For Botswana it was a magical era ÔÇô repeated year after, non-stop, until one day Ian Khama arrived on scene.
The year was 2008.
Khama’s arrival brought a long running golden age to an abrupt end.
To be fair to him, he was not all to blame. But he played an oversized big part in it all.
For instance he did not cause the global meltdown, but for Botswana he made the effects of the meltdown so impactful, so painful, so dramatic and so lasting.
Many really anomalous things happened during his presidency.
In short all the country’s accumulated gains made over the years were eroded.
School results reached the lowest ebb under Khama.
It is likely to take a generation before our education system recovers, if at all.
Because of his belligerence the country’s industrial relations got so toxic that reversing the pains might yet not happen in our lifetime.
Public infrastructure collapsed. Official corruption grew exponentially as to reach runaway levels.
People tend to readily remember the closure of BCL mine. Maybe this is because of the high number of people who were directly involved, whose lives were irreparably ruined.
But BCL was by no measure an isolated case.
It was Khama who pardoned the John Kalafatis cold-blooded killers, before giving them back their jobs in the army. The nation was shocked, but chose to quietly move on.
All the large corruption incidents happened under his watch, the most glaring being the Glass Plant in Palapye.
Today people like to talk about corruption at the National Petroleum Fund, perhaps because of the brazen impunity and condescending arrogance exhibited by all the key players involved.
But from the look of things National Petroleum Fund scandal will with time pale when compared to the still unfolding e-Gov money that literally went through the cracks, under Khama’s watch.
Last week Zimbabwean authorities invited Khama to lecture them on anti-corruption.
Listening to his speech, I could not help but laugh that only in Zimbabwe is a fox allowed to keep guard over chicken coop.
The upshot of all the above has been the weakening of Botswana’s economy.
We highlight all the above because the frailty of our economy today cannot afford another Khama, especially their expensive lifestyles where each one of them literally lives in aeroplanes.
The economy is not the only thing that suffered.
Ten years of Khama have left our democratic institutions so infirm that some of them, like the judiciary might never recover.
Before his departure he suspended a battery of High Court judges. He only allowed them back to work after each one of them came to him groveling in self-desecration.
Many of them were coerced to write self incriminating letters essentially stating what useless people they were.
In those letters each of the judges stated not just how they failed the judiciary but more importantly how they fell short of the president’s expectations.
One of them went further to say how much he owed his very being to the president, before pledging their unwavering allegiance to him henceforward.
High Court judges are not only supposed to be independent, their job and station in life fill them with pride.
To cut them to size the way Khama did was an act of ultimate debasement.
Is it any wonder that following Khama’s pointed humiliation and ostracism some of the judges ended up being mentally destroyed?
Ten years of a Khama presidency has left Botswana’s life time savings wiped off.
That much is reflected at the Bank of Botswana’s current reserves.
His economic ghost will no doubt be with us for years to come.
Economic ruin by him is one of the easiest to prove. Not so however is his impact on our cohesion as a nation.
Under him the country became terribly divided.
Botswana’s social fabric, one of Africa’s finest only a few years ago is now on a slippage.
Once again tribalism is rearing its ugly head.
And Khama, in his fight against a government he led only a few months ago is now actively and unashamedly deploying dog whistles with tribal undertones.
A royal, he is building tribal rivalries among people by playing himself down as a victim.
It is not the fact that Khama’s presidency has begotten us a litany of problems that worries the nation most, rather it’s that even in retirement he will not allow us time to regain our lost ground.
In retirement he’s pestering and nagging anybody trying to undo the damage he’s caused.
In all these Khama is helped by the opposition who are hell-bent on pursuing the politics of triumphalism and deceit.
Opposition leaders have been known to recently visit Khama there to receive money from his ill-gotten loot.
Some of them have seen it normal to receive instructions from him and act his personal lawyers and also as political emissaries and hired guns in parliament.
The leadership of our opposition continues to sell the nation and quite ironically themselves snake oil.
Coming to think of it, as currently configured, Botswana’s opposition, if it assumes state power might turn out to be worse than Khama.
Khama likes to say people misled him, when they claimed to be with him while he was president.
He often takes a jab at Mokgweetsi Masisi that he was vice president when many of the bad decisions were taken.
This is a convenient but totally false line of arguing.
Arguing with Khama has never paid.
It never made a difference even if was clearly on the wrong as careers and businesses were destroyed for daring to stand up to him, even on very trivial matters.
Except for his small cabal, he did not brook dissent.
Except from this cabal, many members of who held no formal positions in government, Khama ran this country alone. And he made it known that all transgressions, even the most minute would be punished all the same.
He was feared and he liked it that way.
He liked to nurse grievances. And never let bygones be bygones.
Khama’s love for revenge was equaled perhaps only by his vanity.
He announced his arrival by a costly exercise he called Poverty Eradication.
Against all advice he pursued what he called Constituency tournament. It turned out to be an ego trip that almost cost Botswana’s football membership at FIFA, the global football organization.
Given the power of a president in Botswana, and Khama’s cult personality, just what chance did an outsider like Masisi have even if they were a vice president.
Because no honest public discourse was allowed without a price, everybody panted to his tune.
He had a kind of social police force that fed him with lists of people they perceived hostile to him.
He called this social police national intelligence or DIS in short.
These are the kind of things that we should not forget.