Mmegi Online :: Khama/Masisi: Who is the fairer of the two?
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Monday 19 August 2019, 18:00 pm.
Khama/Masisi: Who is the fairer of the two?

Less than a year into office as the fifth State President, Mokgweetsi Masisi has asserted himself as his own man at the Office of the President (OP) where he has not been living in anybåody’s shadows as the helmsman. Although it’s early days yet, Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE compares thus far, the Khama and Masisi presidencies
By Ryder Gabathuse Fri 08 Mar 2019, 13:33 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Khama/Masisi: Who is the fairer of the two?

FRANCISTOWN: Ever since taking over the reigns of power from his former mentor Ian Khama some 11 months ago, Mokgweetsi Masisi has strictly presented himself as his own man. He is not stuck into his predecessor’s political shoes as many feared.

Masisi previously exhibited striking similarities in his political beliefs and administrative style with his predecessor, especially after he was appointed Vice President.

He apparently lived in Khama’s shadows leaving the Office of the President (OP) without variety of thoughts and political beliefs. This was the period at which Masisi had presented himself as a self-confessed bootlicker and it was not surprising anyway.

He presented an attitude that deceived many that there were no differences between him as the protege, and Khama as his mentor.

After he was sworn-in as the country’s fifth President on April 1 last year, Masisi’s policies and processes are proving to be of a man who has shifted away from his predecessor’s hard stance. He listens to the nation and interested groups. Now, there is hope that Masisi will gradually reform some of his government policies and processes, especially those disadvantaging some end users.

One of the interesting developments relate to the Masisi administration’s international relations.

As the face of the country, Masisi seems destined to take the country to greater heights by strengthening relations with the countries within the region and beyond. He does not just comment on issues, he acts.

Khama on the other hand hardly honoured international invites and he would rather delegate either his ministers or his deputy.

But, Masisi has been justifiably globetrotting which will give him exposure to the international norms and standards.

During the period, this is a good start for Masisi who is expected to fly the country’s flag high in subsequent meetings and major decisions that he has to make in the interest of the country. He continues to undo a lot of policies and programmes implemented by his predecessor, including and not limited to a sharp change in the liquor trading hours commonly known as six-to-six, mending relations with the media, trade unions and other claims makers. He consults the people where necessary.

Worse, the relationship between the mentor and his protégé has seemingly broken down irretrievably at least if the latest spats are anything to go by with the Masisi regime refusing to bend to entertain Khama’s insatiable appetite for disregarding the rules.

Masisi’s government has incessantly declined to entertain Khama’s desire to fly State aircraft, which the latter has (mis) interpreted as victimisation.

It may be too early to review Masisi’s term of office so far just 11 months into office to safely compare his tenure with Khama’s 10 years. But, by all intents and purposes, the President comes across as a reformist who listens to the interests of the masses.  Giving similarities between Khama and Masisi lecturer, political and administrative studies at the University of Botswana (UB), Adam Mfundisi indicated that both leaders are descendants of the BDP founding fathers and have become presidents through a Constitutional amendment that introduced automatic succession to salvage the party.

He said the duo has both been VPs at different epochs as well as chairpersons of the BDP. The UB academic described the two as populists who generate false hopes and raising expectations that are/were outsized and unrealisable.

Giving comparable variables, Mfundisi indicated that Khama assumed office in 2008 and presented his blueprint, including the four and then five Ds, but Masisi has failed to present a roadmap for the country.

“Khama pioneered numerous welfare policies both distributive and redistributive policies to assist vulnerable groups in society. Whether these policies were translated into deliverables is another matter,” analysed the UB academic.

He said Khama undertook extensive reforms in the management of the economy, society and polity. For example, reintroduction of Ipelegeng (drought relief), Internship (Tirelo Setshaba), constituency league, constituency fund, housing appeal and others in the quest to alleviate social ills in the country.

He also picked the aggressive foreign policy- in which the former president challenged unethical and immoral conduct of States and their leaders.

Mfundisi has also noted Khama’s aggressive regulation of business, giving examples of the alcohol levy and trading hours for entertainment industry to try to cap alcohol abuse. He picks the former president as


a disciplinarian of repute and a sportsman.

On the presidential style, Mfundisi analyses that Khama was famous for his bravado, while Masisi is reserved and scholarly.

“Khama has been labelled a dictator, but Masisi is perceived to be a democrat. But Khama a controlling leader as he was, had talented advisors ready and willing to experiment and innovate.”

He acknowledged that Khama was anti - private media and did not associate with it most of the time and even accused it of fake news.

Masisi is pro- private media and the latter has reciprocated with numerous praises of the President.

A senior government employee in the government enclave who has served both Khama and Masisi this week had difficulties drawing any parallels between the two leaders.

What compounds the issue, according to the insider who pleaded anonymity because his office does not afford him the leeway to comment on media enquiries is that,  “Masisi is new to his office and is yet to spell out clearly his roadmap”.

He however, preferred to limit the two leaders’ journey of leadership on their assumption of office.

On April 1, 2008, Khama, according to our source clearly laid out his expectations and vision and set the tone of his administration through his five Ds. His vision defined his actions, policy, laws and budget allocations.

“With Khama one knew what to expect and areas of emphasis and less emphasis to expect.”

He said Masisi took off with a blank cheque without any commitment to a specific programme of action and, “this line of approach appears to be a less risky, cautious, non-committal approach.” To him, this is an approach that is riddled with surprises. Another UB senior lecturer in politics, Dr. Kebapetse Lotshwao was quick to point out this week that he could not see any similarities between Khama and Masisi.

To him, they are direct opposites in terms of how they run both the government and the party.

“In my view, thus far, President Masisi is far much a better leader than his predecessor, Khama,” said Lotshwao. Firstly, he said Masisi, unlike Khama, believes in consultation. “That’s very commendable, a leader must consult and not just impose his decisions on people like Khama did for the 10 years that he was in office.”

For instance, Lotshwao noted that Masisi has engaged with the media and trade unions and has also consulted Batswana on the issue of hunting ban, which Khama had imposed through a directive.

He insists that a decision by Khama was very unethical as he has interests in tourism and used his position to make a decision on which he directly benefitted or those with links to him.

Lotshwao hailed Masisi to have done well by asserting Botswana’s position internationally as he has attended UN Summit, AU, SADC, World Economic Forum and others.

“For 10 years, Khama despite being the country’s chief diplomat did not attend such important gatherings, preferring instead to address Kgotla meetings in which he sometime announced policies bypassing both Parliament and the bureaucracy.”

Worriedly, Lotshwao indicates that although Khama had time for Kgotla meetings, he refused to meet workers, the media and other interested groups. “That does not make sense to me. As president, you are president for everyone even those that you don’t like”.

He holds a view that Masisi is doing his best to contain corruption that went wild under Khama as under the former president well connected people could do anything they wanted; looting State resources and others without any punishment whatsoever.

Although no one has been found guilty, Lotshwao insists that many citizens are happy that finally corrupt officials will be held accountable.

“To a large extent, those fighting Masisi within the BDP are fighting him because they see him as a threat to their businesses and economic interests. They accumulated wealth unethically over the years and they feel very threatened by his drive to cleanse the country of bad governance.”

The UB don however, observes that there are areas where Masisi still has to make impact. For instance, he points out rural poverty, inequality and youth unemployment.

His advice is that while the President fights corruption, party wars and others, he should not forget rural poverty, inequality and youth unemployment and many others bedevilling the society.

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