Tempers flared Monday as the opposition Members of Parliament took the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Mokgweetsi Masisi, to task over president Khama’s citizenship.
Born of Botswana’s first president, Seretse Khama, and an English lady, Ian Khama is alleged to not have renounced his British citizenship, acquired by virtue of his being born in England.
The Botswana Movement for Democracy legislator, Nehemiah Modubule, joined many other inquisitive voices that were saying Botswana could be in the hands of a foreigner.
“The citizenship of his Excellency the President is not in doubt. He is a Motswana,” said Masisi. “However, I remain amazed by the innuendo in the question contrary to standing order No. 38.1(j). Be that as it may, it ought to be known to the experienced honourable member, if he did not allow to be blinded by his addiction to below the belt inquiry, inconsistent with the politics of growth, development and progress, that being a Motswana does not allow you to hold the citizenship of any other country.”
The minister added: “To impute that His Excellency the President is an outlaw without evidence is a very serious matter. I hold the Honourable Member of Parliament responsible for this and it is only he who can redeem himself and those whom he caused to so believe, not to mention the many loose canons, who have chosen to speak rather irresponsibly on this outside parliament.”
Masisi did not stop there.
“I would like for it to be noted that there seems to be a tendency to preoccupy our political space with anything that bashes the presidency from those in the opposition, no matter who the president is. Let us get serious and address the real issues that Batswana would like us to,” he concluded, sparking a flurry of questions from opposition legislators who were adamant the minister is dilly-dallying with the truth.
“Madam Speaker, the Honourable Minister did not answer my question. All I wanted (to know) was when the president renounced his British citizenship and provide evidence as proof,” Modubule fired back, which the minister curtly dismissed as immaterial.
The curt response once again prompted a string of questions from the legislator who is convinced Khama breached the country’s laws by not renouncing his other citizenship as required by law, saying that those who are 21 years old and above are required to do so by law.
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Margret Nasha, came to the minister’s rescue, warning the Members of Parliament the dangers of treading on murky waters.
Nasha said that the Department of Immigration is responsible for this matter, adding, however, that the department regrettably would not allow the divulging of the information because they regard each and every individual’s information pertaining to the matter as personal.
She would not entertain supplementary questions from Kgatleng East MP, Isaac Mabiletsa, and Francistown South’s Wynter Mmolotsi, restraining Masisi from responding to questions and ultimately closing the debate.
Mabiletsa queried the manner and tone in which the minister answered the question, insisting his behavior was an indication there was something fishy to hide.
Mmolotsi, for his part, argued the newly introduced e-passport could have opened a can of worms as many Batswana in similar situation like Khama today found themselves in the lurch, with the Immigration Department demanding that they renounce their other citizenship to acquire Botswana citizenship while the same could not asked of Khama.