The dramatic about-turn of a known Ian Khama ally has set tongues wagging about what that means in the larger scheme of things.
The ally is Parks Tafa, a veteran lawyer and permanent fixture in the kitchen cabinet of former president Khama. It was generally assumed that even though he kept a low profile after Khama’s retirement, Tafa remained solidly in his corner. That was until the Botswana Democratic Party’s National Congress eight days ago when Tafa took to the stage to confirm a rumour that Khama had sought to unethically pull strings in order to make his younger brother, Tshekedi, vice president to President Mokgweetsi Masisi. Tafa said that then President Khama asked Tafa to ask Masisi to resign his position as BDP chairman and recommend Tshekedi as his replacement. That development would have made Tshekedi an instant frontrunner for the vice presidency.
So why did a man with whom Khama say he has “a very long and close relationship” suddenly turn against the former president? One theory that is being bandied about in rarefied political and Government Enclave circles is that Tafa may be about to join the government as Attorney General (AG) when the contract of the incumbent, Advocate Abraham Keetshabe, expires shortly.
As an extension of the presidency, a Botswana AG is more powerful than parliament in terms of making laws. As MPs themselves have complained going back decades, parliament is merely a rubberstamp for laws that are made by the executive – meaning a presidency which arm-twists ruling party MPs at the parliamentary caucus to agree to bills that ministers bring to parliament. The actual crafting of those laws is supervised by the AG. That is how much power Tafa will have if he does indeed replace Keetshabe. Alongside the Bank of Botswana and Permanent Secretary to the President, the AG is also an ex-officio member of the Debswana Diamond Company Board of Directors. Debswana is the mainstay of Botswana’s economy.
Khama is being coy about what he thinks may have prompted Tafa to ditch him for Masisi, his number one enemy in the world. When Sunday Standard asked him to provide his two cents on why this is happening, the former president said that “at least for now” he would refrain from answering this question “out of respect” for Tafa.
“Something happened and I think I know what,” he said.
On the other hand, those who feel freer to share their thoughts say that Tafa has been promised the office of Attorney General. Interestingly, many considered him the de facto Attorney General during Khama’s presidency.