KHAMA’S FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL
“Khama has no legacy to save, only his skin”
- Suspensions loom at BDP
- They attacked a sitting president
- Khama plays the sympathy card?
- 8/15 regions already endorsed Masisi
- Masisi to start ignoring Khama
- Venson- Moitoi still in the race
The “minstrel show” that was the Botswana Democratic Party Serowe elders meeting this weekend has unveiled the deep rooted fears and the paranoia of former president Ian Khama, who suddenly finds himself living in a world where he is required to engage in desperate manoeuvrings to lure public sympathy: party insiders summed up.
The Serowe meeting sought to establish what may have happened when, at the previous weekend’s meeting, Serowe MP Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi suffered a major vote of no confidence at the Central Regional Congress. The Congress, comprising of all Serowe branches of the BDP endorsed President Mokgweetsi Masisi as their preferred presidential candidate. Venson-Moitoi has since taken the legal route to challenge the process.
Over the past weekend in Serowe, former president Khama prevaricated as he told the audience of Serowe Elders that President Masisi wanted them all buried. This accusation made only three days after that of his ally and former spy boss Isaac Kgosi’s claim that security agents were assigned to kill him. The Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has issued a statement refuting Kgosi’s claim stating that Kgosi deliberately confronted security agents who were in a routine patrol and aggressively antagonised them.
Despite calls to reveal who called for the Serowe Elders’ meeting, no one is willing to divulge who convened the meeting or name the elders who assembled it. Tati East MP Guma Moyo, who was one of the speakers and the only Member of Parliament besides presidential aspirant Venson Moitoi who attended said when asked by this publication, “I cannot answer that, it was convened by people of Serowe as elders and I am not from there, speak to Venson.”
The party Chairman of Publicity and International Relations Kagelelo Kentse distanced the party from the meeting and said that the meeting was informal with no resolution taken.
Kentse noted that the party is currently seeking clarification as to the origins of the meeting and would consider its options from there onwards. “It is advisable for the party to avoid rocking the boat that much because this is clearly meant to incite and see how people would react.”
Kentse said “what transpired at the meeting was unfortunate as respectable statesmen should know how to speak and conduct themselves to avoid seeming like they are attacking a sitting President. The BDP code of conduct says we could suspend but that will not benefit us.”
Party insiders revealed that they are of the view that the meeting was a deliberate move by Khama to provoke a reaction that will gain him and Venson-Moitoi a sympathy support. “It is a very political issue, you cannot stop them from gathering but then again if you suspend them from the party you will be accused of purging election competitors and stifling democracy, then you give them the sympathy support they are clearly seeking to obtain,” sources say.
For his part Kentse said that, the party has advised Masisi not to respond to Khama’s political rally style utterance anymore, but were aware of the underlying fear of setting a bad precedence within the party. “We are still observing how far this will go.”
Masisi sympathizers say that suspending Venson-Moitoi or Khama would not be the best move but it would be better to silence them by going on to defeat them at the party presidential elections.
Venson in response, held the comments by the BDP public relations in contempt, stating that it is compromised since they were campaigning for Masisi against her. “The BDP PR is the last to speak for the party; they are part of the Masisi campaign team. Note that it is wrong for any candidate to use party structures for their own benefit,” Venson-Moitoi responded.
Venson- Moitoi expressed her confidence that she was still in the running despite 8 out of fifteen party regions having already endorsed Masisi against her. “Endorsements are only that, they are not votes. The votes will proceed by secret ballot and only delegates will vote at the congress.”
Venson-Moitoi, who revealed she has sought legal advice on the constitutionality of the procedures adopted by the Central region congress, holds a view that if the endorsements in the other eight regions were conducted in the “same manner as the Serowe one by the same central committee subcommittee member then I am not worried at all because I bet you he made the same mistakes throughout, I will wait for democrats to vote,” Venson-Moitoi told this publication.
The former cabinet member however avoided responding to utterances made by former president Khama at the Serowe meeting that there exists a conspiracy to bury him and his family. She said she has opted to stay clear of the escalating feud, “I tried once to intervene and nearly had my nose bitten off by Masisi. You are asking me to guess Khama’s intention and clearly I won’t,” she explained.
As it currently stands per the BDP constitution, 14 regions are required to nominate or endorse their preferred party president who will be voted through a secret ballot at the national congress. Despite statistics from Tsholetsa House showing that Masisi is leading the race with nominations and endorsements, the party spokesperson, Kentse explained that Venson-Moitoi still has a chance, depending on the final outcomes of the nominations, to nominate herself and submit a form signed by 50 people endorsing her 24 hours before congress, it would be then that the same people who nominated and publicly endorsed Masisi could change track and support for Venson-Moitoi.
“There is still an internal debate as to whether the endorsements are legally binding and cannot be changed at the last minute but despite the comfort in the endorsements Masisi already has, the outcome of the secret ballot can however change everything,” Kentse clarified the process.
The Serowe meeting which was snubbed by almost all Members of Parliament was only attended by Venson-Moitoi in her respect as the region MP, Tati East MP Guma and Roselyn Panzirah. Guma who is not from the region is alleged to be disgruntled following probes on tax avoidance that saw his company placed under judicial management while Panzirah a long time associate of Guma, from the South East region was recently dropped from BDP central committee by Masisi.
KHAMA WEAKENED AND AFRAID
The duel between the predecessor and the successor is a reaction to a series of events that sought to weaken Khama’s dominance and influence at the government enclave and in the political sphere, that began in 2018 with the sacking of his trusted ally and former spy boss Isaac Kgosi, who was feared by most Batswana at the time.
The current unravelling illustrates, that in his handing over of the presidency at the twilight of his second term, Khama had sought to make a surreptitious deal to protect his family interests, a deal that if upheld would ensure that Khama and his family remain the puppet masters running the State behind shadows; if not directly. His predecessor, Masisi did not honour the alleged deal or at least in his own words- had not promised anyone a position of the vice presidency.
Political analysts hold the view that thee day the decision was made at the Office of the President not to appoint TK Khama as Vice President, the wheels to wean Khama of his ominous dominance were also set in motion.
Chief among the strategy to weaken the Khama stranglehold on Botswana was the cancellations of lucrative tenders within the military and specifically the multi-billion Gripen jet fighter deal; denying Khama access to state aircraft and the privileges of employing Kgosi as his personal secretary.
The disarmament of Khama’s young brother, Tshekedi’s Ministry of Tourism and his subsequent removal from it a year later are seen as deep wounds to the Khama aspirations of retaining control of their self-asserted birth right as children of Seretse Khama, Botswana’s independence movement leader and first president.
Tshekedi’sdemotion was preceded by what government alleged to be propaganda promulgated by a third force for politically motivated reasons conveniently aimed at scoffing the disarmament of his tourism ministry and the intent by government to review the hunting ban.
In December 2018, Venson-Moitoi was sacked from her Minister of Local Government and Rural Development post after she confirmed that she intended to challenge Masisi for the position of party president. Her candidacy is largely seen as a Khama’s strategy to wrestle the presidency from Masisi.
Venson-Moitoi is adamant that it is her personal political aspirations that guide her and that she has not been motivated by the two men’s feud; which she says she is trying to stay away from despite Khama taking jabs at Masisi during his campaign for her.
The feud between Masisi and Khama reached its zenith after the arrest of Kgosi at the airport in January over allegations of tax evasion. BDP insiders point out that it is then that the former statesmen ceased being diplomatic about his discontent with Masisi to a point where he accused the State of harassing the controversial spy boss during the search and seizure operations at his house and various properties.
“That’s is when he knew that they were also coming to probe him because he was Kgosi’s boss; now he is gunning for public sympathy support so that he can later call it a witch hunt. Like a typical soldier he is scheming to play the victim as you can see at their gathering this weekend,” one of the senior party members said anonymously.
Pundits say that Khama’s backing for Venson-Moitoi on her presidential bid, which is against the BDP’s 50-year tradition is an unconstitutional attempt to rule from grave following what he perceived as betrayal by Masisi when he reneged on their agreement to appoint Tshekedi Khama as Vice President.
Masisi’s constitutionally empowered decision to appoint Boteti MP Slumber Tsogwane as VP has thrown the party into a factional war that has even pitted the so-called Serowe elders against the BDP Council of Elders and the rest of the party structures. Insiders view it as Khama’s efforts to upset likely investigations against him following the raiding of his company secretary John Barry Little and Kgosi.