Friday, September 25, 2020

Presidential Podium- Masisi’s subliminal reminder who’s in charge

It has been precisely 84 days to date (Sunday, June 24) since he first ascended to the highest office in the land and President Mokgweetsi Masisi has undoubtedly stamped his authority as the First Citizen. Besides restoring confidence in governance and public institutions (which remains work in progress), one of his biggest tasks was to deal with the then Director General of Directorate ofIntelligence and Security Services (DISS), Isaac Kgosi. And he performed the task with military (excuse the pun) precision. With the nation wondering about his predecessor Lieutenant General Ian Khama’s possible influence post presidency, Masisi has definitely laid those fears to rest. As if to assert his authority, he has been reported to have refused to grant his predecessor access to presidential air transport. As part of his retirement benefits Khama is entitled to the use of state aircraft but only at the express permission of Masisi.

Sunday Standard also reported that ahead of the recent 2018 instalment of the annual Khawa Dune Challenge, the former president’s request  for 26 soldiers to accompany him to Khawa where they would do preparatory work was turned down by the BDF Commander, Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo. Another sign that there is a new Commander in Chief.

Instead of those 26 soldiers, Khama got only six whom Segokgo is said to have released with great reluctance. And again, just in case anyone was to forget who the new president is, Masisi now seems to carry with him (almost everywhere) a subliminal reminder in the form of a Presidential Podium.

While the podium, with a badge of Botswana’s coat of arms and bearing the words ‘The President. Republic of Botswana’ on the front, has occasionally been used by Khama it seems to appear more frequently now with Masisi as President.

It is of course in a way, like the US Presidential Podium, a symbol of the President of the Republic, which can explain Minister of Finance Kenneth Matambo’s confusion with regard to which podium to use at the recent media briefing by Masisi and his ministers. But there was no such confusion this past week during the official opening of the SADC ‘Regional Conference on Corruption …’ hosted by the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC) at Masa Square Hotel where every speaker, including Liberia’s former president Professor Amos Sawyer, knew their place. Masisi’s protocol team had, this time around, made sure to put the two podiums as further apart as the hall could practically allow.

In the United States the Presidential Seal, which also sits on the podium, is the official symbol of the office of the President. It includes the President’s coat of arms, an eagle on the great seal, a ring of stars and the words ‘Seal of the President of the United States’. The Seal is used on all correspondence from the US president and as a symbol of the presidency. It is often seen on the podium where the US president speaks. Next time you have any doubts about Masisi’s presidency, look no further than the podium itself.

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