Saturday, July 31, 2021

Khama not expecting Masisi at Centenary celebrations after BDP ‘insulted’ his father

Former President Lt General Ian Khama has said he would be surprised to see President Mokgweetsi Masisi at the ceremony for his father and former President Sir Seretse Khama centenary birthday commemoration.

Speaking to Sunday Standard on Friday Gen Khama said it would be “interesting” should his successor show up at Thursday’s commemoration.

Sunday Standard has been informed that the chairman of the organizing committee Nonofo Molefhi has invited the President. Masisi is reported to have been open to the idea of attending provided he could be assured of a good reception although no official communication has been made with the organisers.

Molefhi told Sunday Standard this week that no communication had been received from President Masisi’s office. Gen Khama does not expect the President to show up in Serowe this coming Thursday July 1st, 2021.

“I am unaware of Masisi’s plans nor am I interested in any. Presidents’ Day is not until later in July anyway. As to whether you mean if he may show up at the centenary and would I be there if he does I will answer by asking from you what you think I should do in this regard when he has presided over a party that insulted my father, has eroded the democracy he established alongside many others, turned the BDP into something unrecognizable from its origins. And my being falsely accused of stealing from the Bank of Botswana among other things,” Gen Khama told Sunday Standard, adding “It will be interesting.”

He said it would be a wonderful gesture by Batswana to honour his father in line with other gestures that have been extended over the years to honour Sir Seretse Khama as the founding President. “These include but not limited to the declaration of a public holiday in his honour. The erection of statues , his portrait on the national currency, infrastructure named after him and just as humbling artists paintings and drawings of him as well as praise poems. On this occasion during the pandemic it will of course limit the type of celebration that could take place.”

Khama said he was not aware of any recognition the government is planning to bestow on his father. Unconfirmed reports suggest the government is planning parallel centenary celebrations.

Sir Seretse Khama’s centenary happens at a time when Khama and Masisi, whose history goes back to their childhood, don’t see eye to eye. Masisi’s father was Sir Seretse Khama’s cabinet minister. Having defected from the Botswana Democratic Party, which was co-founded by his father, Gen. Khama has founded his own party – the Botswana Patriotic Front. As head of the Bangwato royal family, Gen Khama necessarily has to be part of preparations for his father’s centenary celebrations.  Organizing committee chairman Molefhi told this publication recently that the committee periodically consults Sir Seretse’s children “on a need-to-know basis and may seek archival material from them.” Such material will be used to illustrate commemorative literature that the committee plans to produce. However, Molefhi was keen to emphasize that the celebrations are “not a family affair” because Sir Seretse was a national figure.

Since the 2018 edition of the Khawa Sand Dune Challenge and Arts Festival, Khama and Masisi have not been in the same place together. Then, Khama didn’t rise – as protocol demands, when Masisi arrived to take his place at the high table for a short pre-games ceremony. While there have been rumors that the Khama family has threatened to boycott the event if Masisi attends, it is highly unlikely that Gen. Khama can miss his father’s centenary celebrations.  And it would be unseemly if Masisi doesn’t attend an event that celebrates a man who made it possible for him to be president. The dynamics however strongly suggest that getting these two men under the same shelter in Serowe will be near impossible.

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