While he was President, Ian Khama only used social media to throw some shade at presidents Donald Trump and Robert Mugabe of US and Zimbabwe respectively. But it was in the year 2018 when Khama was forced to learn about ‘statuses, tweets and hashtags’ after he was given a taste of his own medicine when government media snubbed him. Mmegi Staff Writer, THALEFANG CHARLES writes
The year 2018 gave former president Ian Khama a serious culture shock. All his adult life, he has been a ‘Morena’ – a highly revered Setswana title meaning ‘Lord’, used to express utmost respect for a man with power. In April 2018, Khama relinquished state power when he stepped down as President, as per the constitutional requirement. His ‘Morena’ status quickly faded away.
Before April 2018, Khama alone wielded much power in Botswana. He was the President, Commander in Chief who had been the top soldier in the army, kingmaker for the next president, close friends with an untouchable spy chief, Kgosikgolo of an influential tribe, son of a revered founding president, and a bachelor answerable to no one.
After Khama’s first general elections victory in 2009, the then president phased out the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology and transferred state media operations to the Office of the President. Opposition parties protested the move saying Khama wants to make it his “proper propaganda tool” to unfruitful end.
The opposition was vindicated, as the state media became ‘Tautona Times’ for his entire tenure. He was on the front page of almost every edition of the Daily News, and dominated prime news on Btv. Whether he was serving soup in Chadibe or Polka dancing in Tsabong, he was the lead story on state media. Everyone who disagreed with him was blacked out of the state media, mainly the opposition and unions.
Khama loathed the local private press. When he was army commander, he ordered some private newspapers to be banned from circulating inside the country’s biggest military barracks. He went on record saucing he does not read local newspapers. He attempted to starve the private press to death through a hard-hitting advertising ban.
Khama’s hatred for the media even led to his administration’s crackdown on newsrooms. The shocking arrest of Sunday Standard editor, Outsa Mokone, on strange sedition charges was a new low on Khama’s hatred for the media.
Khama declined interview requests from the local media with so much contempt, but strangely accepted a number of international media engagements conducted by white people.
He unbelievably completed his Presidency without holding a single local press conference. His last press conference, before stepping down as president, was in Sweden when the Swedish protocols forced him to field questions from the Swedish media on “why does Botswana needs expensive fighter jets?” But since he seemingly wanted the Gripen jets arms deal so bad, Khama argued his way through the press conference.
It was in August that Khama decided to swallow his pride and reach out to his purported enemies in the private media. Vulnerable and desperate for some limelight, the man who wanted to jail the journalists finally asked to be interviewed.
Although some journalists argued Khama deserved a private media ban because of his attempts to kill the industry while he was still president, some leading publications made the trip to the white house at Plot 3121, President Drive to interview him.
Although some interviewers sounded star-struck and did not squeeze out much from the former president, others managed to crack the man and lay him bare. Even with damaging press from some of the interviews, Khama continued to offer private interviews and it seemed like he actually enjoyed the feedback.
Also in August, at the launch of Francisco Kgoboko Trust where Khama openly de-campaigned Bobonong legislator and Minister of Justice Defence and Security, Shaw Kgathi, the former president discovered the power of social media.
While he was still President, Khama only used social media to condemn and throw some shade at presidents; Donald Trump and Robert Mugabe of US and Zimbabwe respectively. Most of his posts were some humorous and below the belt attempts on commenting on his dislike for Trump during the run-up of US presidential election. Khama actually enjoyed throwing some jabs at the aging northern neighbour.
After his video at Kgoboko trust launch went viral, Khama began to hire social media publishers to provide coverage for him with live videos and pictures. He was later on advised that he could self-publish with his verified Facebook page. He heeded the advice and decided to hire social media administrators. And that was when the hashtags #SuperSKI #Build #makeadifference started to appear on his posts.
On Monday last week, Khama fired up his First tweet. “Just setting up my Twitter. #myfirstTweet” he wrote announcing his arrival to the world of Twitter.
Although the account is not yet verified, his private secretary Mabedi Letsholo has since confirmed that indeed it is Khama’s account.