Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Khama addressed a BDP (not Bangwato) meeting in Serowe

Online and offline, there is still talk about a “Bangwato meeting” that was held at the Serowe showgrounds a fortnight ago. Oddly for a meeting that should have  discussed tribal affairs, the only agenda item was the factional rivalry within the Botswana Democratic Party and the language used was one that kgotla explicitly protocols forbid.

In actual fact, the meeting was a part of a process that started way before Khama stepped down. None of the MPs he wanted to replace him won elections and he ended settling for Moshupa-Manyana MP, Mokgweetsi Masisi whom he thought he could trust to protect him from prosecution once he was out of office. The word “protection” is actually used in the report that was cobbled together by South Africans consultants ahead of the Botswana Democratic Party’s elective national congress last month.

Built into the protection plan was a spot for Khama’s younger brother, Tshekedi Khama – whose presidency would effectively have returned Khama to government. The protection plan also included renewing the contract of someone (Kgosi) who told a parliamentary committee that he “doesn’t even take orders from the president.” Khama’s plan on April 1 last year was essentially that Masisi would work under Kgosi. That is because any civil servant who doesn’t take orders from the president certainly has to be most powerful person in the country. Masisi fired Kgosi a month after taking over the reins of power.

When Khama’s succession/protection plan failed, he sponsored a parliamentary motion of no-confidence in Masisi. When the motion failed, he formed New Jerusalem, a dissident group within the BDP that sought the same outcome by fielding a candidate (Serowe South MP, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi) to challenge Masisi for the BDP presidency. When Moitoi withdrew from the race on the eve of D-day, Khama called the Serowe showground meeting in his capacity as Bangwato traditional leader. He said that the purpose of the meeting was to “consult” the tribe.

Consultation is something that you do from the get-go but the Serowe meeting was a fourth or fifth stage in a process that began a really long time ago. Consultation also entails laying all your cards on the table ÔÇô which Khama hasn’t done because the people who thronged the showground are being roped into something that they know absolutely nothing about. In the past, Khama has said that he will seek the help of outsiders to help return Botswana what it was under him. At the Serowe meeting, he said that he would work with non-BDP members to defeat Masisi. Khama’s supporters don’t know who those third parties are and are being kept in the dark about the sort of assistance they would render. Khama would already have a plan of what would happen if Masisi wins that he is not sharing with his showground supporters. It is also odd that Khama would consult the tribe about his plans to leave the BDP when there was no such consultation in 2008 when he quit the army – to join the BDP. He is always consulting after making a decision.

By announcing the meeting in his capacity as Bangwato kgosi, Khama duped everyone, the media included, into believing that the showground meeting was some tribal project. The result has been that reportage is in the order of “Bangwato this, Bangwato that.” Bangwato as a tribe had absolutely nothing to do with that meeting which was held not at the kgotla where tribal affairs are discussed but at a public area that assumed the character of a “freedom-square.” The meeting discussed BDP factional politics, not tribal affairs and in its tone and texture, was no different from an earlier meeting at Lady Khama Community Hall that was held after Venson-Moitoi of the Central Region. Members of the senior tribal leadership were out of place and online there is a picture of the Regent, Sediegeng Kgamane, looking very unhappy. Freedom-square language, some of it raw and targetted at Masisi, was used.

Largely on account of unhelpful media framing which parrots Khama’s deceptive choice of words, a factional BDP meeting at a freedom square has now been falsely attributed to a tribe whose interests it was never meant to serve.

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The Telegraph December 2

Digital edition of The Telegraph, December 2, 2020.