Friday, July 3, 2020

The enigmatic Ian Khama

Ian Khama joined government in 1998 as Vice President of Botswana and was given responsibility for overseeing all ministries to ensure efficient implementation and delivery of government projects; a first of its kind and which he failed dismally. He proved problematic from day 1, piloting Botswana Defense Force aircrafts without explicit authority, a move that was later held by the then ombudsman the late Maina Lethebe as offending the BDF Act. His contempt of colleagues whom he referred to as vultures (only to prove he is the big vulture, by the time he completed his term) and his disregard for established channels of communication, sometimes forcing the president to make unreasonable concessions is legendary. He later on, against tradition sought chairmanship of the BDP while the country’s Vice President, thus consolidating his stranglehold on power, and again contrary to the norm, extracted an endorsement from the then President Festus Mogae (who for all intents and purposes was overshadowed by his vice) ascended to presidency on the 1st April 2008.

He joined politics straight from the barracks and headed to the executive arm of government, broke or bended every rule in the book to suit his whims and caprices. He was the 1st to take sabbatical leaf (while VP), strange as it were after election and did many unusual things like disregarding Judicial Service Commission’s recommendations (which the courts later ruled against) in the appointment of judges etc, he simply has become law unto himself. He disregarded existing National Development Plans, instead introduced 4 (and later) 5Ds as his roadmap and personalized power as the presidency churned out directives. He became the most powerful leader at both party and government (will continue to be) and relished it, he would declare that cabinet ministers should not hold party office at one point only for them to do so still under his reign, still during his tenure. He, like his predecessor (who only supported him) openly supported his preferred candidates and publicly admonished those he didn’t, the case in point being of Daniel Kwelagobe, punished or even dismissed some of them from the party or central committee as he pleased which resulted in the historic split of the BDP and consequently the birth of BMD.

Ian Khama leaves Botswana with high levels of unemployment, corruption. crime, poor service delivery, poor education, poor health, horrible roads etc, almost all sectors are in disarray. Democracy is regressed and most notably, Ian Khama has shown little regard to the opposition in general and the leader of opposition in particular, his was the least inclusive, most repulsive and very corrupt regime.

Ian Khama, the much touted BDP magical wand, had immense goodwill when he ascended to state power, he squandered most of it and ended up resorting to throwing money at problems through his pet programs such as ESP, Ipelegeng etc  that endeared him to the gullible in order to advance his perceived greatness which he has failed to demonstrate in 20 years at the helm of the executive. His life in all most all it’s facets remains shrouded in mystery, with more emphasis on perception more than reality, continuously steeped in controversy to blur his vision in the manner reminiscent to hypnosis, is simply a caricature of what his handlers would rather he was than he actually is. Ian Khama, is cunning, populist, devoid of clear vision and program to move Botswana forward and almost always stirred controversy in order to appear mythical and sophisticated, in the process covering his shortcomings, left the country no better or rather worse off than it were before he ascended to power. His tenure was more like a long dream, a nightmare even which conjured images of imaginary things, a mirage, no more nor less than an enigma.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.