“I avail myself of this opportunity to convey to Your Excellency, warmest greetings and congratulations, on your appointment as President of the Republic of Botswana,” President Mbeki said on Wednesday.
“I trust that our relationship will extend to incorporate solutions to the challenges facing Southern Africa and the continent as a whole,” he added.
Mr Mbeki said President Khama’s appointment will further strengthen relations between the two countries. “It is my wish therefore that the good relations that exist between South Africa and Botswana will be further strengthened under your able leadership for the betterment of our people, the region, and the continent.
“Please accept, my best wishes for your personal well-being and a successful term of office,” said President Mbeki. Ian Khama is the current President of Botswana and the paramount chief of the Bamangwato tribe. Born in 1953, Mr Khama served as a commander of the Botswana Defence Force and then when Vice President Festus Mogae succeeded the then President Quett Masire in 1998, Mr Khama was appointed as the Vice President.
However, Mr Khama did not hold a seat in the National Assembly and could not immediately take office as Vice President. In July 1998, he won a by-election in Serowe North, receiving nearly 3 000 votes against 86 votes for the candidate of the then opposition Botswana National Front. During the same month, Mr Khama took his seat in the National Assembly and was subsequently sworn in as Vice President.
Mr Khama, already a member of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Central Committee, was elected as the chairperson of the BDP at a party congress, defeating the previous chairman, Ponatshego Kedikilwe.
He had been backed for the post by President Mogae and the outcome was viewed as crucial, paving the way for Mr Khama to eventually succeed Mr Mogae as President.