Former President Ian Khama admits he did not see it coming. Like an old gun, he is now powerless and unwanted by the new king - President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Ambushed and almost checkmated, Khama is now reaching out to his perceived ‘unpatriotic’ enemies of state for help.
The leader that declared, explicitly on many occasions, his aversion for the private press is left without a choice but to reach out for help to the media that endured his taunts and suppression.
In this very first interview with Mmegi that he snubbed in the 10 years in office, the former president bared his soul that the man he made king has turned into something he never ever wildly imagined.
It is like a lesson from Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power. President Masisi never outshone the master, which is Greene’s first rule of power.
He disguised his strength and he also concealed his intentions in observance of the third rule all the way to March 31, 2018 when Khama’s star began to fall. That was when Masisi mercifully outshone his erstwhile master.
State media has been told not to cover me
After years of gracing the front pages of the Daily News (Almost on a daily basis), and lead stories of prime time news on the national broadcasters, Btv and Radio Botswana, Khama has disclosed that Masisi administration has summarily cut him off.
“Public officers have been told to seek permission from the Office of the President if they were to associate themselves with my charitable organisations,” claims Khama.
Furthermore, Khama tells Mmegi that, “Just recently I have been told that the government media has been told not to cover any of my public meetings”.
Khama says the absence of government media at Franscico Kgoboko Foundation launch in Bobonong on Monday as well as Wednesday’s handing over of a house at Matebeleng in Kgatleng were evidence that government has adopted a media black out on him.
“We were told, quietly, that there is some sort of instruction which has gone out to say you shouldn’t be covered,” he says.
The former president adds that he even enquired about State media coverage of his scheduled Kgotla meetings in Tonota this week and claims he was bluntly told “No”.
“I am going to Tonota tomorrow (Thursday) for a couple of kgotla meetings and we were told just ‘No’, but we said, akere it’s minister’s meeting, I am just joining him, ba re nnyaa, akere apparently I will be there and they were told they shouldn’t be there,” reports Khama.
Khama says they even shot down his desperate suggestion of finding and engaging freelance reporters to stand in to assist State media staff, but was still told “No, we cannot assure you that we will use their footage. So, it was obvious that there was instruction saying, ‘le seka la mo covera’”.
But that was the modus operandi of Khama’s administration especially towards the opposition parties, and so how does it feel to be on the receiving end of the State media black out? A taste of his own medicine maybe!
His response: “I am just sad that people could be that petty. When I think what I have worked for all my life to be treated like this. It is just sad”.
State media ban has forced Khama to change his vile tone on the private media. Asked if he still believe the private press is unpatriotic he said, “I never said the private media is unpatriotic. I said ‘some’ in the private media were behaving as if they were unpatriotic because they were cooking up stories, which were designed to discredit this country. I said if you cook up a story that is not truth and pour scorn over Botswana, that is unpatriotic”.
Khama has disclosed that they have since engaged The Argus Online – a new online news source that mainly uses Facebook Live – to mitigate the State media black out on him.
He said the online publication will be travelling with him and broadcasting live on social media his public gatherings and other engagements.
I must admit that I quite like Boko
In a bizarre twist, the former president Ian Khama has reached out to his former nemesis and archrival, Leader of the Opposition, Duma Boko for help in fighting President Masisi.
Although legally Khama could not directly hire Boko since the latter is an advocate, the former president has disclosed that he reached out to Boko to sue president Masisi with regards to refusing to hire Isaac Kgosi who was fired as Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) in April.
Astonishingly, Khama reasons just like Boko when questioned if he did not find it strange to approach an adversary of the State to team up with him against the president.
“Boko is not a BNF (Botswana National Front) lawyer. He is just a lawyer (sic). He may be a UDC (Umbrella for Democratic Change) president, but that’s immaterial. I am not a BDP president anymore.
“Maybe if I was a BDP president and appointed the Leader of
Khama further discloses that him and Boko have always been best buddies. “I used to meet him and I must admit that I quite liked him. We got on. But on the political arena, we were on the opposite ends.” He even gave an analogy of families that have different political affiliations in explaining his bromance with Boko.
“I find him a pleasant character. I get on well with him,” he said.
Will he consider joining the Umbrella for Democratic Change, the coalition Boko leads? “Well, we haven’t gotten there, yet,” said Khama with a faint cheeky smile.
I’m entitled to use State aircraft
Flying is very important to Khama. He is extremely passionate about it. Getting into his new office, located at Plot 3121 on the President Drive, right by the door is a display cabinet with lots of different miniature models of aircraft.
Khama had the full access to army aircraft for over 40 years since his father and first president of Botswana Sir Seretse Khama appointed him the youngest Brigadier at the age of 24.
He even bought an iPhone only to use it for the aviation applications because his much preferred ancient Nokia 6310 that he uses does not have them.
So it really upset Khama when he was finally denied State aircraft even when he attended modest events like soup gatherings and social soccer matches in Serowe and Mosu.
Asked whether he felt it made a business sense to request for an air travel to ordinary social events Khama was defensive.
“The way it is couched in the Constitution, it means that it is an entitlement for me to be assisted. But on that occasion (Serowe trip), they said it is not approved without giving reasons.
“So my lawyers informed me that what should have happened is that because it is an entitlement if they are going to refuse it should be on reasonable grounds. There should be reasons. And they can require from me, which they haven’t, to state the reasons on why I want to use State aircraft.”
So is Khama planning to sue the State for refusing with State aircraft since he believes it is constitutional right?
“No. What I have decided for now is, I am not going to ask for State aircraft because they said no without giving reasons. So I am not going to ask because the way they handled it was very impolite. I will make my own arrangements,” he says.
Khama also discloses that he is currently busy in the process of shopping his own plane. He is happy to reveal that by next mid month, he will have made a decision on the three options that he is currently assessing. He is however quick to add that it will be “one of those small single engine fixed wing type of aircraft” not a helicopter.
I offered to campaign for the BDP
Although having met with Bangwato royals and having briefed them that he has “completed my political duties” Khama still wants to be in the political scene.
“I have offered to campaign for the BDP (Botswana Democratic Party). I do not want to be in any formal structure of the party,” he says.
Khama is however not clear whether he will consider any position in the party if it is offered saying. “Let’s wait to see if they would ask.”
It is reported that there are Domkrag members who want Khama to take over as chairperson.
Responding to that Khama says: “I don’t know why I would want the chairmanship again especially having left as the president of the party. Right now my preference is to stay out and just confine my involvement with the party to campaigning”.
I never ever dreamt this could ever happen
Khama reports that ever since Masisi became President, they have never met away from coincidental public gatherings.
Despite Masisi’s widely publicised consultations with various leaders including courtesy visits on members of the first Parliament, he has never made time to meet his immediate predecessor.
Even though Khama initially in the interview claimed he has nothing to discuss with his successor, most of his complaints were directed at Masisi.
“I don’t want this thing to go out of hand. It is a very unfortunate situation. I never ever dreamt this could ever happen,” he commented on the frosty relations with his successor.
Does Khama regret all the praise he feted on President Masisi in the lead up to the latter’s inauguration?
He sighed before saying, “That’s a difficult question. If I answered you truthfully, it would certainly cause a lot of upsets, to some. And it may make things unretrievable (sic). But I have an answer for you, but for now let me keep it to myself”.