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Khama’s most difficult decision

As President Ian Khama sets in motion a journey to vacate office next year April 1 and hands over the baton of power to Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE and Correspondent SIKI MOTSHWARI JOHANNESS look at part IV of Khama’s men and women in Cabinet and how the President exercised his prerogative in appointing his team

The year 2012 marked the fourth anniversary for Tshekedi Khama’s (TK) in Parliament as a backbencher. His entry into politics and Parliament in 2008, following President Ian Khama’s ascendancy to the highest office in the land, was not without controversy. 

Young ambitious BDP activist Gomolemo Motswaledi harboured ambitions to be the next Member of Parliament (MP) for the then Serowe North West. He was not alone as two more politicians, Lesego Raditanka and Prince Kgwaneng harboured similar ambitions. Because of his popularity and shrewdness, Khama pushed Motswaledi to vacate the constituency as he was a strong factor to contend with.

However, in an unexpected move, President Khama openly declared younger brother TK as his anointed successor. Justifying his choice and preference for his brother, ahead of a seasoned politician in Motswaledi, Khama said TK had always expressed a wish to represent the area even before he himself could join politics.

Former president, Festus Mogae would also justify Khama (Ian’s) choice of his sibling as an opportunity to close the gap after he previously paved the way for him. It was at a well-attended political rally held at the Serowe bus rank where TK was introduced as a man bound to take from his brother in the constituency.

Preventing the late Motswaledi from contesting a constituency of his choice was a terrible blow to his political career. His subsequent relocation to Gaborone was not helpful as he could not fulfill his dream there either.

It was further reported that following President Khama’s surprise entry into politics in 1998, and his subsequent frantic search for a constituency, TK had to pave the way for big brother, thus putting on hold his own political ambitions. Now in 2008, an opportunity presented itself for the big brother to pay back his young brother.

The contest for the constituency was not open to the likes of Motswaledi. The President had literally barred Motswaledi from exercising his right to stand for the Serowe West (then Serowe North West) parliamentary seat. Motswaledi, perhaps out of reverence and/or deference to royalty, yielded without putting up a fight to claim his Constitutional right to stand for a constituency of his choice. With one single stroke, Motswaledi’s parliamentary aspirations were shattered. With the benefit of hindsight, one can claim with justification that the circumstances surrounding TK’s entry into Parliament in 2008 could be the genesis of the subsequent Khama and Motswaledi fallout.

Having been in Parliament as a backbencher for four years, a storm started brewing for TK back at home in his constituency. Some elements in the usually quiet and submissive constituency, perhaps fuelled by young Khama’s political rivals fell short of accusing the President’s brother of being an absentee Member of Parliament (MP). The murmur of protest was a clear indication that a plot was being hatched to oust young Khama. But, it was not sustained.

While the storm was precipitating in the constituency, the President made a Cabinet reshuffle in 2012, which saw TK assuming the post of Minister of the then Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (Now Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism).

TK’s elevation was subjected to various interpretations. It was seen as a calculated move to raise his political profile; to silence the noise back home and most importantly to put him within the range of he presidential succession race. Appointing his brother to Cabinet was perhaps the most difficult decision President Khama had ever made. The appointment raised eyebrows across the political divide. Roaring voices from the opposition in particular, condemned the TK appointment as a ‘family affair’ not based on any principle. The Khama-led Government was also accused of thriving on family connections. As for President Khama himself, he was hauled over the coals as a man hell-bent on appeasing his kith and kin at the expense of the State.

Just like any other elected MP one would argue that TK was eligible for Cabinet appointment. But TK is not an ordinary distant mortal but President Khama’s younger brother. Should a capable MP be sidelined for promotion or one’s

talent be ignored on account of blood connections with the sitting President?

Confronted with the same situation one wonders how other leaders could have handled it? Without taking anything from TK, his appointment raised moral questions. While the appointment was legally above Board and politically correct, it was however considered morally incorrect. 

Some observers claimed President Khama put TK in charge of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism portfolio to protect his vested interests in the tourism sector.  

Family connections aside, it appears TK’s meteoric rise was well-deserved. The young Khama has proved to be a leader in his own right. With Khama at the helm, the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism assumed a new character and complexion. He has rebranded the Ministry and it is much more visible than ever before although his attempts were not without controversy. He is uncompromising on the agenda of sustainable development, advocating for a balance between present and future needs.

Sticking to the dictates of sustainable development resulted in skirmishes with local communities, especially in Ngamiland. For instance, a moratorium imposed on fishing in the Ngamiland caused so much misunderstanding between the Minister and the affected communities. In his quest to sell the country’s tourism sector, long hailed as an engine for the country’s opportunity for growth, Tshekedi has been lifting Botswana’s flag high, both locally and abroad. He recently took the country’s tourism to Berlin to plead with the Germans to buy the country’s tourism packages at the Berlin indaba. This was hailed as a massive success, albeit having gobbled up a chunk of the national treasury.

This weekend at both the annual Rasesa Matsieng Air Show in the Kgatleng District and the annual Khawa Sand Dune Challenge in the Kgalagadi District, the countryís alternative packages for tourism will be on display. These have become popular activities whose main target is to sell the country’s alternative tourism attractions. There is also the popular Toyota Desert race commonly known as Mantshwabisi whose continuity continues to promote alternative offerings in this sector.

TK has proven to be daring and bold and has prevailed over the brother on a number of occasions proving that he was his own man as opposed to being a sycophant. One of his major achievements, according to recent media reports is that he played a major role in influencing a truce between his brother (President Khama) and the four Judges that were suspended after issues with the Chief Justice. He succeeded after a long wait for justice.

Lately, a department that falls within his docket, the Tourism Intelligence Services (TIS) has been caught up in bitter rivalry with the Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS). In an endeavour to enhance anti-poaching mechanisms, the Wildlife department has introduced TIS which lately has had run-ins with the DIS and its director general Isaac Kgosi, an ally of his brother President Khama. Recent media reports further showed that TIS operatives recently waylaid DIS sleuths and allegedly caught the latter in illegal possession of Government trophy and arrested them. They handed them to the police. TK has apparently taken the anti-poaching fight seriously to the extent that he has been able to crack even complex syndicates. This trait in particular has been borrowed from his senior brother who was formerly the army commander and sowed seeds of anti poaching in the army.

He has deliberately been recruiting former army generals some of who have left the army under a cloud and employed them to lead the anti poaching crusade. So, Tshekedi chose to be his own man at least in the eyes of the public doing things his own way and avoiding to operate under his brother’s shadows.

Lately, even after President Khama had declared openly his support for Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi in the bruising race for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairmanship, TK is unrelenting in his support for Minister Nonofo Molefhi who is challenging Masisi, to the frustration of his brother. He chose to remain independent-minded and pursue his heart and not the President’s desire.




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