P35million family affair

  • How Thea Khama co-runs ministry with husband Tshekedi
  • Wife oversees staging of pula on broadway + Khama family embroiled in land feud
  • Tshekedi uses ministerial jet for personal errands


Thea Khama, the wife to Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama constantly features at events that fall under her husband’s ministerial portfolio despite being an unelected personage. Though such events fall under the auspices of the Minister Thea Khama does not attend such events as a spouse to the minister but is afforded ministerial protocol as she controls mandates overseen by her husband’s ministry.
Thea is of the view she is not only helping her husband but further that she is equal to him in the public domain. When applauded by a social media user for being to TK what Michelle Obama is to Barack Obama, Thea responded back on Facebook that ‘‘I’m always telling people to get out of the habit of saying behind every great man is an even better woman or some such nonsense. We are equals – different yet with the same ability for greatness’’.
While her position may be correct that wives can have the same ability for greatness as their husbands, it is her display of greatness in the same ministry run by her husband that attracts the debate of conflict of interest in their professional relationship.
Thea is the patron of the I love Botswana Ensemble (ILBE) which is bankrolled by the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), which falls under Khama’s ministerial portfolio. The ensemble is a collaborative assortment of various groups led by Mophato Dance Theatre’s Andrew Kola under the auspices of Botswana Tourism Organisation. Last year the group performed in Berlin, Germany and New York from where they recently returned after having performed on Broadway.
Thea’s role as the patron of ILBE has attracted controversy as governance experts view the appointment as bordering on conflict of interest; for her to lead an organisation that constantly draws financial support from her husband’s ministry. In one of her social media posts, Thea thanks her husband for ‘‘seeing the vision when we told you first how we wished to make Botswana and Batswana proud on Broadway’’. By ‘we’, Thea means she was part of the team that negotiated with her husband to make it possible for the ILBE to travel to New York.
Thea believes she can and must be allowed to step in for her husband’s ministerial duties because while in New York she posted a message to her husband that read ‘‘we wanted you beside us, but it was not to be…if no one else will carry your torch to ease the load-I will..’’.
Thea is of the view that there are people out there who are jealous of her husband’s achievements. She posted on Facebook, ‘‘For your dedication and persistence despite a myriad of obstacles, insults, walking the gauntlet of jealous mean-spirited intents by hard hearted ones…you have fought for good and the betterment of so many souls’’.
While under normal circumstances the role of a patron is limited to just giving support and direction to an organization, Thea is at the centre of the administrative operations of ILBE. Her profile shows that she is in charge of ‘‘uniting cast and crew, networking and connecting with sponsors, promoting goodwill and PR, helping with script development and writing for projects, assisting with travel, admin and coordination of team’’ .
She does all these roles despite the fact that ILBE already has a Manager, Kealeboga Motsumi who is supposed to be conducting the same duties being carried out by Thea the Patron.
Thea also manages Gaborone Global March for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions, an initiative that last year staged a march that took place from the Airport Junction to Kalahari Flying Club in Gaborone and supported by her husband’s ministry. The march raised funds for the Tlhokomela Trust which has Thea’s husband and her brother in law former president Ian Khama as Board Members.
For the first time, Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) has washed its hands of Thea’s dealings with them, insisting that she was brought in by Andrew Kola and his team at the I Love Botswana Ensemble. BTO Public Relations Manager Keitumetse Setlang said Thea was introduced to them by the ILBE as their patron and as BTO they have no authority to dictate who should be appointed as a Patron. ILBE Manager Kealeboga Motsumi also confirmed on Monday that they are the ones who roped in Thea as their patron.
Setlang, in the same interview, denied that BTO paid for Thea’s daughter, Tahlia when she travelled with her mother to Berlin and New York for the ILBE shows. She also refused to divulge the amount spent on sending the ILBE to New York and only affirmed that, ‘‘Payments were done in accordance with the contract amounts which are between the contracted companies, being Mophato Dance theatre. We are therefore not at liberty to discuss a bilateral contract agreement with a third party, safe (sic) to say this covered their travel expenses, accommodation, subsistence allowances, and appearance fees’’.
This publication has, however, learned that P34 million was spent on the Broadway show. The money was used for flights, accommodation and subsistence allowances for the more than 70 entourage members that made the trip. BTO also had to pay for venues where ILBE staged their rehearsals and performances.
This publication also has it on good authority that the script for the Broadway show was not written by Thea but instead a locally renowned theatre scriptwriter was engaged and made to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Asked on how BTO ended up engaging Tahlia Khama, Tshekedi’s daughter as makeup artist at the Heart of the City carnival that was sponsored by BTO, Setlang said they never directly hired her and if at all her services were used it must have been through third parties. ‘‘Heart of the City Carnival was sponsored by BTO, with various components of the event, being, music, Food festival a, fashion show and a carnival parade, coordinated by private sector. While we were overseeing the individual components of the three component event, such oversight was at strategic level, and therefore we would not have dealt with outsourced companies by the individual companies (sic) that took care of the various components of the event. We would therefore not have dealt with sub contracted companies or individuals, by the various role players. BTO therefore did not contract her for any role at Heart of the City Carnival’’, Setlang explained.
Reached for comment, Thea initially sent a response through WhatsApp but immediately recalled (deleted) it and then said, ‘‘I will talk to you later. I’m not refusing, it’s just that I’d like to formalize this for you and not discuss it here’’. She however did not get back to us by the time of going for press on Monday night.