At long last Khama will face his son(Mogae Legacy)

Staff Writer

This coming Tuesday when the sun rises throwing its shafts of light upon the leafy complex that is Government Enclave the statue of Seretse Khama will have its back towards it.

At that point father will have his attention on son. Not anywhere else. Not out at the sprawl of the Main Mall where young unemployed Batswana walk around with envelopes under their arms, hawkers squint from the spicy smoke of hotdogs, hawkers yell out their wares to uninterested passer-bys and conductors hustle potential passengers into combis. The bronze Khama, with his half-smile, head proud, and straight posture will have his full attention on the goings-on before him, something much more important, poignant and even personal; another Khama being sworn in as the President. Right here on the front of Parliament House.

A mere 28 years after Seretse Khama, the first president of Botswana passed away, Leuitenant Seretse Khama Ian Khama, Seretse's son moves into State House.

Ian was born on February 27th 1953 during his parents' exile in England. The drama surrounding Khama's controversial marriage to Briton Ruth Williams was at its most dramatic.

Opponents and supporters were at their most vociferous. In England supporters of the couple calling themselves the Council for the Defence of Seretse Khama were increasing their pressure on the political leadership of the country. And in Serowe amidst the inter-tribal agendas competing for control of the throne, a team of supporters was strongly agitating for his return, not just to ga-Mmangwato but to its throne as well.

Even at that early age Ian Khama seemed destined for a somewhat ambiguous public role. He was born into a royal/political family stuck right at the vortex of national political, royal and racial struggle.

Khama, having married a white woman was facing opposition from South Africa's white minority rule, while the liberals in England campaigned for his freedom as an assertion of his human rights. While these supporters were somewhat prepared to compromise and have him return to Botswana as a private citizen, his Bangwato supporters in Serowe wanted something bigger than that; his return to the throne which was being contested for. And for his part Seretse was not interested being chief, while sections of the tribe wanted him as nothing else.

Seretse biographers Neil Parsons, Thomas Tlou and Willie Hendersen in their book Seretse Khama say when Ian was born "(Seretse's) ambiguity about becoming kgosi was as strong as ever and probably stronger" finding it ironic, "that at this moment (Seretse) should be presented with a child who could legitimately be heir to the bogosi of the Bangwato".

Born at this tumultuous stage Ian Khama's name would also reflect not just his background but perhaps these multiple agendas laying claim on him. "The boy was named 'Seretse' after his father, 'Ian', as a name from the Williams family which also had the virtue of being Scottish, and 'Khama' after his grandfather" however, "the last name was added as another first name, at the specific request of Bangwato elders who cabled from Serowe" explain the writers.

It was then that Ian was stuck with the "somewhat repetitive-sounding name, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, the second 'Khama' being the surname".

Three years later Khama and his family flew out of England for Botswana when Ian Khama was but a nursery school student. There was no nursery to attend so he stayed home while his older sister Jacqueline attended an all-white school. He was attended to by royal servants and helpers.

Being uprooted from an urban lifestyle in modern England to a much more traditional Setswana setting in Serowe brought forth challenges especially for Ruth. It was the beginning of Ian's closeted childhood. He was prevented from mixing with ordinary Bangwato children. Ruth did not want her children accepting food from other children, and she insisted on Ian Khama and his sister speaking English not Setswana.

He was respected like the heir he was but the Khamas were still not accepted within the white community in Serowe, on racial grounds.

As Khama got further into the tribal politics and later the mainstream of Botswana's pre-independent politics Ian Khama became more and more of a public figure although his was a routine between attending boarding schools, returning home and going back again.

After stints in a Rhodesian school Ian Khama joined the boarding school of Waterford Kamhlaba in Mbabane, Swaziland. Waterford is a member of a group of schools with campuses across the world. The school was founded by a British teacher Michael Stern who wanted to create a school that would espouse non-racialism at a time when most children of the African elite had nowhere to go, given that good schools were exclusively white. A somewhat liberal school Kamhlala included a multiracial group of students from some of the most prominent families in the sub-continent.

Among its alumni Kamhlala counts the Mandela daughters, Zeni and Zindzi, Lindiwe Sisulu, current South African Minister of Housing and Xolile Guma of the Reserve Bank of South Africa.

It is reported that Ian Khama socialized much more actively although he was still relatively reserved. The school was also oriented towards active community service. He took to the physical activities the school's extra curricular activities provided.

It remains a mystery whether Ian Khama completed his High School qualifications or not but in 1970 a 17-year-old Ian Khama left Waterford. He spent time after High School in a sort of academic lull. Reports say he went to Geneva the following year to learn French, moving to London the following year.

In 1972 Ian Khama joined the military college of Sandhurst. The school, established in 1947 gives preliminary training to military officers. Ian Khama was then, the only Motswana to enroll in the military school.

RMA Sandhurst was a product of the merger of the Royal Military Academy which prepared Artillery and Engineering officers and the Royal Military College. At some point it was the major training institution for entrance level military officers for the British Army.

Although not at the University level, unlike schools such as West Point (US), National Defence Academy (India) and Australian Defence Force Academy, Sandhurst is one of the most recognizable names in military training.

Ian Khama returned to Botswana in 1973 and joined the Police Mobile Unit the precursor to the Botswana Police Service.

However in 1977 Parliament passed the Botswana Defence Force Act, formally establishing the force. About 123 men among them Botswana Police Commissioner Mompati Merafhe and Ian Khama, were drafted into the newly formed BDF with Merafhe as commander deputized by Ian Khama.

Dan Henk of the US Air College writes that the conditions were ripe for the formation of the Force, given the precarious security situation in the country. Newly independent Botswana was surrounded by white minority rule govermments in South Africa, pre-independent Zimbabwe and Namibia.

"Rhodesia posed the most pressing security challenge in the early years. By the late 60s Rhodesia government was engaged in an escalating conflict against two insurgent armies. The war drove a steady flow of refugees into north eastern Botswana" says Henk.

The stream of refugees offered the Rhodesian army pretext to raid and attack the northeastern parts of the country.

In the southern parts of Botswana, the South African Defence Force made incursions committing assassinations and kidnappings.

However in its early years the BDF could not match the strength of the regions military forces.

"The BDF lacked the training and experience to confront the Special Forces of its belligerent neighbours. This was made painfully clear in February 1978, less than a year after it's founding. Responding to reports of a Rhodesian military incursion along Botswana's north-eastern border near the village of Lesoma, a BDF-mounted patrol drove directly into a Rhodesian ambush, sustaining 15 dead," explains Henk.

The Lesoma tragedy remains vivid in Botswana's history as one of the worst tragedies ever. Ian Khama was the commander of the north, an area covering the tumultuous border with Rhodesia. He was known as a man whose officers liked very much and a fearless leader. In 1978, just months after Lesoma, Ian Khama's men were engulfed in controversy.

In March 1978 Ian's men shot three white men who they had arrested around Tuli, as suspected undercover Rhodesian special forces. Reports indicate the men were attempting to escape. The event caused much media interest, with BDF soldiers termed 'trigger-happy' write Seretse Khama biographers.

Among the three was a 19-year-old Briton, Nicholas Love. In the months that followed Khama received pressure from all angles to tender an apology for the death of the teenager. "The unspoken point of issue was implicit criticism of Seretse's eldest son Ian, who as deputy commander of the BDF had actually been in charge of the north-eastern frontier forces" say Parsons, Tlou and Henderson.

Seretse refused to publicly relent on his defence of the BDF putting its actions within the context of the precarious situation in Botswana.

At that point Ian Khama had become a hero of some sort, seen by some as the embodiment of the BDF heroism against much more developed military forces of the sub-continent.

Initially the BDF had problems procuring equipment from the developed world. "Both Britain and the US refused to sell arms and equipment without procedures of official without long procedures of official and congressional vetting which would take months, if not years, to complete. Botswana therefore turned to the ready international market for arms and purchased Soviet weaponry, notably the AK-47 assault rifle, with which to equip its new troops" explain Parsons, Tlou and Henderson.

In the later years the BDF was able to get access to a much more efficient relationship with the military arms of the west. Running a small army in that situation was not a breeze.

"It was a huge responsibility but I had a vision of a disciplined army; effective, efficient, extremely capable but slim defence force and I did not want to compromise on these core values. I developed an officer corps that would reflect these values. When I was gone and looking back, I have not been disappointed," Merafhe told Mmegi a few months ago.

Partnerships with United States, Canada and United Kingdom military afforded senior officers in the BDF high level training and Ian was often part of the contingents that engaged in these courses.

Ian Khama, early on showed interest in challenging areas. A source close to the military reveals that his training spans various areas of the military but his major interests seem to be Special Forces and Military Intelligence.

"He has done on and off training in very challenging areas of the military. He has had some training with almost all the major intelligence organizations. The BDF, at least at the intelligence level is much closer to the Americans and Israelis so Ian would have done a number of programs in the intelligence arms of those countries" explains the source.

In 1989 Lieutenant General Merafhe left the BDF for politics and Ian became Commander.
Ian Khama's ascendance in the military was not without controversy with some critics pointing out that he was favoured as the son of the president.

"(Ian) brought a different leadership style and new priorities. Under Khama the BDF grew in leaps and bounds both in personnel and equipment. Like his predecessor Khama was a strict disciplinarian, bordering on the puritanical. However he had the reputation of being a hands-on leader who cared about his troops, inspected frequently and fought successfully for troop benefits" says Henk.

Among the new acquisitions of the BDF in the 90s Ian era were thirteen CF-5A/D Freedom Fighters, US Air Force C-130B transport aircraft, 12 gun battery of 15 mm howitzers, 12 Alvis Scorpion light tanks and 50 Ster-Daimler-Punch SK 105 Light tanks.

Although a favourite among men of the forces Ian was also largely seen as someone who was obsessesed with military toys for which he could easily find funding as the first president's son.

Within the BDF his critics, saw him, as someone who had his own people, a group of his favoured men who were beyond questioning.

"Ian has his own people, even in the army he would have these men who were central to his professional and even personal settings. He would go camping with these men. These men would be accelerated through ranks. Of course some were really good soldiers but there other good soldiers who would be overlooked just because Ian's focus was somewhere else," says a source.

Ian Khama built a team of men from MI, Commando and others from other divisions, who would be the structure on which he would control the army.

In the 90s when the region became independent the BDF's agenda included various international missions. The building of Thebephatshwa Airbase was credited to Ian.

However Ian's era at the BDF was cut short by another imperative: this time of a much more family-related matter. The Botswana Democratic Party, founded by Seretse, was faced with a growing disillusionment both within its ranks and nationally.

When political consultant Lawrence Schlemmer concluded that the then embattled BDP needed someone

to salvage it from that morass of late 80s and 90s unpopularity, he may not have specifically called for Ian Khama as he pointed out recently but those in the know must have immediately known who he was referring to.

Khama was also favoured by the corporate interests at the heart of the BDP's survival; they saw him as someone who was not tainted by personal financial considerations.

An ailing party led by an equally ailing generation seen completely out of step with the political mood of that time, the party needed Ian Khama.

The then resurgent Botswana National Front had a charismatic leader of its own in the late Dr Kenneth Koma. It is true that at that time no one was to the BDP what Koma was to the BNF.

Quett Ketumile Masire led the party but he could not inspire the same camaraderie and obsession among its supporters as Koma did with BNF supporters. Daniel Kwelagobe may have excited the grassroots support but not the way Koma did. Unlike both Masire and Kwelagobe combined, Koma had the education and the degrees that were revered at the time.

In the seventies and eighties, leftist ideology was very much in vogue. There were liberation movements and rhetoric around Botswana. Koma was well immersed in leftist politics and ideology. Despite his string of degrees and all the things Eastern, Koma was humble and accessible. His popularity soared. In Botswana politics, Koma filled the void that was left by the charismatic Khama.

During Koma's dominance of opposition politics, the BDP won the elections, albeit with reduced margins but they knew they needed a charismatic leader of their own.

In a country where ethnicity and feudal considerations still matter, Ian Khama had the right blood and the right connections.

It is also possible, given the context within which the party approached him, that the BDP needed Khama much more than he needed it. If that is true, then it partly explains how the party came to be so accommodating of his foibles.

Khama has at times gotten away with much more than any member of the party could get away with.

Ian Khama has castigated MPs including his own party's, calling them 'vultures' for asking for salary increases when he himself makes a lot more and costs government even more, critics pointed out. This made him very unpopular amongst MPs but he endeared himself to the public for these stunts showed him as a man of principle who is prepared to go against the grain.

In other words, the Khama the BDP needed is not necessarily the Khama that it came to have. The BDP thought in Ian Khama it had a modern Seretse Khama. A man who could connect with the average Motswana the way Seretse Khama did. But Ian Khama is no Seretse Khama. In his own way Ian Khama has gone about organizing the BDP into a party he can lead.

The 'Khama Agenda' consists of three major parts: to decimate his enemies within the party and consolidate his power, to replicate the same on a national level and ultimately leave a legacy worthy of the expectation that surrounded his ascendance to the national stage.

Khama may have had a big foe within BDP when he took over but now what remains of that big foe is but a big party to run. He has decimated and co-opted most of his opponents and he is now going about dividing up the party into small groups which can be managed much more effectively. Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Kwelagobe and Matlhabaphiri are now in the cabinet. These are the men who were seen to be opposed to Ian's vice grip on the party. Currently they may have a future in a Khama cabinet if they play it well.

Military men love loyalists and Khama has surrounded himself with loyalists even within the BDP. Those close to him enjoy his largesse as shown by his protection of Olifant Mfa from Botsalo Ntuane's approach. As much as a general needs a core of officers unconditionally dedicated to him/her, Khama has shown through his actions that he is ready to protect those most dedicated to him.

He has cleared his brother Tshekedi Khama to take over the Serowe North without the potentially stiff challenge of youthful BDP activist Gomolemo Motswaledi. In the end, Ntuane and Motswaledi, known members of the Barata-phathi faction, are now but pawns in the chess game that Khama is playing.

After decimating their faction, he did what Sun Tzu suggested: he co-opted the enemy to serve his ends. Ntuane may be contesting in Gaborone West South, as Khama had decreed, but he is doing so fully as a Khama ally. He is doing so on Khama's terms. And in that way he is a man removed from his own group and he is entirely dependent on Khama regardless of what the election results would be.

Ntuane has to defend the whole game plan as well as Mfa or any other loyalist because for now he is Khama's man.

He has been denied his first preference in Sebina Gweta and his second choice at Gaborone West North by the same Khama and it was Khama who offered Ntuane Gaborone West South, a constituency that is believed to be in the clutches of Robert Molefhabangwe, a doyen of opposition politics.

While Motswaledi has been unleashed in to the den of an emerging tiger in the form of the Botswana Congress Party's Dumelang Saleshando. Just because Ntuane and Motswaledi have been co-opted into Ian's agenda does not mean they are not good candidates for the constituencies they have been offered.

They offer perhaps the best candidates the BDP could have for urban areas. They are urban, articulate and relatively young. So Ian may ultimately have made the right calculations.

Another perhaps even more menacing angle may be that Ian Khama could be throwing the foot soldiers of what is left of the Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe faction to the opposition wolves just to teach them a lesson and silence them for good.

In 1999 President Festus Mogae gave Ian Khama sabbatical leave. NGOs and opposition politicians saw this as just another sign that Mogae was beholden to Ian's whims.

A year after the leave was granted Mogae recalled Khama. "President Festus Mogae cut short Lt. General Khama's leave so that he could direct and co-ordinate ministries to ensure efficiency and expeditious implementation of government projects and programmes" reported the government-run Daily News.

Mogae told parliament that he had followed with concern the debate on the mid term review of NDP 8 and had noted the comments of parliamentarians which he took very seriously.

MPs had indicated that project implementation was not up to scratch. At government level Ian Khama was given a free role, as a sort of quasi-Prime Ministerial role.

Both the National Budgets of the last five financial years have not shown any marked improvement in the way of government project implementation.

In 2006 the Security and Intelligence Bill was brought before parliament. After several denials, the government finally confirmed that it intended to establish a Directorate of Intelligence and Security. Bill number 23 of 2006 published in the Government Gazette of November 3 stated that a Central Intelligence Committee, a National Intelligence Community and a Security Council would have oversight over the directorate.

The bill says it had become necessary to establish the new structures because the regional and global environment had changed necessitating a review of Botswana's approach to security concerns.

However critics of the Bill noted that it gave too much power to the president and everyone else appointed by the president, the Minister, the Commanders of BDF and Commissioner of Police, and yet possessed no oversight provision.

Commentators, even some BDP MPs, spoke of how this Bill was Ian's baby, and how he wanted to keep it as security-focused as possible.

The Bill raised a lot of controversy within parliament, even inspiring a temporary team of opposition MPs, BDP backbenchers and NGOs critical of the form and the way it was put before parliament.

"The Botswana political leadership has not demonstrated any great desire to transform the intelligence into a user friendly institution that is objective, law abiding, friendly to the citizens and defy illegal political commands. The absence of mechanisms aimed at ensuring objective analysis exposes the Botswana Intelligence and Security community, to illegal political commands and to un-professionalism," wrote political lecturer Zimbani Maundeni of the University of Botswana. 

Government Enclave was abuzz with allegations that this whole thing was Ian Khama's design, and that he thought the scrutiny and criticisms were a sort of delay to the implementation of his favourite apparatus.

It was seen as part of Ian Khama's continuing preparations to take over as president: a much more authoritarian, paranoia-riddled and anti-democratic era.

At the same time BDF officers started cropping up in senior positions in the public service. There has been more overt appointments like Isaac Kgosi's appointment as Senior private Secretary to the Vice President. Part of the core Khama contingent that Khama brought from the BDF Kgosi occupies a special position in Khama's books.

"At the government enclave, word has it that Kgosi is in reality more powerful even than the PSP himself. As the man who has access to the nerve centre of government, he has much more power than officials care to admit. To the public and everybody, he is the only bridge to the Vice President - the man seen by cynics as the de facto president" wrote Mmegi.

Kgosi is said to be poised to become the Director of that important Directorate of Security and Intelligence.

"Khama is a man who likes to follow everything to its last detail, and that's why he likes Intelligence. He keeps records of everything that he thinks is important. He has a theory that says, 'intelligence everywhere', in other words, if the BCP has a central committee meeting somewhere in Shakawe, if we do not have an officer there we better have an informant there" says an inside source.

For his part Kgosi dimisses rumours of this obsession with intelligence. "That is absolutely wayward. I can confirm to you that I am not in the intelligence structures. This is not true. I am not even going to talk about intelligence here." He told Mmegi a few weeks ago.

It is this obsession with covert operations against institutions that opposition parties criticize Ian Khama for.

"Honestly speaking Ian thinks that everything in the country has to be carefully watched. Sometimes it is a genuine concern because security in the country has not been up to scratch. He believes that a lot of the criminal activities happening in the country would not happen if intelligence was up to date. He has a genuine concern for the security and national integrity of this country. He believes national security could be handled much better" says the source.

Inside the BDP Ian Khama is said to be consolidating his power to further run it the way he would really want: sharp, non-democratic and singularly attentive to his orders, say critics.

Ian Khama will be taking over a party that is poised for more victory in the coming general elections if the past bye-elections are anything to go by. His opponents are really dispensed with, especially if he takes Kwelagobe as his Vice President. The Kwelagobe-Kedikilwe faction would be decimated beyond recognition.

Kwelagobe, alongside Merafhe are touted to be in the running for the coveted position.
The senior civil service is living with uncertainty, with everyone wondering if they are in Ian Khama's right books.

He is introverted but some say a lot more is going on in his brain than his outward expressions suggest.

Khama is taking over a functioning economy, and he is not expected to do anything different to the overall economic policy. He is very popular among the rural folk especially. He is known to have his eye on fighting crime and corruption. Some cite the current high profile cases before the courts as the tip of the iceberg.

"He is upright generally. He hates dishonesty, and he punishes severely," adds another source close to the Office of the President.

So instead of a different dish, Khama is expected to offer a different spice to the same dish but even then it is enough to cause consternation within the political and even civil service environment. Bureaucrats fear his almost personal way of running things, fearing he might overrun institutional ways of addressing issues.

On the morning of Tuesday 9th March 1965 Seretse Khama woke up to his inauguration as Prime Minister of pre-independent Botswana, a broke, colonially funded government. These were the problems.

It may have been 42 years ago but some things are still similar; just like that day this will be a Tuesday, just like then, the BDP is on a strong footing, but most importantly just like then yet another Khama will be sworn in this Tuesday.

Only this time, symbolically perhaps, another Khama will be looking on.



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