Should former President Ian Khama wish to seek spiritual advice, personal reflections, and scriptural enlightenment from the likes of the Dalai Lama, he shall not do so at the taxpayer’s expense.
Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation Unity Dow has said while the former President has every right to seek spiritual guidance anywhere he wants in the world it will not be through government resources. “What he does not have the right to, is to use Government resources, if the pursuit of that spiritual guidance is in conflict with the position of the Government.”
She said Khama can go see the Dalai Lama to seek guidance as Bangwato Paramount Chief to strengthen his position but it has to be at his own expense.
Khama’s official security personnel were reprimanded by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) following their refusal to obey instructions not to accompany the former President during a visit to the Dalai Lama in 2019.
Khama had defied the government’s advice not to visit the Dalai Lama where he had been invited by the Central Tibetan Administration in India to officiate at the 60th National Uprising Day.
The government withdrew support for the former Head of State saying it would not augur well for Botswana to sponsor or support in any form, any personality, especially a high profile individual to interact with the Tibetan Group.
“There is always going to be a thin line here. Because of his position, we expect him to be entitled to some security, so there is going to be always tension when is he doing things that are against the policy of Government,” Dow told parliament recently, adding that Khama cannot even write to the Dalai Lama on the Government letterhead. The Minister was responding to Mogoditshane legislator Tumiso Rakgare’s comments in parliament recently.
“At the end of the day, there is always going to be this tension on whether that was a personal surgeon, which is fine. What is the minimum we can give you to make sure that you do not get into trouble in terms of security, but we cannot give you an aircraft to go there. We cannot support because the reason why there are elections every five years, and the reason why there is a term limit for the President is because it is expected that at the end of the term of 10 years, new policies, new laws may well come to the fore.”
In an interview with Sunday Standard recently Khama made reference to his Dalai Lama visit to emphasize the extent to which he said his successor President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s government would go to strip him of his legally prescribed benefits.
During his tenure as president Khama had stood up to China, maintaining Botswana’s sovereignty and reminding China that his country was not a Chinese colony.
His response came in the back of a threat by China that it would not tolerate another country doing anything that harms its core interests following a planned visit by the Dalai Lama to address a human rights conference in Gaborone.
The government had initially been forced to distance itself from the conference fearing backlash form the superpower.
The Dalai Lama eventually cancelled the trip citing health reasons. Khama had broken away from the silent diplomacy employed by his predecessors, rather choosing to air his opinions on bilateral matters however unpopular they may have been.
Dow, who also served as a minister under Khama’s administration, has made it clear the country’s foreign policy has changed under Masisi.
“Do not be surprised when there is policy change, from rooftop diplomacy to engagement. That is why we have elections so that the new vision can come into play. It does not necessarily mean that the rooftop diplomacy was bad, that is how that particular President wanted to run the country in terms of the leadership he has given,” she explained. Dow said there is a new President who does not believe that one should shout at top of their voice to be heard. “The new one believes in engagement and there is nothing wrong with that.”