Tuesday, December 7, 2021

‘UDC won’t turn Khama into enemy if he falls out with a future President Boko’

If the former president develops an antagonistic relationship with Boko, some would see that as a continuation of what he did with Masisi

Down the road there lies a future in which President Mokgweetsi Masisi is out of office and in terms of the current constitution of the opposition, has been replaced by President Duma Boko of the Umbrella for Democratic Change. Former president Ian Khama would have played no small role in Boko’s ascent and would be an important player in a future UDC government. So, does UDC expect Khama to butt heads with a future President Boko?

UDC’s Head of Communications, Moeti Mohwasa, says that one can’t say for sure whether that would happen.

“It will depend on how Khama feels at the time,” says Moeti adding that even if such falling-out occurs, “we will not turn him into an enemy.”

That is what UDC believes of the Masisi-Khama feud, that what should have been an ordinary conflict between a sitting president and his predecessor has calcified into toxic warfare that makes use of “enemy” apposite. Some have gone farther to say that this enmity threatens national security. But what is the real source of this enmity? Some have traced it back to April 1, 2018 when the newly ascended President Masisi announced Slumber Tsogwane as his choice for Vice President. According to the grapevine, President Khama and Vice President Masisi had a gentleman’s agreement in terms of which the former made the latter VP on the understanding that upon ascension, he would appoint Tshekedi Khama (Khama’s younger brother) VP. Tshekedi would have succeeded Masisi.

Two reasons are cited for why Khama would have wanted that to happen.

Firstly, the Khamas have dominated national politics for more than a century. That started with Khama’s great grandfather, Khama III, who was so influential a figure in the Bechuanaland Protectorate that he overshadowed Kgosi Sebele II and Kgosi Bathoen I during their famous visit to Britain in 1895. After the trio bought three trunks at a London store called George Edwards Wright & Co Manufacturing, management asked them to plug for them with a testimonial that identifies Khama as “the King of Bechuanaland” and Sebele and Bathoen as mere “chiefs.” The dikgosi were warmly received wherever they went and at least one British newspaper reported that women found Khama to be today’s equivalent of “sexy.” It is reasonable to assume that the present generation of the Khamas would be feeling pressure and obligation to continue a century-old legacy. Secondly, Khama has economic interest (notably shareholding in prime Okavango Delta property) that he wants to protect. Naturally, he wanted to hand over the presidency to a safe pair of hands.

If Masisi what he is supposed to have done, then he scuttled the plan to perpetuate the dominance of the Khamas in national executive leadership and poses a threat to Khama’s economic interests. 

At a point where he could no longer conceal what was plain as day (the enmity in question), Masisi publicly acknowledged that he and his predecessor didn’t see eye to eye. He also stated that mediation effort by a panel of Botswana Democratic Party elders had not borne fruit and that Khama himself had insisted on a private meeting – which demand Masisi says he turned down. A meeting such as Khama proposed would bolster claims about a deal that made Tshekedi VP because Khama wouldn’t have been able to made that revelation in a meeting with BDP elders. On the other hand, it would have been easier to confront Masisi for reneging on said deal in a private, one-on-one meeting.

Mohwasa says that “one can only speculate … it is hearsay” when asked whether UDC believes that there was ever a deal that would have put Tshekedi in the Office of the President. Indeed, the deal has never risen above the status of an allegation. Deal or no deal, the UDC spokesperson expresses consternation about “the use of state institutions” to fight what some see as a personal battle. That accusation is levelled at Masisi who, as president, has ultimate control of institutions that Mohwasa names: the judiciary and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).

The judiciary fell into a snake pit last week when it was revealed that Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane has written Khama’s lawyers (Ramalepa Attorneys) about an impending court case involving their client. For purposes of removing perceptions of human bias, court cases are assigned to judges by a computer system. The computer assigned Khama’s case to a relatively new judge, which prompted an interesting development. In his letter to Ramalepa Attorneys, Rannowane says that it would be “imprudent” for Khama’s case to be handled by a newly appointed judge and in exercise of his powers, he reallocated the case to a senior judge.  Some, including Mohwasa, have interpreted Rannowane’s action as political interference.

As regards DISS, Khama has been engaged in a bitter battle with the Director General, Peter Magosi, whom he accused of degrading his security and sending spies as his bodyguards. Three weeks ago, DISS obtained a search warrant against Khama and claims to have discovered seven unlicensed arms of war at his official residence in Gaborone. Khama, who has since fled to South Africa, insists that the guns were planted by DISS.

For now, how Khama will relate to a future President Boko may seem a hypothetical question but its answer may be helpful in predicting Khama’s relations with a future UDC government. Khama put  Masisi where he is, elevating him from assistant minister to president in a space of eight years and five months. That Khama is aggrieved about Masisi’s treatment of him suggests a transactional nature on the former’s part. If Khama helps make Boko president, he would have similar expectations about him and if that doesn’t happen, he would launch an anti-Boko campaign not unlike his current anti-Masisi campaign. How Khama relates with a future President Boko could undermine his credibility because if he develops an antagonistic relationship with him, some would see that as a continuation of what he did with Masisi, as Khama as just being Khama. In retrospect, they will absolve Masisi of all blame for the current saga.

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