Dalai Lama puts Khama, gov't on collision course

Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama

Khama says he was invited by the Dalai Lama’s organisation as a chief guest for their March 10, 60th anniversary of an abortive 1959 uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Expressing his frustrations on Wednesday evening which was also his 66th birthday, Khama said Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP), Carter Morupisi wrote to him saying because of the “One-China policy which actually refers more to Taiwan than to Tibet the government policy is to stick to that line, that government would not take any part in funding that trip”. Khama explained that he was challenging government’s decision because in the Constitution he is entitled to four trips in a year.

“…And there are no conditions attached. I can go where I want, I can meet who I want, the government cannot start dictating to me who and where I can go,” Khama explained. The former president and his entourage are due to leave on March 8. Khama added that he has taken the matter to his lawyers to challenge the decision. During his presidency in 2017, Khama risked cutting ties with China after he invited the spiritual leader to visit Botswana.

China considers the Dalai Lama as a secessionist campaigning for Tibetan independence that would break apart China.  Beijing always chastises foreign leaders who meet with him. The Dalai Lama withdrew from his planned visit in August 2017 citing exhaustion, in a move that broke the impasse between the two countries. Reached for comment, Morupisi said the matter is internal and is being discussed by both parties. “We can’t discuss this matter here. It is not supposed to be in the public domain. However, I can confirm that we are in discussion with the former president on the matter, but I can’t share any details of what we are discussing,” he said.

In another matter, government has withdrawn one chef from Khama’s residence and redeployed her to the Botswana Defence Force (BDF). “They have written to one of the staff members saying they are taking her and they have given her a week to respond to the transfer notice and if she doesn’t respond then she is going to the BDF,” Khama disclosed. He said this was again done without consulting him “something they said they would do”. He agreed that these are government employees and if it so wishes can transfer people. “But you see as a courtesy they would consult, saying ‘okay we want to take this person from you next week, next month and we will bring a replacement’, but this was even worse than last time.”

In October last year, Morupisi summarily withdrew six staff members who were deployed at Khama’s office and his official residence. Khama only discovered that on November 1, 2018 he would no longer have government cooks and helpers at his official residence, as they have been all recalled without any replacement.  

He explained that he had initially negotiated with the then incoming president Mokgweetsi Masisi and Morupisi, in March 2018 for the staff complement at his [Khama] office and residence and Masisi who was a few days away from assuming the presidency assured him saying, “You can choose whoever you want”. On the matter, Morupisi said they had agreed with Khama about the transfer of the officer in question.  He said the officer who was transferred is not a chef but a catering officer who did not form part of the former president’s staff complement.

“We discussed and agreed about her transfer because she was never part of the former president’s staff complement.”

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