Former President Lt Gen Ian Khama is on a campaign to flip Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) strongholds in the Central District in favour of the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ÔÇô a strategy recommended by political consultants commissioned by his South African sponsors.
In a move scripted by the consultants, Khama last week endorsed UDC candidate for Sefhare-Ramokgonami constituency and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Vice President Kesitegile Gobotswang at the expense of fellow BDP colleague and area Member of Parliament Dorcas Makgatho.
The consultants’ report, a copy of which has been passed to the Sunday Standard states: “unlike any of his predecessors, and other presidents who will come after him, Mr Khama can count on a loyal following from his chieftainship territory. It is impossible for everyone in his areas of royal jurisdiction to support the paramount chief as already evidenced by activists in the territory backing Mr Masisi. But as a decidedly rural territory, we are confident Mr Khama’s support for independents and selected opposition candidates can tilt the scales in areas which were previously impregnable if he reaches out to the multitudes who still regard the chief as more important than a political party. Again a separate, thorough feasibility study of individual constituencies in which support will be given to independents and opposition candidates will have to be done.”
The decision to support independent candidate and UDC candidates is a last ditch effort after a number of strategies recommended by the political consultants either failed or were considered not viable. The initial strategy was to sponsor former cabinet minister Pelonomi Venson Moitoi to challenge Masisi for the BDP presidency. At the time the plan was in motion, Khama and his supporters were also pondering ousting Masisi by collapsing the BDP majority in parliament. The report by the consultants states that, “Interviews with members of the ruling BDP indicate Mr Khama to enjoy support of half of ministers and legislators. It is reported 10 to 12 legislators are prepared to resign from the ruling party to force a collapse of government. At the time of conducting interviews no legal position was known for the resignation of the legislators in support of Mr Khama.”
The Sunday Standard can reveal that a junior minister consulted a local law firm for legal opinion on the issue and was advised that the plan was not viable.
With both plans having collapsed, the next advice from the political consultants was that Khama should cut an exit deal with President Mokgweetsi Masisi which would guarantee protection for him, his family and friends. Among those who were expected to be part of the deal were former Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) Director General Isaac Kgosi who is currently facing a number of possible corruption charges. In fact the consultants see Kgosi’s prosecution as an attack on Khama. “State security agencies have been deployed in the campaign to vilify Mr Khama and his associates. A prominent example is the public arrest of the former head of national intelligence agency in full glare of flashing cameras and in front of his family in a move calculated to exact total humiliation on the official in question.”
Khama’s family business ÔÇô Seleka Springs – which he co-owns with twin brothers Tshekedi and Anthony Khama was also expected to be part of the deal. The new Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Brigadier Joseph Mathambo has indicated that he will be revisiting old cases which have since been put on moth balls. Among the investigation files likely to be dusted off is that of Seleka Springs which Khama allegedly tried to kill.
The consultants’ recommendation states: “for Mr Khama to formally resign his BDP membership and take on the role of a revered statesman, which profile he still enjoys in many parts of the world and in his own country. In this role he will be less handicapped in carrying out his community upliftment programmes which appears to be another source of the fallout with Mr Masisi who seems to be a man not prepared to share the limelight with anyone, least of all his immediate predecessor. But in retirement will Mr Khama’s associates and supporters enjoy protection from Mr Masisi’s government? The terms of adopting revered statesman role will have to be mutually agreed by the two men and whatever agreement is brokered must be iron clad in terms of guarantees.”
Indications are that this recommendation was considered not viable because it was feared President Masisi would not honour the deal. “A big question mark is would Mr Masisi’s conciliatory stance be genuine or only meant to buy him peace for purposes of the election after which he will return to haunt Mr Khama? Our analysis is that for Mr Masisi’s project to become a success, Mr Khama and his associates must continuously be vilified and portrayed in the eyes of the nation as the perennial enemies of the nation” states the consultants’ report.
In what is believed to be his trump card, Khama has now resorted to supporting UDC and independent candidates in a bit to chip away at the BDP support base. Khama’s need for immunity for himself, family and friends however adds more intrigue to his relationship with the UDC.
The report by political consultants states that, “Mr Khama retains affection in the hearts of many Botswana people. Footage of his community upliftement visits to communities show a man of magnetism and is still able to rouse the crowds. It is unlikely his predecessor in retirement could retain the appeal Mr Khama still does. In this context if the above options are considered unviable, Mr Khama can still resign from BDP and support opposition candidates well-disposed to him without him seeking return to office in the case of a change of government. The relationship between the new government and Mr Khama will be a subject of negotiations and agreements before any commitments can be made.”