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Former President Lt Gen Ian Khama left very little to the imagination when he described a Botswana Defence Force (BDF) decision not to invite him to the Fallen Heroes Commemoration as “unusual.”
In his first ever interview with the Sunday Standard since stepping down as President, Khama expressed shock that the army had not invited him to the ceremony. He said it was within his right that as former Commander of BDF he should have been invited because the massacre of soldiers at Lesoma village took place while he was the commander of BDF. “The way this kind of decision was taken, is very unusual. I would have been invited as former Commander of the army to participate in that event,” said Khama.
BDF Director of Protocol and Public Affairs Colonel Tebo Dikole however insists that there was nothing unusual with the decision not to invite Khama to the ceremony and that instead inviting him to the commemoration would have been unusual and a breach of the BDF protocol. Khama would have been the first retired BDF Commander-in-Chief to be invited to the event.
In a written response to Sunday Standard questions, Dikole stated that “, ‘for the record, since its inception in 2011 when it was dubbed Lesoma Commemoration to date, nor former presidents have been invited to attend the ceremony. Precedent has been set whereat the invite is extended to his Excellency and His Honour the vice President as was the case on the 27th February 2019.
“In the past we have had serving Presidents attending with their Vice Presidents (Former President Lt Gen Dr SKI Khama and the late Former Vice President Lt Gen MS Merafhe, Former President Lt Gen Dr SKI Khama and Former Vice President Dr PHK Kedikilwe, Former President Lt Gen Dr SKI Khama and Former Vice President MEK Masisi) and in 2019 Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi and his Honour Vice president Slumber Tsogwane were in attendance as has been the norm”, stated Dikole.
Khama graduated from BDF commander to Commander in Chief when he became President of Botswana in 2008. Dikole stated that, “”currently, the former President Lt Gen SKI Khama’s designation of former president precedes that of former commander.
On February 27 President Mokgweetsi Masisi who is the current BDF Commander in Chief laid a wreath at the Three Dikgosi Monument in Gaborone in remembrance of soldiers and other civil servants who died in the line of duty.
Khama however told Sunday Standard that, “it was important that having been around during the killings, I should have been invited. I needed to pay my last respect.”
He says after realising that he was not part of the invited dignitaries at the BDF event; he decided to lay a wreath for the fallen heroes at Extension 14 cemetery in Gaborone in the company of Nata-Gweta legislator Paulson Majaga.
“Before I went to lay the wreath, I had a meeting with Majaga. He just happened to be in my office,” said Khama.
The Nata-Gweta Member of Parliament’s decision to accompany Khama has also raised eyebrows in the political circle. Asked why he was accompanied by Majaga, Khama said at the time that he decided to lay the wreath, Majaga also happened to be in his office and they decided to go together.
But this heightened speculation that Khama could be the invisible hand behind Majaga’s motion for a referendum on presidential elections and appointment of ministers.
But Majaga dismissed the allegations as baseless saying the motion dates back as far as 2015 before President Masisi assumed the presidency.
“How can I do that? I’m a big supporter of President Masisi’s administration. I was at former President Khama’s office because I had a scheduled meeting with him to discuss floods that were reported to him by traditional leaders in one of the villages in my constituency,” said Majaga. He said the traditional leaders had sought audience with Khama to discuss the reoccurrence of floods in the constituency and Khama later on invited him to a meeting to discuss the matter.
“When I got to his office, I found that he was already on his way to Extension 14 and he told me that if I didn’t mind I could accompany him so that we discuss the issue of floods on the way,” said Majaga.