Understanding Khama’s Frustrations

13 May 2019

By Richard Moleofe

Following the big meeting in the Serowe kgotla last week Saturday, I have come to fully comprehend Khama’s frustrations. The feud between Khama and Masisi is not the source of the former president’s problems. The underlying problem is with power.

Some years ago I had a chat with Major General Moeng Pheto and we met at the time when he was preparing for primary elections for his political constituency. He was pitted against the youthful Lesang Magang and the young man was breathing heavily on Pheto’s neck.

Pheto told me that he was spending sleepless nights doing everything possible to win the contest. And I asked him what the young Magang was really doing in politics because he has the money and apparently politicians are not paid as much to envy? His answer blew my mind off.

He said rich people enter politics not for the love of money but for the love of power. I had always had this perception that with money one would be powerful. But like they say it in the advert for brake pads, “power is nothing without control.” So power lies in a combination of having the money and political control.

Like Unity Dow said; Khama has had power in his hands since his early twenties. The fellow became a brigadier and deputy commander at the age of twenty four. This only happens in Africa.

In fact his possession of power goes far beyond that. As man born of a Caucasian mother and born as royalty, he grew up in an atmosphere and aura of power. His father, Seretse Khama was a rich young bourgeoisie who at the same time remained in the high circles of aristocracy. 

From this source of power, Ian Khama never lived like an ordinary mortal. The reason why he went up the ladder of leadership so fast is testimony to his semi immortality.

In his own words, Khama admitted that he was irked by the fact that he had always come in as deputy to a Motalaote. It started at Botswana Defence Force where he was deputy to Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe and years later became deputy to President Festus Mogae.

During our days in the army, there was only one man who always told Khama the plain truth. Brigadier Albert Scheffers told Khama that it was out of his own negligence that as the first son of the first president he could not acquire a degree.

In his entire life, Khama has never had a “No” for an answer. It frustrates this man that a mere mortal like President Masisi can all of a sudden tell him “No” when he orders an aircraft. 

He has been making tantrums about the fact that every time he requests for an aircraft, the request is declined without any reason given. He chooses to forget that while at BDF, he is the very man who gave a command that people should not be given reasons when their applications for anything are rejected. That was very painful for many because had they been given reasons, they would change to something else the next time.

One lieutenant’s application for transfer from Air Defence to an armour unit was rejected on the basis that the poor officer had misspelled the word armour. Careers were ruined by this man and soldiers still have the memory of those painful years.

When Lt. Gen Khama left the military, he called a large meeting to announce that he was leaving. We all remained in suspense until he made it public at his farewell party where Festus Mogae was present and was the president in waiting.

Khama didn’t consult his soldiers but rather he just announced his departure. Years later he gathers his subjects in Serowe for supposedly consulting with them for leaving the BDP. That wasn’t any consultation but instead he was testing the waters on whether his new political manoeuvres would be acceptable.

Civil servants and the rest of the workforce has complained to him while he was president, they had issues with his kgotla consultation meetings that he chose to do with Namola Leuba (drought relief) workers and the elderly during weekdays. He never listened.

While vice president, he went on some long sabbatical leave without proper consultation. The president had issues with that type of behaviour but chose to remain silent on the issue. The problem with President Festus Mogae was that Khama was his junior in politics but senior in tribal terms as he was his paramount chief.

For Khama, it has always been “his way or the highway.” While president, he refused counsel from his two predecessors. This took a nasty turn during the 2011 industrial strike when he accused the two former presidents of running a parallel government.

What is he doing now? He is doing far more than running a parallel government. If it was elsewhere in Africa he could have long been jailed for his unbecoming behaviour that is set to undermine the authority of his successor.

Khama is set on a path to destruction. He is even prepared to demolish his own father’s legacy in order to prove a point or just to get at the current president. That’s typical behaviour for a man who leaves no legacy behind after being at the driving seat for twenty years, Ten years as vice president and the remainder as president.

This is a man who fashioned laws to fall within the boundaries of his personal needs and taste. We started expanding our English vocabulary in this country with words like “pet projects.” Only him and him alone had the power to have the word applied.

Finally, Khama went to parliament when he was vice president to request for an Act that created the notorious Directorate on Intelligence and Security. The law was fashioned for him as the director of this new directorate was only accountable to him.

Richard Moleofe is a security analyst