- My money, asserts and businesses are private matters-he says
- Does not support declaration of asserts and liability law, ‘it’s intrusive’
- Isaac Kgosi, myself own separate businesses
- Doesn’t know what Masisi wants to achieve with asserts declaration law
Former president Ian Khama has refused to answer the nagging question of his net worth saying such questions are intrusive to one’s privacy, unfair and just difficult to deal with as experienced during his tenure as the president.
Khama’s net worth has always been a topical issue, especially among politicians who have always accused him of colluding with his ally and former Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) Isaac Kgosi to milk the state through the DIS.
The question also arose during the over P250 Million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) scandal and the recent undertaking by Khama to personally finance his international and local trips, media coverage and the costly Mosu Airstrip recently dumped by the government which the government says will cost over 5 million to maintain after every five years.
The question now is how much is Khama worth and can his money sustain his costly lifestyle?
“My money, asserts or businesses are private matters,” he told this publication and expressed a zero tolerance attitude to discuss the matter.
According to Khama, nobody should be bothered about his asserts or bank accounts. He says he does not co-own any businesses with Isaac Kgosi, “I don’t know about his business interests. We don’t own anything together,” he says.
Asked for his views on the Declaration of Asserts and Liabilities law, Khama admits that “it is meant to prevent corruption and conflict of interest issues by those holding public office”, but says during his tenure the demand for the introduction of the law had so much complexities and demands, many of which were unfair and had a potential to be intrusive, “initially it wanted to zero in on politicians but we advised that it should also be applied to PPADB officers, Judges and Magistrates etc.”
Secondly it brought in family members and extended family members and there were objections by some that it is unfair to innocent people before it was narrowed to immediate family members and later widened to include bank details. So there were these challenges,” he said.
“Ministers declare to the president and officers declare to their leaders so it’s covered,” he said before adding that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) also has a provision that fully addresses conflict of interest and outlaws non-disclosure.
“Asserts and Liabilities law will therefore to me be a duplication of effort,” he says.
Despite these assertions by the former president, an ever-growing number of countries have adopted ethics and anti-corruption laws that require public officials to declare their assets and income and, increasingly, the assets and income of their spouses and dependent children.
While the requirement to declare income and assets generally is imposed by anti-corruption laws, these laws generally do not require that all of the declared information be made public and indeed some laws only require disclosure to a public agency. The Khama family has been implicated in various corruption scandals.
The new President Mokgweetsi Masisi has said in one of his recent interviews before assuming the presidency that he does not have a big farm and that the only farm that he had was taken by the Land Board to allocate people residential plots.
He also stated he had some few goats and sheep, but he put much of his livelihood on chickens, for both eggs and meat. And these are, according to him, the only assets that he has and said if anyone is in doubt, they are free to verify.
In his inaugural speech on April 1, he promised to bring forward the law that would require everyone who holds public office to declare their assets.
Khama however says he does not know what Masisi is bringing and stands to achieve with the law he has promised,
“I have got no idea what he is going to bring or do and what he stands to achieve,” says Khama whose only investments known to the nation is in the tourism sector.
In a growing number of cases, information published in asset declarations has led to the exposure of substantial unjust enrichment and research shows that several countries with detailed disclosure requirements have experienced a decline in corruption.
De Beers Botswana partnership fruits..
Khama says while many may not see it Botswana has benefited a lot from the partnership. “We have I recent years increased our demands like establishment of companies here to gain from that and we have indeed gained. I think we need to explore and negotiate other possible ways in which we can continue to benefit from this partnership,” he said when speaking about the unparalleled partnership that has lasted since the country’s independence 50 years ago.
De Beers has a portfolio of four companies in Botswana – De Beers Holdings, Debswana, Diamond Trading Company Botswana and De Beers Global Sightholder Sales.
“We now have all these companies and have also established the state-owned Okavango Diamond Company to also sell a share of our diamonds,” he said.
Botswana is the company’s biggest producer country but Khama warns that the introduction of synthetic diamonds heralds a new dawn for the partnership.
“Synthetic diamonds are a threat to any country and I think we will have to double our efforts to market our diamonds and prove that ours are original,”
Land: Blame land boards not me- Khama
In Botswana an application for residential plot is awarded to the applicant after his death, pundits have complained. Only a few get to see their plots while alive. Khama admits that this is the most difficult issue to deal with, “land? eish, that one is a difficult issue but the complications are self-imposed because people have applications almost everywhere and the worst situation is in peri-urban areas where almost everybody has an application,” he said adding that efforts were made to deal with the situation but have not bore much fruits.
“I advocated for the quota system to allow tribes some relief and benefit on their land but the challenge is that we are competing for a limited resource,” he says and adds that “people should blame past land boards for corruption.”
Mogae, Masire and the 2011 strike…
Khama who is fighting a bitter war with President Mokgweetsi Masisi says his relationship with another former president, Festus Mogae who is his leading, persistent and consistent critic is good.
“We are good despite all he has said about me during my term. I have accepted that he is an elder, deserving respect and right to express himself as and when he sees fit. We are a democracy. I know this will disappoint a lot of people,” he says and chuckles giving an impression that this might just be a subtle remark.
Asked to shed light on the 2011 civil service strike scandal in which he was accused of accusing Mogae and another former president, the late Sir Ketumile Masire of trying to run a parallel government, Khama said it was not true, “ they met the late Vice president Merafhe and made their submissions,” he said further adding that he could never disrespect them in that manner. Mogae however in 2015 told this reporter in an interview that Khama tried to silence them and labeled the move as desperate and disrespectful.
But Khama says in fact during his presidency, they had arranged for the former presidents to be briefed regularly on anything they had wanted know about, “we had arranged for them to be briefed on anything they had wanted to know about as a form of good gesture and respect to them,” he said. At the time of his departure Masire had warned in vain against the push of EVM on the country’s electoral process saying the elections are for the citizens and not the government.
Still on the elders, Khama revealed that it is true that he met the ruling party elders Council last four week on his dispute with Masisi, “Yes we met , it was former Minister Magang, former president Mogae, former VP Kedikilwe, former speakers, Balopi and Molomo. We discussed the matter and I gave them my position on the matter and the matter is now with them to decide,” he said but declined to go into details. Khama is said to have asked them to tell him what wrong he had done.
Death Penalty: Majority not been put to death
Khama says Botswana could be killing more as many killers escape the hangman due to what the courts considers as extenuating circumstances. “I am in full support of the death penalty and I think it has served us well. Look at South Africa for instance, an average of 57 people are killed a day due to their life imprisonment law. These are the criminals who kill even if you accede to their demands and this is not the case in Botswana, he says and adds that this is not a human rights issue as some want to put it because the courts are there for checks and balances including the prerogative of mercy excised by the president. We used to have ritual murders which are premeditated and they are not as prevalent as before because they know they are going to be killed,” he said.
Khama continues: “It doesn’t bother me that the executed are not given back for a decent burial. That body belongs to the state and it doesn’t bother me that the death is announced through Radio Botswana. You always knew that he was awaiting his day as pronounced by the courts.”
Toughest decision ever during presidency..
Closing down BCL mine, “That was a taxing decision for me. I tossed and tossed in my sleep over it but the time had come because it was bleeding coffers every day,” Khama says, and adds that closure had been postponed over sympathy for the workers. “Whoever inherits that mine will have to refinance and inject millions and millions into it to force it into life,” he says and adds that it was also increasingly becoming risky as miners were forced to go deeper to mine.
“We had to inject another billion soon, a few months after clearing a loan for them at the bank and their demands were perennial and our realization was also that copper market prices were depressed,” he said further adding that government remained the sole owner after investors pulled out over years.
On snubbing Zimbabwe inauguration…
“People should give President Emerson Mnangagwa a chance to rebuild Zimbabwe. The damage has taken so many years and the solution will not take two days,” he says.
Why did you not attend to the inauguration? “The Zimbabwean government had invited me and not the Botswana government as it was put. But I had freed another weekend and then the court case came up which then meant I was engaged for the new date,” he says and concludes that he would not have accepted a lift from the Botswana government under such circumstances that prevailed then.
Maternal family’s interests in Botswana’s affairs…
“We are still connected with my mother’s family. We call, visit and write to each other on a regular basis and I am even visiting them in a few weeks time.” Khama says. He says “they are very interested in the affairs of Botswana and keep track of the developments and what is happening to the family.”
Khama also says his elder sister, Jacqueline Tebogo Khama is still around, “she is ok and keeps well.”
How have you managed her drinking problems as the family?
“It was you the media who wrote everything. I personally don’t think she is the black sheep of the family as she was made to be. Her drinking did not affect us badly as it was portrayed. She takes care of us as the elder sister and has a beautiful family.