For decades, Botswana has been heralded as a beacon of democracy in the African continent that is synonymous with the ideology of savage despotism. Consequent to this laudatory caption, Botswana has been, wittingly or unwittingly, promoting democracy as the best form of government. This is in spite that democracy imposes some difficult demands on society that seeks to abide by its norms. In particular, democracy imposes huge demands on those in positions of authority.
Democracy demands that leaders retire from office at the end of their constitutionally expressed terms. When former President Dr. Khama ascended to the highest office, the rhetorics of his inaugural speech sought to project him as someone who embraces the core principles of democracy proclaiming that ‘I am a democrat. I have always believed in democratic ideals, and joined the military to defend this democracy. I consider myself an integral part of this system of governance that has become entrenched in the life of Botswana’. If indeed former President Dr Khama is a democrat, he must walk the talk and fulfill the demands imposed on him by this democracy that he purports to have joined the military to defend. He must retire in the literal sense of the word and stop behaving like an ex-lover who cannot accept that it is over.
Of late there have been incessant reports that former President Dr Khama continues to compete for attention and reverence with incumbent President Masisi particularly by seeking direct involvement in domestic politics and demanding to be showered with benefits and privileges that only accrue to the sitting state president. In many ways than one, this means that former President Dr Khama is unable to satisfy the demands imposed by democracy that leaders ought to retire and cede space for the incumbent to do his job unimpeded by a nagging and jealous ex. This is however not surprising. In fact many critics including this column had authoritatively articulated that Dr Khama’s fears of going from a powerful, worshipped despot and commander-in-chief of the armed forces to a counterculture midget would likely make him seek backdoor influence to remain at the center stage.
Frankly, former President Dr Khama’s relationship with incumbent President Masisi is more fraught than any in the history of Botswana. It is actually more strained, acidic and potentially destabilizing than it is reported. For all its drama, the relationship bespeak the troublesome fear that the ex-president either want to make a brisk comeback or want to topple incumbent President Masisi and replace him with his preferred stooge. This compelling and probable perspective does make former President Dr Khama’s maneuvers subversive and treasonous as to deserve a ruthless, bareknuckled combat. It calls on incumbent President Masisi to operationalize a countervailing strategy to foil former President Dr Khama’s insurgency and save Botswana from a marauding rebel.
In a democracy ÔÇô that system of government for which former President Dr Khama purports to have joined the military to defend- one of the most important good a leader could do for his nation is to leave office when his time is up and this requires them to keep a healthy distance away from the corridors of power so that the incumbent is left to do his job alone. It is acknowledged that many former leaders throughout the world will always want to remain influential but democratic norms demands that they should occupy themselves with other things other than domestic politics and public service duties.
In a true democracy, an ex-president who refuses to abide by democratic norms and fails to accept that he/she no longer stand at the pinnacle of power either lacks the skills needed for ordinary life or are motivated by anxiety about the likelihood of their successor’s intent on rooting out organized corruption to which he was devoted and therefore could not resist the temptation to meddle in the affairs of the state precisely to cover his tracks.
Former President Dr Khama’s reported meddling in the affairs of the state and domestic party politics illustrates that he had reluctantly passed the button to the incumbent President Masisi and that such meddling is principally motivated by greed and fear of losing his ill-gotten riches. It further illustrates that the lure of life at the State House remains strong and is the reason behind his plot to return to power and access the executive authority that had permitted him to get whatever he desired. This proposition justifies official sanction against the former president in order to decisively counter his dangerous moves that have the potential to destabilize the nation and frustrate current efforts to return the country to sanity after a decade of misrule that made our society to accept and tolerate corruption in government as normal. His meddling is an embarrassing indictment on our fading democratic credentials and must be crashed without further delay.
For the first time in the history of this republic, there is widespread fear that a former President is clandestinely plotting a return to national politics and or state house. These fears mirror widespread concerns about Botswana’s slide into a dictatorship when in 2008 Ian Khama ascended to the highest office in the land. Essentially what these fears mean is that Botswana has been gripped with palpable fear since Dr Khama left the army for politics in 1998. These fears provide compelling evidence that Dr Khama has been holding the country to ransom since joining politics and signs are that it will get worse before it get better.
Faced with this imminent danger to his presidency and the nation at large, the incumbent president must act decisively and summon all the state’s might and banish the troublesome ex for good. The incumbent president has an array of arsenal at his disposal if he is indeed the Commander-in-Chief. President Masisi should not let himself to be dragged around like a mop. He should rather demonstrate that he is in control of government, in particular, security agencies and take the fight to his predecessor.
One sure way to counter a mischievous former president is to lawfully go after him. In some Asian countries, incumbent presidents chose to neutralize or banish former presidents who signaled a desire to return to national politics. They had done so by routinely investigating former presidents for corruption or abuse of office. As a result of such lawful investigations, South Korea had former presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo convicted and jailed for corruption in the 1990s while Roh Moo Hyun committed suicide while facing corruption charges in 2009.
In the context of Botswana, there have always been widespread concerns that former President Dr Khama used his years in power to fraudulently amass massive wealth and that he has used his executive powers to get what he wanted and do as he pleased. A week never passes without media allegations about former President Dr Khama’s role in the looting of public resources and possible money laundering, now and during his time at the helm. It is said that every criminal leaves a trace. The possibility of finding traces of mischief presents opportunities for the incumbent to set dogs of the state after the former president and find something to use against him and banish him for good.
It is inconceivable that the state could continue to give generous pension and associated rights and privileges to a former president who then uses the same recompense to sponsor subversive battles against the government of the day. Just a few days past the President of the freest and most democratic country in the world, Mr Donald Trump threatened to strip former security bosses of their security clearances for daring to criticize his administration. Former President Dr Khama is an authentic candidate for lawful investigations for corruption and abuse of office that will enable the state to go after him, strip him of his generous pension and all rights attached to the office of the former president. This is what a troublesome or impossible ex gets whether he or she is an ex-lover or an ex-president ÔÇô a malignant separation.