It’s clear that tension between former president Ian Khama and State President Mokgweetsi Masisi is dividing the country as many have different views on the matter. Mmegi reporter TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE traces where the rivalry started
Mfundisi said public confidence and trust on the Khama administration at the end of his tenure was extremely low. Generally, people accused the Khama-Masisi regime of being undemocratic, authoritarian, unethical, and accountable, amongst other things.
Masisi wanted to disassociate himself from these unpleasant perceptions on the outgoing administration. To him, Masisi went all out to demonise former president Khama to woo the voters to his newly branded CAVA BDP brigade.
The 2019 general election was used as a platform to launch a vicious and vitriolic propaganda against Khama and his associates. Anyone who associated with Khama was a demon and needed to be shunned by the voters. An assault on Khama’s presidential benefits were questioned and assertions of Khama’s autocratic leadership tossed.
Continued harassment of the former president by the current one continued unabated since Masisi assumed office. SKI, as a decorated military leader, responded to the continued attacks on his character and integrity. He said the CAVA BDP propaganda machinery was augmented by State media, which became the rallying point for Masisi attacks on Khama. He added that Khama started to push back against relentless attacks propagated by the CAVA BDP and the deep state. Therefore, State resources, institutions, processes, and operatives were mobilised to launch disinformation on the former president.
Khama and his supporters began to launch their own salvo against the current President and his associates. He said eventually, Khama formally left the CAVA BDP and aligned himself with the newly formed political formation, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). The BPF was formed on the eve of the 2019 general election and Khama became its patron and major political asset. By joining an opposition outfit, it led the BDP and government to shiver because Khama has political clout. He is a charismatic leader and a Paramount Chief of Bangwato tribe which controls the whole of the Central District.
“The Khama appeal goes beyond the Central District (CDC) and he has following throughout the country. CAVA BDP was faced with existential threat towards the 2019 general election. It lost substantial number of followers, particularly in the CDC, including MPs and councillors. It lost support in its CDC heartland and the results of the 2019 general election attested to that. The BDP lost all three constituencies in the Serowe area. It lost most of the northern constituencies to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). Post 2019 general polls, and Masisi had now received legitimacy to govern Botswana, he upped the attack on SKI and his past administration,” said Mfundisi.
He said Masisi acted as if he was not part of the Khama administration as the former right hand man, as VP. Therefore, he claimed he was transforming the country from a decade of corruption, abuse, and misuse of state power and autocratic leadership amongst other things.
“He was climbing on a bandwagon of unpopular SKI regime and creating a cult of leadership. He was immediately after assuming office bestowed the title of ‘Dr’ by the UB, a gesture that shocked many,” he said.
The UB academic felt that some of Khama’s legal entitlements were tweaked to send a strong message that he is no longer in charge. The political analyst said appointing a director general of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS) Peter Magosi, who apparently was fired by Khama from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), is another case in point.
“Armed with DIS assets under an arch enemy of Khama, Masisi was well poised to deal with Khama once for all. In addition to the DIS, the DCEC, the BDF, and the Botswana Police Service (BPS) were mobilised to undermine the authority and character of Khama. Even the justice system was beefed up by Masisi appointees to ring-fence his hold on power. Political prosecutions were undertaken to further marginalise and damage the integrity of SKI. Malicious allegations were levelled against SKI and his associates within and without the country. Allegations of P100 billion surfaced and SKI was implicated,” he said.
He furrher stated that Khama’s appointed DG of DIS was under the radar of the state law enforcement and security agencies. Saying that allegations of corruption, maladministration, money laundering, terrorism, and other serious misdemeanours were preferred to Khama loyalists and supporters. He said state resources were used for what some label political witch hunt on the Khama loyalty. Currently, there are allegations of the DIS attempting to arrest Khama for some perceived criminal activities or deeds. He stated that the BPS has surrendered law enforcement duties to the DIS, which has no legal business in exercising policing functions. On the issue of division amongst Batswana, Mfundisi said tribal bigotry is being propped up by certain populist politicians to promote their selfish interests at the behest of national interests. “The deep State is mobilising people to present certain narratives to advance narrow parochial outcomes. The President is not viewed as a unifier but polariser to perpetuate his CAVA BDP agenda. He is surrounded by political narcissists who share his authoritarian tendencies. MEK regime displays lack of empathy and morality. His government is undermining institutions that were established to promote public interest,” he said.