BY THOBO MOTLHOKA
Former President Ian Khama is reported to have personally phoned his estranged successor, President Dr, Mokgweetsi Masisi, pleading a reschedule of the 2019 Khawa Dune Challenge & Cultural Festival.
Information reaching the Sunday Standard is that Khama interrupted a meeting between Masisi and a UN representative begging his successor to consider changing the dates of the annual event to accommodate his own personal plans.
“His Excellency was shocked not so much by the request as by the call itself,” a source from the Government enclave who was part of the meeting said.
It was the first direct call from the former President to his successor since Masisi took office on April 1st 2018 (a year to tomorrow), the source revealed.
So mesmerised by the call, source said, Masisi did not offer a definitive response suffice to say he would consider the request at a later stage.
The 2019 Khawa Dune Challenge is scheduled for May 11-12.
This year’s will be the second Khawa Dune Challenge post Khama’s presidency. The first one was not without controversy involving the two warring presidents.
Khama was singled out for ‘deliberately’ ignoring protocol during the opening ceremony of the 2018 event, less than a month after handing over the Presidential baton to Masisi.
He was the only person who remained seated when President Masisi and First Lady Neo Masisi arrived for the official opening ceremony.
That gesture would set the tone for the two men’s future relations. While Masisi initially played down speculation about their broken relations the pressure eventually grew too much to handle for the current President, confessing to the nation in his maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“Batswana are all aware that the transition from the previous administration has not been as smooth as expected,” Masisi told the nation. “However, it ought to be noted, I have in my attempt to smoothen the process engaged senior citizens namely, His Excellency Dr. Festus Mogae, His Honour Dr. Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Honourable Ray Molomo, Honourable Patrick Balopi and Honourable David Magang to assist and lead in smoothening the transition. I regret to announce that their efforts have not borne fruit up to this point.”
By the end of 2018 the gloves had already been taken off. There was no more time for diplomacy. Khama begun to complain about being stripped of certain retirement privileges ‘entitled’ to him.
By the close of business in December 2018 Khama had already launched an all-out war on his successor.
In an unprecedented move that shocked the entire nation, Khama’s close ally Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi announced her candidacy for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) presidency.
Khama had somehow identified a challenger for his estranged successor. Perhaps sensing a bit of reluctance on the part of Venson-Moitoi to take the leap of faith, Khama had rushed to the media to break the story. Venson-Moitoi had no choice but to relent. Masisi had prior to the announcement denied having sleepless nights over the possibility.
“If the party feels they need a better candidate to lead us into the 2019 General Elections then great. We will win with even more numbers,” he told the media. “I’m not afraid. The Democrats will elect who becomes their president. It’s a process. It’s in our rules. We created it to be that way. Why should anyone be anxious about it? A sitting president such as myself may be challenged.”
But Venson-Moitoi’s candidacy has only served to worsen relations between the two men. It is all out war as Khama looks to unseat the very man he handpicked to succeed him. President Masisi has gone all out to ‘right’ all the ‘wrongs’ committed by his predecessor in his ten year tenure from 2008 to 2018. He has called it ‘rooting out corruption’. Khama supporters call it a ‘witch-hunt’.
Both Masisi and Venson-Moitoi face off next week in the BDP’s first ever Presidential race, scheduled for Kang on Friday April 5. If the current relations between Masisi and Khama are anything to by, Masisi is unlikely to grant Khama his request. All is fair in love and war, they say.
Efforts to contact Khama regarding the phone call drew a blank as his Private Secretary Mabedi Letsholo said he was out of town.