Seven years into his presidency and with just under three years left before his tenure expires,Botswana’s President Ian Khama is expected to address the media for the very first time.
He is to engage the media in his capacity as the new SADC Chairperson when the 35th Ordinary Summit comes to an end on Tuesday, August 18.Khama will take over from Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as SADC Chairperson.
Should he go ahead and address the media on Tuesday it would be the first time Khama has ever done so on home soil since he took over as president in April 1st, 2008. It has been the norm that a sitting Chairperson of SADC hosts a post summit media briefing. But given his hostile attitude towards local private media, it remains to be seen if Khama will go ahead with the scheduled briefing, or delegate. Speaking to Sunday Standard on Friday Government Spokesperson Dr Geoff Ramsay would not confirm whether the president will indeed address the media suffice it to say he has been scheduled to do so.
“Nothing is definite in this world,” Ramsay said.
The nature of the briefing has been such that the Chairperson also addresses questions from the floor, something which may particularly not go down well with Khamagiven his track record. In a few instances when the president has engaged a selected journalist from the private media, the interviews were rehearsed. In the past, visiting heads of state have not had the opportunity to address the media and this has been attributed to Khama’s hostility towards private media.
“When a head of state visits, he is the guest of the state president. For him to address a media conference, his host would have to be there. Since our president does not have a culture of addressing the media, it’s unlikely that a visiting head of state would do so,” Chairperson of the Botswana Editors Forum, Spencer Mogapi told Mmegi newspaper earlier this year.
He said that protocol the world over is that the host president would accompany the visiting head of state during a media address.Heads of state and dignitaries that have visited Botswana under President Khama without an audience with the press include thelate Zambian President Michael Sata, SouthAfrica’s Jacob Zuma, Swedish king Gustav IV, US First Lady Michelle Obama, and the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague. Such has been the bad relations between Khama’s regime and the private media that the government has suspended advertising on certain media houses. In 2014 Sunday Standard intercepted a memo in which a certain parastatal were ordered not to advertise on particular private media houses. Then BOCCIM presidentLetaMosienyane condemned the standoff between Government and the Private Media saying it has a negative impact on business. “It is in this regard that BOCCIM makes a statement with a view to rousing a productive way forward that ensures that stakeholders play their legitimate and meaningful roles in safeguarding the principles of democracy, good governance and accountability, which are fundamental to investment and enterprise success,” Mosienyane said in a statement. Relations between the private media and government have been anything but cordial since Khama took over. The president himself has declared that he does not read private local newspapers.