Two decades after the third president, Festus Mogae, pulled Ian Khama like a rabbit in a hat and made him vice president, the fourth president last week finally agreed to be interviewed by Mmegi newspaper for the very first time.
When the Mmegi team arrived five minutes ahead of time at his new secure compound with a newly painted white house, Khama was already waiting. His desk still looks like the one from OP – from the pictures of those media houses that had the privilege to be granted interview.
It has since dawned on him that his successor, President Mokgweetsi Masisi [un]popular utterances of “Ke lolope” and “Kgosi ya lopela” were just a gambit move and like is said in the game of chess, he (mindlessly so) accepted the gambit.
Five months later it is clear that Masisi’s gambit was ‘sound’ and he successfully deceived the five-star general.
Sitting across from his cluttered desk at the former president office, Khama does not look retired. No Hawaiian shirts, unkempt hair or dark sunglasses. He is not even suntanned to suggest that he is enjoying the sun more. He is in a white shirt, black tie, nicely combed afro, just like the old Khama in power.
There are four rhino sculptures on Khama’s desk, the fifth one is a book holder towards his rear left – the only books held by the rhinos are the two Oxford Concise Dictionaries, and Discover Botswana coffee table book (I made a mental note to ask him where my book that I gifted him is, but the issue slipped my mind). It is worth noting that there are no other books nor bookshelf in his office.
There more animal sculptures, hippos, elephants, all the big five are lined next to the trophy curved with words, General Ian Khama, next to the famous antique green banker’s desk lamp. There are secretariat tools like stapler, puncher, pair of scissors, four note holders, about five penholders, and four In/Out trays.
On his right there are four fixed line telephones and one of them is red. There is small statue of Sir Seretse Khama next to the phone and he said it is a replica of the one that is at the Parliament buildings.
Behind his big swivel chair next to the two smaller cabinets,
On the walls behind Khama are images of his parents Seretse Khama and Ruth Khama with his picture in ceremonial army uniform. There is also his grandfather at Sekgoma II on the far left. The biggest picture on the wall is of the big male lion – the noun President is called Tautona in Setswana, which literally means big lion.
There is also a picture of Goo Moremi third pool waterfall as well as box framed image of Khama crawling inside Gqhihaba caves.
There is a main cabinet next to the entrance with lots of miniature toy aeroplanes that if a child could walk inside Khama’s office, that child will not want to leave. His coronation picture is also in the cabinet.
With such an office, complete with a red phone, what is it that Khama misses about being president?
“What I enjoyed was what I am still doing now, is being able to help the disadvantaged and that’s why I decided to carry it on and it’s not something that should end with my presidency. I will feel a gap in my life today if I was not helping people. So as I’m still continuing, there is nothing really I miss,” said Khama.
It is clear there is not much to miss for Khama. He is now being chauffeured in a big black Lexus GX top of the range. He still travels with bodyguards, although getting a plane is a hassle these days he got friends lending him airplanes, and he still gets ululations and praise poems at Kgotla. He has a red fixed line telephone and still makes front-page news.
So if he could do it again, what would he change? He looked up, looked back at us and looked up again before saying, “I wouldn’t do it again.”