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How Masisi blindsided Khama

Had former president Ian Khama known that in his political lifetime he and his protege and incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi would experience a major fall out, he would have probably not anointed him his successor. Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE reports that the decision by Masisi to dump his former boss is not without precedent

FRANCISTOWN: For the uninitiated, it was now former president Ian Khama who fought tooth and nail to ensure that his choice of the then vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi was installed.  Khama even fought some court battles to remove all the obstacles that threatened to block his choice and won the day. Little did he know that one day, he would be fighting political battles against his former man.

The former president never imagined one-day Masisi breaking rank with him. They were like inseparable Siamese twins oblivious of the reality that in politics, there are neither permanent enemies nor friends.

Political commentators have raised a warning that there is a danger for a sitting president to fight tooth and nail for his successor, as there is no guarantee that there will be continuity of the former’s policies and a firm relationship. Certainly, the Khama-Masisi scenario is not unprecedented as across the world such experiences have one way or the other been recorded as part of our history with the successor distancing himself/herself from the policies of his predecessor.  In extreme cases, the predecessor will be locked up in prison by his/her protégé.

 Within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) there were many questions about the credibility of Masisi as the successor of a party that was experiencing internal challenges like the popular vote, which has been experiencing a downward spiral.

Many people saw Masisi as another replica of Khama as the two men were proving that they were like-minded in many respects including and not limited to hating trade unionists, private media practitioners and more. They had similar attributes.Even within the party, there was a tendency of people being victimised for failing to toe the line. In fact, ruling BDP cadres became familiar with things that pleased their leader, Khama who tended to reward sycophancy a great deal.

Masisi took advantage of the prevailing circumstances in the Khama administration and mesmerised the man of that moment with his charming approach. Since he ascended to power, Masisi’s administration has promised and continues to undo a lot of policies associated with Khama. The current administration has started working closely with the public sector trade unions, which was a taboo in the previous regime. Lately, the Masisi administration has been holding press briefings with the public, private and international media, which was unknown within our shores during Ian Khama’s rule. Masisi himself, a self-confessed bootlicker made his intentions known to all and sundry that, “Ke lelope, ke ngwana wa lelope. Ke ngwana ngwana wa lelope (I am a bootlicker, I am the son of a bootlicker. I am the grand child of a bootlicker)”. To a large extent, Masisi’s progress in politics can be traceable to his confession as a bootlicker.

“Many people like me because I know how to bootlick, so I will continue to be voted to all positions I contest for because of this,” Masisi once told BDP diehards at a political rally in Palapye who just cheered him up.

To those in the know, Masisi was very tactful and seemed to have put his principle on holiday for a just cause, so that he could win the heart of his predecessor so that he could rise to the seat of power.

Now that he has been installed as the country’s fifth President, there is no better time for Masisi to foster changes that this country has longed for.  He (Masisi) is currently on the fast lane of things dismantling policies that were implemented by his former master, Khama.

Independent political scientist, Professor Zibani Maundeni insists that when Masisi served under Khama, he pretended that he was agreeing with him when he knew his day to be himself will finally come.

He is adamant that what Masisi has done and continues doing has precedent as it

has happened in Botswana, Russia and Zambia before. This relates to Masisi breaking rank with his former mentor Khama who often times was accused as a dictator who hardly listened to other people’s opinions.

For instance, upon the death of the Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin, there was a power struggle immediately thereafter, but Nikita Khrushchev emerged victorious in the process. Maundeni said upon resuming power, Khrushchev who was very close to the dictator Stalin raising fears that he will be another dictator, he (Khrushchev) instead reversed all the policies that Stalin had implemented.

He further analysed that in an example closer to home in Zambia, the country’s second president Frederick Chiluba made a mistake by recruiting Levy Mwanawasa who had quit the party and brought him closer to him to be his future successor.

The unthinkable would happen as once Chiluba had stepped down. 

Political scientist, formerly University of Botswana (UB) political science lecturer, Maundeni indicated that trouble started as the Mwanawasa-led government pursued Chiluba and charged him with corruption.  The late Chiluba was alleged to have siphoned millions of state funds for his personal use. 

“It’s a mistake for a sitting president to fight for his successor,” Maundeni observed and added: “Look, when former president Festus Mogae took over from Sir Ketumile Masire, he equally fought for Khama to succeed him only for Khama to accuse him of trying to rule from the grave when he provided critique of his rule and volunteered counsel when Mogae thought it was necessary.” For his part UB political science lecturer, Leonard Sesa emphasised that when Masisi was the vice president, it is totally different from being the state President.

“Our suspicions are that there were promises entered upon between Khama and Masisi. But now, there are rumours that there are plantations or intelligence installations at the State House, which were installed for the benefit of Khama,” alleged Sesa.  He highlighted that Masisi is rumoured to have noticed the alleged installations that Khama and his sidekick Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) former director general, Isaac Kgosi had allegedly planted at the State House.

The duo’s plan, the political analyst suspected wanted to continue running the show behind Masisi. But Khama had rubbished such suggestions before dismissing the whole thing as a figment of people’s imaginations.

“From the way Masisi is dealing with Khama, it seems he has been betrayed by past immediate president. There was a reason why Masisi chose to recruit the Khama-fired former army intelligence guru Peter Magosi as his new DIS director general after firing Khama’s appointed Kgosi from the job.” Sesa strongly believes that the way Masisi has been very strict when dealing with his former mentor he has discovered some of the developments that have probably sent chills down his spine.

“Masisi might have discovered some of the purported military installations that were going to eavesdrop on his presidency, especially at the official residence, State House thinking that he was a mere civilian who may not pay attention to some of these military details.” The political scientist is of the view that Magosi and Kgosi are two intelligence giants and for Masisi to have undone the Khama appointment and appointed the one who was fired by Khama is a sign of challenging times.

During his tenure at the State House, Khama was reportedly obsessed with intelligence to the extent that he possibly had set up intelligence traps to possibly eavesdrop on Masisi’s activity at the State House.

“Masisi was intelligent to make a move and avoided blindly moving into the State House whilst there are rumours that an intelligence trap was set for him,” emphasised Sesa suggesting that Masisi’s fall out with Khama is traceable to the alleged abuse of intelligence installations.




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