President Ian Khama’s humour once again got the better of him on Monday, August 17 when he blatantly called his ministers “bootlickers”. Khama was making his acceptance speech as the new SADC Chairman at the GICC after taking over from Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
As he took to the podium there were ululations from the floor to which Khama responded: “Those are my ministers making sure they still have their jobs; otherwise known as bootlicking.” For a president who has been accused of using cabinet appointments to reward loyalty instead of merit, the remarks may not have served the intended purpose. Loyalty is one of the chief traits that Khama has been known to demand and lavishly reward.
Following the 2014 general elections Khama appointed as his deputy, Mokgweetsi Masisi, whose public display of loyalty to the president had been unparalleled. Masisi ,then Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, made headlines in 2013 after appearing on national television (BTV) boasting about being a “bootlicker”.
In November 2014 while defending Masisi’s appointment as Vice President, Government Spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay stopped short of trying to justify appointments based on loyalty rather than merit.
Ramsay wrote: “Words like ‘bootlicker’ tend to get easily thrown around by those who fail to appreciate the fundamental fact that loyalty is a necessary prerequisite for any form of collective success, be it at the level of family, in sports and business, or at the highest political level.
“Beginning with Masire’s relationship to Seretse, there has in this respect never been a Vice President in this country who has not displayed staunch loyalty to the President of the day while in office.”
Khama has also been accused by opposition parties and some political commentators of using the Specially Elected Member of Parliament dispensation to reward those most loyal to him. Following his loss in the 2014 general elections Kitso Mokaila’s reappointment as a Specially Elected MP was a forgone conclusion given his close relationship with the president. He also retained his position as Minister of Minerals, Energy, and Water Resources. Eric Molale, who just lost to Kgosi Lotlaamoreng in the Goodhope/Mabule by-election at the weekend, has also been known to be loyal to the President. Like Mokaila, Molale was also appointed Specially Elected MP and subsequently Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. He resigned from the ministry in preparation for the by-election but was reinstated a day later. It remains to be seen if he will be re-appointed as an MP following his loss. Some of the ministers and assistant ministers present during Khama’s acceptance speech at the SADC Summit were Dorcus Makgato (Health), Mokaila, Fidelis Molao ( Assistant Minister of Agriculture), Kenneth Matambo (Finance and Development Planning). Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Molale, was conspicuous by his absence. In conclusion to his acceptance speech Khama called for collective efforts in ensuring that the region is successful in its endeavours to transform itself into a better place, envied throughout the world as a beacon for political stability and economic prosperity. “As such, I take this opportunity to encourage all of us to be part of the journey towards ensuring that SADC successfully delivers on its mandate,” he concluded.