Botswana’s handpicked president refuses to be a puppet

Botswana’s handpicked president refuses to be a puppet

Handpicking presidential successors in a bid to manipulate them rarely works.

– It didn’t work for Chiluba
– It did not work for Dos Santos of Angola
-Look at what is happening in Botswana. Ian Khama is regretting.
– Maybe that is why Edgar Lungu will rather go for it for a third term and die in office


When Mokgweetsi Masisi was sworn in as Botswana’s president earlier this year, everyone expected him to toe the line. He was handpicked by outgoing president Ian Khama, who ran the country for two constitutional terms with an iron fist amid rising cronyism and corruption.
But Masisi has made changes that were unthinkable a year ago, steadily pushing the hands of the Khama clan away from the levers of power.

Khama’s controversial security chief, Isaac Kgosi, was the first ally to be sacked. “He served this country with distinction for 40 years” was Khama’s angry reaction.
Kgosi, Khama’s batman when he was Botswana Defence Force chief, also faces corruption charges.
Significantly, the outburst was made to the privately owned The Voice after Masisi’s administration refused to allow Khama to re-employ Kgosi as his private secretary.
Khama no longer enjoys unfettered access to the state-controlled media.

As president, Khama disdained the private media, describing it as “shallow, boring … never contributing anything”, unpatriotic and partisan.
Masisi also reshuffled the Cabinet, sacking several ministers and redeploying others, and shook up the civil service. Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Minister Sadique Kebonang, linked with Kgosi to a graft scandal in the National Petroleum Fund, was dropped. Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services Prince Maele, a Khama loyalist, did not make the cut. The government recalled Roy Blackbeard, Botswana’s “ambassador for life” in London, who had resigned as an MP to make way for Khama in 1998.
Masisi dodged questions about tensions with his predecessor. Then in a televised State of the Nation address, he admitted relations were so bad that he had asked former president Festus Mogae and other ruling party elders to mediate between them. Khama was not amused, saying in a press statement that he was made to seem “the one at fault”.

In part, Masisi is reacting to the worsening governance standards that occurred under Khama’s watch. A corruption perception report by Transparency International suggests a slip from 2008 to 2017. Botswana is now fifth in the Ibrahim Index of Governance in Africa, down from second in 2014.
Masisi told the Sunday Standard, while he was vice-president, that there were plans to sack him. The flashpoint, he said, was his refusal of Khama’s request for the appointment of his younger brother, Tourism Minister Tshekedi Khama, as vice-president. Khama complains that Masisi has reneged on agreements, but refuses to elaborate.

There has also been conflict over Khama’s legal entitlements as former head of state. One issue was his request to continue flying in military aircraft. Masisi said use of military planes was not a right of former presidents. In October, the government withdrew five members of Khama’s support staff, prompting his bitter complaint that the situation was getting out of hand and needed “legal intervention”. The government reinstated the officers, and Masisi apologised and affirmed his acceptance of the Former Presidents’ Pensions and Retirement Benefits Act.
Masisi has also started to roll back Khama’s policy legacy. For example, he has opened doors for dialogue with trade unions and the media.

Khama shocked many with his pronouncement that he still considers himself president of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Party secretary general Mpho Balopi insists that Masisi now leads it.
The BDP constitution states that “the president designate … [becomes] the party president upon the predecessor lawfully vacating that position”.

Khama’s family has significant economic power, mainly in Botswana’s strategic ecotourism business. Tshekedi’s appointment to the tourism portfolio was perceived as a move to safeguard the family’s interests. Ian Khama has a stake in Linyanti Investments, which owns the 1 300km2 Linyanti Concession in the Okavango Delta. Khama’s lawyer, Parks Tafa, chaired the board of Wilderness Holdings, the parent of premier ecotourism company Wilderness Safaris, for most of Khama’s presidency, and Marcus ter Haar, Khama’s nephew, is a nonexecutive board member.

The recent allegation of an elephant massacre may have its roots in the leadership struggle. Masisi’s government drew fierce criticism from international conservation groups after claims that 90 elephants had been poached. Thea Khama, Tshekedi’s wife, publicly blamed it on Masisi’s disarmament of the anti-poaching unit. But doubt was cast on the claims when the government took journalists on a tour that revealed 19 elephant carcasses. According to the National Anti-Poaching Committee, only six were victims of poaching.

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  • comment-avatar
    Oldone 2 weeks ago

    Zambiawatchdog u r on point with the khama story.masisi is a Godsend.khama took our innocence and raped this country for decades while he cowed all into cronyism and fearful silence akin to arap moi’s regime.Thank God for Sisiboy,please keep him in your prayers cos khama is not taking this lying down..good work zw..newbi must a troll

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    Musumali Liyunga 2 weeks ago

    It is also elementary reasoning to think that each and every news article is 100 percent true and accurate. It is up to us as readers to make our own assessment and judgement. I do not see any wisdom in denouncing each and every article of the Watchdog. Surely the Watchdog should also be entitled to its own exaggeration as long as this this does not amount to defamation.

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    Newbi 2 weeks ago

    What nonsense.  Ian Khama actually left his post early to allow this man time to grow into the position.  
    Khama was a fierce critic of corruption and lack of democratic leadership throughout Africa. For instance, he was one of the few to publicly criticize Mugabe.  He also left a well functioning country, one of the richest in Africa.  Khama stole NOTHING. A very principled man.  

    STFU Watchdog! What crack do you idiots smoke and put this crap on paper? 

    I stopped reading this garbage awhile back and decided to see if you had untying newsworthy today and as usual complete nonsensical fabrications mascaraing as journalistic reports. You write nonsense that is easy refuted.  Clowns. 
    You are truly a waste of time publication.  Shame on you.  

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    Muntu Bulyo 2 weeks ago

    He is doing the right thing. When you are President its your turn to be in charge and to do the right things. Even here, in Zambia, Mwanawasa MHSRIP, a true Mwanawachishi refused to be manipulated by those that claimed to have put him in office. Only those that have no vision and ideas can allow those outsiders manipulate them.

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    BaLazo 2 weeks ago

    Corruption is infectious, how can you survive when you are sorrounded by some of the most corrupt countries.

  • comment-avatar
    Lisimba Mukobotoire 2 weeks ago

    Wealthy will always generate conflicts. It is only in Zambia where there is poverty that keeps people peaceful.