Sunday Standard “Newsmaker of the year” prize goes to the man or woman who has had the greatest impact on the course of Botswana’s history during the year ÔÇô for better or worse.
On that basis, 2009 throws up only one serious claimant. Sometimes the biggest noise was applause ÔÇô sometimes it was booing, but President Lt Gen Ian Khama was always at the centre of it all.
Both a cult personality and a hate figure by equal measure, Khama has polarized Botswana politics like no other leader in the country’s history.
Discussion on all development initiatives, legislation, or changes in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party often begins or ends with the name of Khama. This has poisoned national debates on constitutional amendments, appointments of specially elected MPs or even issues as trivial as new initiatives in village football.
Cabinet ministers who should be candidates for The Sunday Standard Newsmaker of the Year, have been so overshadowed by Khama’s omnipresent style that they have been reduced to a bunch of his “ mini mes” happy to echo his master’s voice before stepping back into the shadows. Many have been bashing the media, defending extra-judicial executions and arguing for the erosion of the country’s civil rights just to please Khama, whose caprice they have to navigate.
He is one of very few leaders who have managed to be both a beacon of hope and a lightning rod of controversy. Either you like him or you don’t. But you can not ignore him.
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