Mmegi Online :: The Khamas and the April Fool's Day dynasty
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Thursday 15 November 2018, 14:12 pm.
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The Khamas and the April Fool's Day dynasty

When inevitably President Ian Khama takes over on April Fool's Day this year, he will be continuing a worldwide pattern relating to political dynasties.
By Staff Writer Fri 16 Nov 2018, 04:18 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: The Khamas and the April Fool's Day dynasty








The Khamas of Botswana, the Kennedy's and the Bushes of the US, the Bhuttos of Pakistan, the Kenyattas of Kenya and the Ghandi-Nehrus of India, and many others around the world, may have a lot more in common than one may think.

It may be a matter of perspective, but perhaps the Khamas of Serowe have more in common with the Bushes of New England, later Texas, than with the Lesoles of Serowe.

They hail from the same village, but that is not the point. The Khamas are a political - and to a large extent - an economic dynasty. This is true for the Bushes and the Bhuttos, and as classifications go, political dynasties have specific characteristics that mark them above the mere mortals of families.

When president Ian Khama moves into the State House on April Fool's Day this year, he will be continuing a worldwide pattern relating to the biographies of dynasties.

According to the online dictionary, the freedictionary.com, "A dynasty is a succession of rulers who belong to the same family for generations. A dynasty is also often called a "house", for example the House of Saud or House of Hapsburg. In the histories of Europe, much of Asia and some of Africa, ruling and noble houses have usually been patrilineal; inheritance and kinship being predominantly viewed and legally followed through descent from a common ancestor in the male line.

Often, however, if the male lineage died out, descendants through females (and sometimes the females themselves) were recognised as heirs to the dynasty's realms and/or wealth".

Using this definition, a term like 'political dynasty' would be an oxymoron at the least given that under democratic systems people are supposed to be equal.

One-vote, one-person should ensure that at the ballot, everyone is equal given that anyone can stand for office and everyone should ultimately have the same opportunity to vote and be voted in. Democrats maintain so. They argue that democratic systems were designed to take away what feudal systems offered, exclusive power to a few throughout generations and lineage. How come a select few families have managed to sustain their political power - and subsequently economic power - throughout generations in democratic systems?

A few weeks ago, one of the most powerful opposition parties in Pakistan, the Peoples Party, called a press conference to announce its new chairperson.

It had been a challenging two weeks prior to that following the assassination of its leader, Benazir Bhutto, by a suicide bomber. So, on December 30th, when the party gathered the media to introduce the new leader, many in the know knew what to expect. The Bhuttos would continue running their party as usual.

It turns out Mrs. Benazir Bhutto had left a will explaining what had to be done in case she died. She had decreed that the leadership should be passed onto her husband Asif Ali Zardari. The central committee had met and endorsed the decision contained in the will. But Zardari, a non-Bhutto himself, only related to the family through marrying a Bhutto daughter, thought it was much wiser to give the reins to a 19 year-old Oxford University student called Bilawal.

He is the son to Benazir Bhutto, the grandson of the founding father of the Party and first popularly elected Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Time magazine reported: "(He) says he wanted the family's political legacy to pass to his son whom he said would now be known as Bilawal Bhutto Zardari".

It is not by mere coincidence that Zardari wanted his son to adopt the middle name Bhutto.

Bilawal would be the symbolic leader, while his father would be party president. But Zardari will only be holding the fort for Bilawal while the teenager completes his studies. Bilawal will become party president when he is ready.

The party faithful chanted, "Long Live Bhutto, Long Live Bilawal Bhutto. Bhutto is alive today". The Bhuttos have been synonymous with the PP as a party and as a government.
The PP was founded by Zulfiqar

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Ali Bhutto, Bilawal's grandfather, and Benazir's father. He became President of Pakistan and later Prime Minister while leading the party. Benazir, his daughter, was twice Prime Minister of the country and had been a leader of the party for decades until her assassination late last year. Bilawal himself noted that he was merely continuing a "legacy" that his family left him.

In their work 'Running in the Family: Dynastic Transmission of Political Power' in the US Congress 1788-1996", academics Ernesto Dal B, Pedro Dal B and Jason Snyder argue that political elites are "self-perpetuating", meaning that the sustained availability of power to one family member increases the opportunities for other members of the family to access that power. They found that following on for long periods of time, power rested in a few members of a family.

"...for relatively long periods, specific segments of society hold power" and that this sustained political dominance reflects that they had unchanging advantages over those outside of the circle of power," they said.

Members of the dynasty often work to strategically place each other in powerful positions. This is much more obvious in dictatorships. However, in democratic systems, these appointments are augmented by public participation or a semblance of it, social scientists says. In many other cases, the ascendance of other members of the family into powerful positions seems inevitable and often is even in democratic systems.

Ian Khama is appointed the Botswana Defence Force Commander during his father's presidency. On the other hand, Lenyeletse Seretse, Seretse Khama's cousin, as an elected member of parliament, is appointed to cabinet. At the same time, Keeme Mosinyi, Seretse's cousin was also a Member of Parliament.

During John F. Kennedy's presidency, his brother, Robert was Attorney General, and it is reported that he was one of John's most trusted advisors. While power may be shared by members of the family, it also passes through from generation to generation.

The Bushes, for example, have produced two presidents - the current president and his father George W Bush, a Senator, Prescott Bush and one Vice President, George Bush Snr., two Governors, Jeb Bush and George Bush Jnr.

Some say at the height of politics is money, and at the height of money is politics, referring to the converging pattern of politics and economic power. Dynasties inevitably end up with economic power as business' relationships develop alongside political dynasties.

Ultimately, at any point in time, it will be found that one of a number of political dynasties occupies various important positions, politically and in business. As the Bushes have shown in the oil industry.

In Botswana, Ian Khama's cousin Ramadeluka Seretse is the Minister of Lands and Housing, Ian's two brothers Tshekedi and Anthony, are prominent businessmen. There are reports that Tshekedi may be going to contest for a parliamentary seat in the coming general election.

When the Botswana Economic Advisory Council was constituted, consultant Jon Ter Haar was roped in as chairperson. Ter Haar is Ian Khama's ex-brother in law having been married to Ian Khama's sister, Jacqueline.

Jacqueline's son, and Ian Khama's nephew, Dale Ter Haar heads the biggest mining project in the country as General Manager of CIC Energy Corp. CIC Energy, in partnership with a local company, Moepong Resources, is in charge of the multi-billion Pula Mmamabula project.

Ultimately, political dynasties accrue economic power and wealth. Kenyan journalist, Otsieno Namwaya argues, "Kenya's two First families and the families of President Mwai Kibaki are among the biggest landowners in the country. The Kenyatta family alone own 500, 000 acres of land".

Through layers of political power, economic power and established relationships with other politically and economically powerful groups, political dynasties maintain their dominance for generations.

When Khama raises his right hand, in the left one the bible, and takes his oath on that Tuesday, like other members of political dynasties, he would be marking a new era. However, just like Bilawal's leadership of the PP, it would be a new era, within an old one. 

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