Saturday, June 15, 2024

Khama about to release ‘dossier’ on Masisi’s rule

“I have come up with a dossier which I am about to release in the next few days,” announced former president Ian Khama during an interview on a South African radio station. As he explained, the dossier won’t be “just about me” but will detail what is going on in Botswana. “It will give an account of all the abuse of office and corruption that has taken place under Masisi in the last five years. There is a lot that’s going on in that country,” he told Bongani Bingwa on the Breakfast with Bingwa show last week.

By “Masisi”, Khama was referring to President Mokgweetsi Masisi whom he hardly ever refers to the titles of presidential office. Earlier Bingwa had wondered what happened to Botswana’s reputation as a beacon of democracy on the African continent. Circling back to that point with regard to the upcoming dossier, Khama said that Botswana has always been in the “forefront” as a democratic state that adheres to the rule of law and human rights. “That has been swept under the carpet,” he added. What is interesting about the latter is the irony. When Khama was still in office, he was himself accused of trampling upon the rule of law and human rights. That charge would be made by none other than his predecessor, Festus Mogae, when he participated in a televised panel discussion organised by an American news channel called CNBC.

Mogae told an international TV audience that “the current regime doesn’t respect the rule of law” and that the country is “regressing” on the gains it made following independence from the British. It may be too early to tell but Mogae may have set a tradition of former presidents publicly criticising their successors. In that regard, Khama is criticising his successor in much the same way that Mogae criticised Khama as his successor. However, the two cases differ in one important respect. Mogae was in Tanzania attending an African Leadership Panel in Dar es Salam. Last year, Masisi confirmed to a Botswana Democratic Party National Council what had been alleged: that upon arrival back home, Mogae was reprimanded by Khama.

Masisi’s version is that Mogae – who lives at his official retirement home in Phakalane, was summoned to the Office of the President and harangued by Khama in his (Masisi’s) presence and that he asked to be excused and stepped out of the office while the haranguing raged on. Khama’s dossier will be a regurgitation of grievances that he has made in the past. Top of the list will be an allegation that he has been making since 2019 – that Masisi wants to assassinate him through the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS). In the Radio 702 interview, Khama said that the reason why he is still alive is that he sought refuge in South Africa and that he would otherwise have been killed was he still in Botswana.

That explanation deviates from common understanding in Botswana: that he fled to South Africa because a deadline to hand over what DISS calls “weapons of war” was fast approaching. On the day in question, Khama was being chauffeured back to Gaborone from Serowe by his bodyguards. After Palapye, the two-car convoy turned east and sped towards the Martin’s Drift border gate, purportedly catching some of his bodyguards by surprise with the 90-degree route deviation. It had been alleged that a two-man recon team had spent the night in Martin’s Drift to check the coast and that it gave the all-clear. At the border gate, Khama, who uses a diplomatic passport and is there not searched and doesn’t queue, cleared customs and immigration and slipped into South Africa. He has been there since. Khama called into the radio show from what remains an undisclosed location. 

Sunday Standard learns though that he is staying at a self-contained, almost-lily-white estate and enjoys VIP protection courtesy of the South African government. By Khama’s account, the government has considered four methods of killing him that he detailed on Radio 702. The first method was through poisoning but he said that the Botswana government decided to abandon such plan after “we put that out publicly.” The second method was to break into his retirement home in Extension 5 and fake a robbery. “I would have been killed by the so-called robbers and there would have been a manhunt and everything and no one would have been found,” he said.

The third method was killing him during an arrest and putting out an elaborate lie about him resisting arrest, trying to grab a gun from one of the arresting officers – which resulted in the gun accidentally going off and killing him. The fourth method he alleged was that he would actually be arrested with no incident and locked up in prison where an inmate would stab him with a “sharp instrument” given to him by those who want him dead. As regards the latter, Khama added that the murder would be made to “look like one of those things that sometimes happen in prison.” Interestingly, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Agnes Callamard finds credible allegations that the government of Botswana is plotting to assassinate Khama. In an “urgent appeal” that she wrote to the Botswana government two years ago, Callamard repeated Khama claims, making no secret that she finds them credible.

“Without prejudging the accuracy of these allegations, the information received appears to be sufficiently reliable to raise serious concern about the risk to the life of former President Ian Khama,” she wrote in the Urgent Appeal, further asserting that the assassination allegations have been “corroborated by several sources.” In another part of the Appeal, she wrote that the allegations that Khama makes are “supported by reference to a range of sources” that she, however, does not name. “Three intelligence agencies from states outside Botswana have issued credible warnings of threats to Mr. Khama’s life. The warnings were partially based on intercepted communications, including those of the authorities,” read the Urgent Appeal’s most startling part. 

Callamard also expressed “concern” that the allegations have not been investigated by law enforcement authorities who have been “dismissive.” Both DISS’ Director-General, Brigadier Peter Magosi, and its Public Relations Director, Edward Robert, have dismissed Khama’s allegations as false. In December 2020, Robert told Sunday Standard that Khama had been making these allegations in the media “throughout the year” and that the Directorate found that “highly regrettable.”

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