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From his dubious joke that he intends to re-join the Botswana Defence Force once his last term comes to an end, to widespread fears that he may push for a constitutional review to enable him to seek a third term as State President, Seretse Khama Ian Khama is literally holding Botswana hostage. I am well aware that many accusations of President Khama are ridiculous and wouldn’t have any leg to stand on if he had not made himself a hate figure of Botswana’s politics by his determination to have things done his way.
Yet these ridiculous accusations are now entrenched in the minds of many Batswana who are now incredibly nervous and seated on a cliff. In a mature, tried and tested democracy as ours, a model of stability in a volatile continent, the expiry of a state president’s constitutional term of office would normally be given a lukewarm review in the full knowledge that it merely signals the departure of a loyal servant and arrival of another servant of the people, a mere substitute. However, the imminent departure of President Khama seems to be causing unusual anxiety.
It is common knowledge that President Khama commands considerable respect and/or envy across the political divide. In this sense, there are genuine fears that President Khama could use this sheer amount of public goodwill at his disposal to manipulate people to agree to his wishes for a third term. In any case, he has managed to convince himself and many people that only he can take Botswana forward, that he and only himself was the right person to govern and govern he shall until the second coming.
In 2011 the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) released a report titled ‘Botswana: Assessing Risks to stability’. The report highlighted opportunities inherent in democratic Botswana that are likely to maintain Botswana as a model of democracy. However, the report also pointed out that there exist risks that threaten Botswana’s stability, commenting that ‘opposition politicians and civil society representatives suggest that fear of his own prosecution or that of close family members might make President Khama unwilling to stand down if he were defeated or when his two five –year terms end in 2018’.
While President Khama and his handlers have rubbished these fears as the work of the minds of lost souls, such concerns refuse to die. Instead they are bourgeoning on account of some wayward comments attributed to President Khama prominent being his promise that he would never leave the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in its present state of helplessness.
This has been interpreted to mean that President Khama intends to stay on as party president (and president of the republic) ostensibly to return the BDP to its past glory. Given his autocratic temperament and an intransigent and stubborn personality, such fears are perfectly warranted hence Batswana are anxious and stressed out like caged monkeys in a zoo.
Notwithstanding that there are people who would want President Khama to remain in office as life president those who loathe President Khama’s policies and general leadership style are convinced that he is certainly going to single-handedly anoint his successor so that he (President Khama) would continue to rule by proxy from his retirement palace in Mosu. Effectively, the end of Khama’s presidency is as good as its continuance. Thus, there is no running away from President Khama’s rule whether he is in Mosu or State House. This is in spite of widespread disillusionment with President Khama’s policies. Many people have no faith at all he could do the right thing for this country.
In effect, President Khama is considered the most petulant, most arrogant and most polarizing President in Botswana’s history with a reputation as something of a wind-up merchant. The 2011 CSIS report observes that ‘President Khama, who took office on April 1, 2008, has been a divisive figure’, meaning that it is going to require a considerable amount of effort to binds our nation’s wounds inflicted by the flamboyant President Khama. Critics hold that given his reluctance to countenance compromise whenever faced with a debilitating deadlock means that President Khama is ever ready to destroy this nation in order to get his way.
This personality flaw is partly responsible for low productivity in the public service wherein workers have vowed to make Botswana lose than make it a success for President Khama. In short, they do not want to win it for President Khama which implies that so long as Ian Khama remains Botswana’s first citizen, planned, purposeful or deliberate low productivity modelled on a ‘no pay no work’ rule in the public service shall be Botswana’s distinguishing identity.
While Botswana is faced with crippling water and unemployment challenges, President Khama seems less bothered but is instead focused on taking control of key state institutions like the judiciary for political expediency. This has tended to divert attention from the ailing economy which means that political considerations take precedence over economic matters and this shall remain so as long as Ian Khama is at the helm. There is therefore an urgent need to restore the legitimacy of the state but this cannot happen whilst President Khama is still in charge.
It is no secret that President Khama’s rule has generated rare interest in politics in the process ushering in unprecedented levels of political activism. While this would normally represents a welcome breakthrough in so far as it promotes political development and providing a litmus test of the quality of our democratic project, it has in no small measure fathered political hostilities foreign to Botswana’s politics.
In particular, opposition party activists especially the youth have since adopted a very hostile attitude toward President Khama, his close associates and anyone who is considered to be on his corner ostensibly because they blame him for their hardship. Gutter politics illustrated by widespread smear campaigns of insults, innuendo and blue lies have now become central to our relations leaving botho with no place in our value system and all these because of President Khama’s brand of politics.
This dirty political warfare is hurting Botswana’s democratic credentials and things are bound to go from bad to worse so long as Ian Khama is in command. Botswana is increasingly seeing street protests by a hitherto docile citizenry alarmed by an economy on a free fall and this they blame on President Khama’s personalized policies. Such protests however peaceful, threaten to create fertile grounds for ethnic and religious extremism to emerge and cause unbearable harm to this nation. Parliament has been transformed into a rehabilitation centre for retards while Cabinet ministers have converted into executive porters. God have mercy!!