in the past Ian Khama accused former Presidents the late Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae of meddling and interfering simply for their input in public aff airs.

Th is resulted in Masire and Mogae taking a back seat to allow Khama to govern as per his wishes.

Ramphaleng also says “in my own personal view, what Khama is doing does not seem like political disruption but has all the hallmarks of self-immolation,” adding that “ever since he was president, one of the many tragedies of Dr. Khama’s life is that there is no one who can save this angstridden man from himself ”.

Botswana’s past presidents broke norms, but Khama’s normbreaking is diff erent, both in scale and intent. “Khama tested the institution of the presidency unlike any of his predecessors. We have never had an ex-president not conversant about the nature of his office, so openly misleading and self destructive,” says Ramphaleng adding that “Khama seems like the Frankenstein’s monster of past presidents’ most horrible attributes.”

Parliament did not do much to stand up to Khama during his tenure - he was more like Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei

who is accountable to no one but himself. For such a man, waking up one day as an ex-president and finding out that all perks and entitlements are gone is a bitter pill to swallow.

Since independence in 1966, checks have been weakest under Khama’s administration, but since Masisi took over, protocol as well as checks and balances have largely stopped Khama from breaking the law.

“It is necessary for Masisi to stop Khama in his tracks because Khama’s behavior has over the years roughened politics and induced harmful norm-breaking,” says Ramphaleng.

So far, Masisi is doing a good job to stop Khama from bulldozing the country’s image and the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) into a mass grave. According to Ramphaleng, “failure to do so might result in a turbocharged opposition that converts enormous BDP advantages into razor’s edge contests in the  2019 general election.”

A renowned Professor of Political Science from the University of Botswana, Prof Mpho G Molomo in his paper “Democracy Under Siege” said when former president Khama took over the presidency in 2008, he adopted populist and autocratic tendencies.

Above all, Khama was disdainful of established norms of governance.

Khama has been less constrained by norms, the non-legal ethics of fitting behaviour that presidents and ex-presidents implicitly accept and that typically makeup their actions. Now that Khama is no longer President we are beginning to appreciate Botswana’s norms because they are hardly ever noticed until they are violated. One might even say that since Khama stepped down as president, he has revived constitutional checks and balances, and the nation’s appreciation for them.