President Mokgweetsi Masisi is in a position that one of his envoys found himself in in 1998.
In his inaugural state-of-the-nation address, Masisi did confirm the essence of figurative Setswana earlier used by an absent-with-leave secondary teacher at a Serowe kgotla meeting by pronouncing that he and his predecessor, Lieutenant General Ian Khama, are hurling a live snake at each other.
“Batswana are all aware that the transition from the previous administration has not been as smooth as expected,” Masisi told parliament last Monday.
The following day, Khama’s office released a statement that reads: “The Former President’s version of events is that the transition went very smoothly as acknowledged both locally and internationally in that it was a transition from an incumbent leader to his successor. The transition took place in the period leading up to the 1st April 2018 when Masisi became President and Khama a Former President. That is when the transition ended. The period after the 1st April to date is post the transition as the leadership change had already taken place.”
Some will raise eyebrows at Khama quoting the local media, which he alleges invented “fake news”, recall that last month he said that he is still the president of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party and wonder why doesn’t extend the transition phase to after April 1 but there is a much larger and more important issue.
Some 20 years ago, Khama stepped down as Commander of the Botswana Defence Force to join politics and handed over toLieutenant General Matshwenyego Fisher. Army sources say that the parallels between the 1998 transition and those of 2018 are striking. After taking over from Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe in 1988, Khama created a procurement situation that he wanted to preserve when he left 10 years later. The procurement of BDF materiel was dominated by a company owned by his twin brothers, Tshekedi and Anthony, but that ended when Fisher took over. Less than a year after he left BDF, Seleka Springs lost a multi-million pula tender to carry out the army F-5 aircraft periodic inspection and the avionics upgrade for C-130 aircraft. Immediately thereafter, Seleka Springs lost another tender when the army decided to replace the Land Rover vehicles the company supplied with ACMAT trucks. This reportedly made Vice President Khama, who was also a member of the Defence Council, very unhappy with Fisher whom he had expected to continue giving preferential treatment to Seleka Springs.
A confidential document that was written by Fisher strongly suggests that in 2001, Khama may have leaked confidential tender pricing information to Seleka Springs in a bid to help the company win a multi-million pula tender to supply BDF with combat fighting vehicles. The document says that “immediately” following presentation to a committee chaired by Khama, a company represented by Seleka Springs revised its pricing substantially.
Once more, Tshekedi features prominently in the feud between Khama and his successor. Khama had reportedly exhorted promise from Masisi that he would make Tshekedi Vice President but Masisi reneged on such promise, instead giving the position to Slumber Tsogwane.
While the current feud between Masisi and Khama has been chalked down to mere bad blood between the two men and deals gone wrong, there is evidence that Khama has never been happy with Botswana presidents from outside his own family. He also feuded with Presidents Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae.