Perhaps the only criticism against Ian Khama ÔÇô fairly – is that throughout his ten years as a politician, save for once when he called his colleagues in parliament vultures, the Vice President has remained hopelessly vague, enigmatic and, to a large extent, distant and aloof.
Khama’s aloofness was, however, deliberately calculated not just to create an aura of mysticism himself but also, more importantly, to guarantee the man self protection against the possibility of having to answer difficult and potentially humiliating questions about a government he has come to dominate and literally control.
Over the last ten years, Vice President Khama has, with breathtaking success, gone to extraordinary lengths to shield himself from any potentially compromising political situations.
With the exception of Festus Mogae (who used Khama as a political shield) nobody really knows what Ian Khama’s job has entailed over the last ten years.
By carving himself the position of a de facto Prime Minister, answerable only to himself, the Vice President has, with compelling admiration, been able to hide his weaknesses, circumvent accepted procedures of accountability and spurn all efforts to make him deliver a progress report on his successes and failures since he was appointed chief supervisor of all government projects and ministries.
And more importantly, as a matter of fact, Khama’s position as a minister without portfolio necessarily guaranteed that throughout his time as the country’s most powerful politician, including in cabinet, he would not have to attend to the grim rituals of answering embarrassing and irritating parliamentary questions often asked by inquisitive opposition MPs like Dumelang Saleshando of the BCP.
The fact that Khama achieved to negotiate (or should we say demand) for himself an unprecedented position that effectively turned himself into a Prime Minister should serve as a telling reminder of what a shrewd political strategist Khama really is.
Nobody should ever take Khama for granted.
The opposition, who like to talk about his lack of academic qualifications, can only discount the depth of his intellectual discourse at own peril.
It is instructive to note that throughout Botswana’s history, there has never been a Vice President, so sure of his destiny as a future President who so contemptuously managed to shrug off all calls on him to address parliament and yet emerged politically unscathed and even more popular.
I am beginning to suspect that Ian Khama is actually by far more popular than his father ever was.
Ian Khama’s popularity is not only a product of his name. It is by far a result of the man’s calculated caution, his ability to cover his tracks combined with a ruthless fondness to get others to soil their hands on his behalf; remember the Security and Intelligence law, the purchase of the half a billion Pula presidential jet and the controversial alcohol consumption rationing law. All those ill-advised excursions burnt Mogae’s fingers but will only benefit Ian Khama’s presidency.
In exactly two months, Ian Khama will, however, be forced to emerge from the shadows and shed his enigmatic image.
For the first time in his political career, Ian Khama will have to take personal responsibility and get the first taste of taking political accountability.
It will not be easy for a man so accustomed to working behind the shadows.
He should, therefore, start as early as now to bust the aura of mysticism about himself and disabuse himself of the superhuman image on whose coattails he has come to mast his entire political career. He can no longer rely on such overspent images to sustain himself.
It is in his interest to start teaching his army of admirers that he is an ordinary human being with serious limitations and potentially dangerous flaws.
He cannot shed his old superhuman image unless he abolishes the obscene culture of self praise currently consuming his party. That is where everything has to start.
I am still to see an entity as obsessed with self-righteousness as the BDP.
Looking deeper though one senses that the ruling party’s obsession with the self is a reflection of a more serious problem ÔÇô that they don’t really grasp reasons behind popular clamour for a change in the way the country is run.
Every time they are asked to do better they resort to that which they do best; cataloguing past achievements and yelling at how there is still no alternative.
This presumptuous self praise has distracted citizens from the reality that, as a country, Botswana is a declining backwater with an increasing number of disillusioned citizens, soaring unemployment levels, entrenched despondency, shrinking civil liberties not to speak of an outdated education system.
Khama should start lowering people’s expectations on him.
This because should Khama fail as a president the backlash against the BDP and its capacity to continue as a party of government would be irreparably damaged.
Though somewhat belated Khama should abolish the BDP favourite pastime tradition of self praise; such a tradition is a danger to him, to his presidency and the BDP itself.