It has now become custom that towards the end of every year, people look back and reminisce on the year-their triumphs and struggles. For the great Khama royal family however, the year 2018 has been what Queen Elizabeth II described in November 1992 as an annus horribilis- a Latin phrase meaning ‘horrible year’, observes TEFO PHEAGE.
ho would have ever imagined that a time would come when the Khama family and their friends would be so powerless, helpless and vulnerable, as they currently are? Yes, it has come- unimaginable as it seems and the year is 2018-certainly to quote the Queen of England, an Annus horribilis year in the Khama family calendar of historic events.
The Khama family like any other has had their high and low moments in life. In 1980 their father was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in London and later returned home after it was determined that no cure was possible. He succumbed to the disease at 59 leaving behind four children. Their first child Jacqueline was 30, Khama 27 and the twins Tshekedi and Anthony 22. The children were left in the soft hands of Ruth who died in 2002 at 78 following an attack of throat cancer. The children, then had grown and could now fend for themselves.
The family was saved by Former president Festus Mogae when he paved way for Ian to be president, a position he eventually filled in 2008.This was obviously a thrilling moment for the family. Khama’s brother Tshekedi would later be elected to parliament in 2014 and promoted by his brother to a cabinet post under a Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife which the family has investments in. Everything was secured-power, good living, money all other good things associated with dominating a country from the economy to its highest political office and everything in between.
In August 2018, this publication made a call to Tshekedi Khama’s son, Kaedi under the cover of Ministry of Immigration and Nationality in an effort to draw information from him on one of his matters under the said Ministry. The young lad went ballistic and vowed to sue the government for having his number in their contact list. “I demand to know. Who gave you my contacts. As far as I am concerned, I have never left my contacts at the ministry or any other government office. I am suing you on Monday,” he said.
The boy, young as he is, says he is now in diamond trading business which his cousin-Marcus Ter Haar-Jaqualine Khama’s son is also in through the state-owned Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) where he is the Managing Director. The same young man would later post himself on social media with his sister, Tahlia boarding a government aircraft saying they are having fun and holidaying.
Their mother would subsequently come into the picture and make, as she has done recently, very controversial statements-most of which attracted bad publicity to the family. Batswana social media subscribers viciously attacked her role in the elephant scandal and called President Masisi to act against her husband. Her husband would, under pressure to account for her conduct, later state he doesn’t control his wife’s conduct on social media.
Interestingly, we do not hear much about Tony’s children just as their father who has kept a low profile, except at the height of the Seleka Springs scandal which revealed that he had been winning tenders from the Botswana Defence Force, then under the leadership of his eldest brother-Ian.
Khama senior told this publication in an interview that the family has been well despite a few challenges and further added that they are in good terms with their maternal family and keep in touch frequently.
Life however has changed and 2018 has been a rough year for the royal family. Owing to a failed chess move within the ruling partly, in a vain attempt to retain power after retirement, Ian Khama and his family now find themselves powerless and vulnerable for the first time in the nation’s 52 year history.
The loss of the grip on power seems to have hit the family harder than expected and they seem to be failing to cope with it. In an interview with this publication recently, Khama admits that life is not the same as when he was in office. “In politics people often like or associate with you for convenience. Once you leave, they shift allegiance,” he said further adding that people are out to humiliate his family and close associates.
The family has been through a lot in 2018, the latest being the loss of a Ministry that was bringing bread to the table, through an unexpected cabinet reshuffle that kicked out Tshekedi. The aftershocks are still rumbling in the cavernous offices of Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO).
TK had previously threated to resign from government if he were to be removed from the tourism ministry, needless to say, he has reneged; the former president still requires a pair of eyes and ears in an increasingly hostile cabinet.
Removing TK from tourism must surely have ranked as most painful decision to endure after firing of former spy boss-Isaac Kgosi who was in every way possible linked to Ian Khama. The reshuffle and the Kgosi saga are the only decisions in Masisi’s plan of action which do not have alternatives or remedies but are the most far-reaching in their impact.
When government clipped his wings, Khama survived on lifts and started window-shopping to buy himself an aircraft. He ironically rushed to the private media, whom he had vilified when in office, when OP imposed what he termed a media blackout on him. He vowed to sponsor his Mosu airstrip when the government pulled out of it. His brother Tshekedi and his wife oozed pain when the government withdrew the weapons of war from his Ministry but like his elder brother Khama admitted that he was powerless. He fought a losing battle when the government prosecuted his ally Dr Mike Chase over the elephant scandal-a war he was forced to join and lead against his conscience.
It was in 2018 when the family learnt that there is something called ‘NO’ and that the Nation did not exist to serve their needs. In some instances, courts have been the only alternative to get things done in the face of orders from his very own former office. Khama has threatened Masisi on the refusal to grant him ex-spy chief Kgosi as a private secretary, a move he has since given up on.
The ramifications of the change of guard extends far beyond Khama or Tshekedi but also threatens to affect more who have been under the Khama cushion. Ian Khama says his associates like Tshepang Mabaila were fired from the party because they are his friends. Mabaila faced a serious disciplinary actions for trying to overthrow the party and national President. The gravity of the rift suggests that the changes, dismissals and demotions are bound to affect more who still remain on the firing line as the power-struggle battle continues.
With the entire government apparatus at his helm, it would not be far-fetched to conclude that Masisi will successfully prevail, but not without a bruising. Khama remains a strong political animal whose political powers and influence is his only weapon and bargaining tool.
It was in 2018 when Masisi called powerful elders to talk to Khama, a rare development which Masisi says has not born any fruits, as it was dismissed by Khama as another calculated attack on him.
This was indeed an eventful year for the Khamas, a proper annus horriblis, and like many they have to wish the year away for a better 2019- the year of elections in which all their hopes aimed at seeing Masisi lose. Khama has not ruled out working with opposition and news of a new faction-new Jerusalem within the BDP are dimming and fading with time. The truth remains elusive and the extent of the animosity is certainly unknown, what is clear is that there is no love lost between Masisi and the Khamas.
To many, 2018 was the end of an era for the Khamas- the cessation of what they call a free-role in soccer. This will obviously be a not-so-happy Christmas for the Khama family but nevertheless a time for celebration among the vast majority of the population.