The long awaited official review of President Ian Khama’s five years in office is out.
The 205 all gloss magazine is entitled Khama ÔÇô Real Leadership for Real Delivery (2008-2013).
We first got wind of preparations for the Magazine when Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central Dumelang Saleshando complained in the House that the publishers were flaunting Khama’s endorsement letter around town to browbeat companies into lining up with adverts to support the project.
It may have been an exaggeration, but a point was made, which is that this was a production that enjoyed the President’s unique approval.
And it shows in the number and volume of advertisements.
Companies have come to the party to demonstrate their “patriotism” by supporting the official account of the President first five years in office.
But this is not to say the adverts are not well-deserved, quite to the contrary.
A significant effort and energy have been clearly expended in the production.
If the intention was to immortalize President Khama, then all credit is due to the publishers, for that has been achieved almost to a fault.
Except for a carpet interview with the President, wherein he outlines some of the challenges he has grappled with, not much elsewhere in book does the President come out as a human being with weaknesses, frailties and shortcomings like any of us.
Instead he is from beginning to the end sold as a messianic agent of change. This is thoroughly demonstrated by voluminous text which is itself supported by what is by all accounts some of the most iconic pictures ever to come out of this country.
A sample of chapters includes: Accomplishments and achievements in the past 5 years; Honesty: The reason President Khama remains an iconic figure; Benevolent Khama; Approach to Foreign policy; The era of culture and arts revival is here and Youth development and empowerment: A backbone to the future.
This is not to say the Magazine is not illuminating; in-fact profoundly so not least because it offers an alternative to a now established narrative that┬á Khama’s presidency has lost track and with time fast running out there may very well be no legacy to talk about┬á except that of shattered dreams and dishonored promises.
Education, the public service strike and the BDP split are all touched upon.
The Magazine, we cannot emphasise strong enough is not written with any level of pretence to impartiality. Questions are friendly, not pointed and decidedly non-combative.”
“You are a giving person, have you always been that way or as some of your detractors call it, is it a way of buying votes as a politician?” is a customarily docile and apologetic line of questioning that runs through a lengthy interview with the president.
Members of the editorial team were carefully, almost choreographically selected; Fish Pabalinga, Jeff Ramsay, Lawrence Ookeditse, Monkagedi Gaothobogwe, Comma Serema and Raphael Dingalo ÔÇô all of them established cheerleaders with a reason to want to please the master.
Dr Dingalo turned his back against a promising academic career to join the civil service in the president’s office.
Dr Serema was until recently the Executive Secretary of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.
Pabalinga, who is also the publisher retains some nominal influence and has in the past served in sub-committees.
As for Gaotlhobogwe and Ookeditse they continue to be torn between the incompatibility of journalism and hero-worshipping the politicians.
The odd one out is Thabo Seleke, who whenever he mustered a moment to write has often fallen among the Khama-skeptics.
For all its partiality, the magazine, it must be conceded is a welcome, indeed invaluable first step to put under one roof key events that will ultimately be useful to historians that will seek to determine President Ian Khama’s legacy.