President Ian Khama became President not through a democratic election process, but by appointment by his predecessor, who was himself appointed by his predecessor under a provision of an amendment in the Constitution, popularly known as “Automatic Succession!”
With his background of Commander of the BDF, state army outfit, some of us appreciated his alleged reluctance to plunge into active politics, where he was to be subjected to alien democratic pressure, whereas in the BDF he was master of all he surveyed, obeyed without the slightest growl.
Arm twisted and submissive, Khama tried hard to adapt to the rhythmic democratic process, which prevailed. Publicly he signalled his readiness to fall in step at his inauguration on 1 April 2008. On hindsight, he bluffed Batswana with: “I joined the army to defend (Botswana) democracy…..” Read and judge for yourself!
Once, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, for that was his full name and title, before a South Korean University, in recognition of his assumed political and/or academic prowess, added another title of ‘Dr,’ to his regal name.
In spite of all his initial reluctance, he had assented to the political role, and international and domestic honours, were bound to accumulate and embellish his name and person. Why Botswana universities in their numbers haven’t yet conferred any academic honours on our President is an open question. On my part, I wish to look back with misgivings on his past.
Khama’s ‘reluctance’ to political appointment under a democratic dispensation shone through his initial conduct as Vice President and as Minister of Presidential Affairs.
He kicked off by applying for an unprecedented sabbatical leave even before he sat at his Office Desk; he also demanded Premiership unprovided for in the Constitution. Looking back, it was a premonition to an era of impulsive rule, manipulation and disregard of normal democratic processes and procedures.
Without consultation with fellow-MPs, VP Khama unilaterally dropped a popular Parliament Radio programme, ‘Dikgang tsa palamente.’ Under this programme, MPs recorded the comments they made in parliamentary debates and the public/constituents had the benefit of hearing their MPs’ voices in the absence of live media broadcasts. Challenged for failure to consult, he promised to do so next time. Programme was substituted by Radio Botswana journalists who merely report parliamentary debates and viewpoints expressed by MPs, instead. Dikgang tsa palamente programme was gone with the wind!
Without official permission to fly BDF helicopters, since he was no longer a member of the BDF staff, he spitefully flew them; Ombudsman, Lethebe Maine’s intervention was checkmated by President Mogae who obviously, had to indulge his whim for fear that he might petulantly resign from the role he had assigned him - the role of reconciling party factions threatening to make his Presidency uncomfortable. As a result of the illicit concession, by former president, Mogae, he continues to fly BDF choppers in violation of the BDF Act, which to date waits
When His Honour Vice President Khama took over the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Hon ‘PHK’ Kedikilwe who had been the incumbent in the Ministry was about to table the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Bill for debate. Bill had come through a motion tabled by Hon Joy Phumapi and unanimously adopted after a robust debate. It was believed to be urgent in the fight against corruption.
At his (VP) first all-party Parliamentary Caucus meeting, he, as new Minister to pilot the Declaration Bill, implored to be allowed time to peruse and acquaint himself with the substance of the Bill before presenting it for debate. Fair enough since he had just arrived, leave to study the Bill was granted with the hope, it would be back for discussion. Parliamentary Caucus never saw the Bill again, courtesy of the new Minister! Khama operated with little respect to laid down procedures. When the opposition, some years later, when he was president, volunteered to re-table the Bill, the BDP shot down the attempt to do so, with a firm, no! The opposition didn’t deserve the limelight of tabling the Bill, as the limelight belonged to the BDP, the majority party! Ostensibly for two reasons: The motion was initially tabled by the BDP MP; two: Only the BDP had capacity to pass it. Well, if only the BDP, could get on with the job! But haikona! Procrastination, was the habit.
The first ever extra-judicial killing in Botswana, of John Kalafatis, in a stationary car happened under Khama’s watch. Debatable, may be who exactly ordered the pulling of the trigger? Was it, the military police agents who were later arraigned for the murder after public outcry? Was it per order of the notorious Director General of DISS? Was it ordered from the topmost office? Whoever was responsible remains a well-kept secret, safe that Batswana were shocked when the suspects charged for the crime, were promptly released on the President’s prerogative, the minute they were sentenced for the murder! Are Batswana wrong to speculate?
Margaret Nasha, Speaker of Parliament authored a book uncomplimentary to President Khama titled, ‘Madame Speaker, Sir …”. Khama wasn’t amused of his portrayal in the book. Following the 2014 elections and fearing Nasha’s re-election to Speakership, Khama tried to influence Parliament to vote by show of hands, to intimidate BDP MPs not to vote with the opposition for Nasha. He was overruled by the court; secret ballot had to be as parliamentary rules specified! His fear was misguided, Hon Gladys Kokorwe, his candidate won, all the same! Nasha’s crime was support for demand of Parliamentary independence! (Continuing next week)