SEROWE: "He is driving this country to another Rwanda." Former president, Ian Khama made the comments at a party meeting purportedly called by the party elders in Serowe, saying Presicent Mokgweetsi Masisi 's "tribalistic" utterances constituted a grave threat to national stability.
A charged up Khama said such sentiments had at no time surfaced during the tenure of the former presidents, and it has never been a concern under his leadership hence the peace that prevailed. He said the concerns are alarming and cannot be tolerated. He described tribalism as very dangerous and appealed to Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members across the country to be patient as there was no tribe more important nor superior to others. “As Bangwato paramount chief, I reiterate to you that we are not superior to any tribe. I have never said that in my entire life and no state president has ever said it before me,” said Khama.
Khama called upon Bangwato to exercise restraint on some of the issues as they might separate the nation.
He noted that it all started recently in Tlokweng where President Masisi reportedly said there are some tribes that think they are superior to others when addressing a party function.
Khama told the BDP meeting, “he was referring to Bangwato as the purported superior tribe,” to a thunderous applause from the partisan crowd, oblivious that they were also fanning tribalism sentiments. He was quick to wonder where the matter really emanated from. He also warned Bangwato that there is no tribe that is superior to any in Botswana as all the tribes were equal before the law.
Khama agreed with Masisi when he indicated that he did not want to see Botswana’s good tribal tolerance deteriorating to the level of Rwanda situation where tribalism once reared its ugly face and turned into a genocide that killed thousands of the country’s tribal people.
“But, the way our country is run now, it may go the way of Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia and Venezuela if tribalism is not nipped in the bud now before it even raises its ugly head,” he stressed.
Khama noted that Batswana have lived in harmony, and no tribe was superior to the other. He felt the incumbent was hell-bent on dividing the nation by fuelling issues of tribalism.
Khama said it would only take a year to destroy democracy that took the nation 52 years to build if tribalism and related sentiments were tolerated.
The former president who predominantly spoke in the vernacular said assuming the worst happens, the incumbent would be responsible for driving the nation into tribal conflicts.
He thundered: “We are all equal . No tribe is superior to the other in our nation and it has always been like that. Tribal conflicts are not amusing.”
“We have never had that experience with the late Sir Seretse Khama and Sir Ketumile Masire including former president Festus Mogae and not at all under my presidency. I wonder how it would suddenly be an issue now.”
Khama admitted there was a problem between him and Masisi, but he warned that their differences should not be an excuse to cause tribal divisions.
He blamed the latter for delaying to step forward to meet him so that they could resolve their differences. Khama said he has waited 11 months with hope that the President would make things right, but instead he constantly attacked the latter.
He said time has come to fix things hence; he supports the “more experienced Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi to lead the country.”
Venson-Moitoi was equally concerned by the tribalism charges. She said the unending tribal utterances by the sitting President distressed her.
She felt that statements are as a result of the support that she was getting from Khama. She pointed out that Khama previously denied her the vice presidency because of fear of potential tribal linkage accusations.
“I told Khama while he was the president that instead of choosing Masisi he should give me the Vice President. He told me he could not because he was avoiding the probable accusation of favouritism and or regionalism due to our backgrounds as both coming from Serowe. He wanted someone from the southern part of the country,” she said wondering if that amounted to tribalism.
Venson-Moitoi indicated that now when Khama supports her in her presidential bid, it’s called tribalism, “no, that’s serious contradiction.”
She said that whatever Khama and Masisi are fighting for should not affect her campaign for the party presidency.
Tati-East Member of Parliament Samson Moyo Guma also weighed in on the tribal matter at a similar meeting said the nation was at crossroads.
Guma said they supported and campaigned for President Masisi with high hopes that he would build and unite the nation. He said contrary to their hope,s the President did the reverse and democracy was now at stake.
“We don’t know what went wrong. Our democracy is at stake. We all have to stand up to defend our democracy. If there was ever a time to work for this country, it would be now.
“We all have responsibility to build our country. Our forefathers have fought for this democracy. They will roll in their graves if we fail to defend our democracy,” he said.
He said tribalism should never exist, but rather, “we should identify ourselves as one nation.”
Guma implored upon BDP diehards never to listen to anyone trying to sow seeds of tribalism as consequences in the long term could be dire.