- Khama’s longtime lawyer concerned about fallout, tensions
- Says President Masisi deserves to rule in peace
- Says it is not good for the country, party and themselves
- Opens up on his client-friend relationship with Khama
- ‘Khama did not consult me on engaging opposition leaders’
Former president Ian Khama’s longtime legal advisor and confidante, Parks Tafa has expressed disappointment in the manner in which the relationship between Khama and president Mokgweetsi Masisi has turned out.
In a rare interview with this publication, Tafa who has fully recovered from a spate of poor health said the deterioration of relations between the two leaders is not anything to brag about and should be a cause for concern for any patriotic Motswana.
“The dispute, tension, fallout or whatever it is between the two leaders should stop in the best interest of the nation. I am personally not happy at how things have turned out. This brings so much instability in our country.”
Tafa pointed out that “The other sad thing is that it is too soon and ruins the smooth transition the world witnessed a few months ago.” According to Tafa, Masisi deserves to rule in peace like any other leader of this country.
“President Masisi deserves to rule in peace. I supported him and still do even today as my president and party leader. We are equally close just as I am with Khama and used to go to his farm a lot.”
Tafa emphasised that Khama needed peace too because every country needs leadership which is at peace for the country to prosper.
Tafa however shied away from discussing the issues at hand saying he only recently returned from UK where he was glad to say, he underwent very successful surgery, “besides I do not want to pass judgment and say I am disappointed in the manner in which the duo handled the matter, these are my elders and leaders,” remarked Tafa “and if given the chance I would not mind to intervene.”
Like many, Tafa expressed shock at how things have turned out, “I know these men to be very close, confidantes, close friends. Why do you think Masisi was chosen among so many?”
Tafa who is also the former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) electoral board chairperson said he is still a member of the party in good standing and adds that he is “worried because the chaos paints the party in bad light on the eve of general elections.”
“Imagine you are on the eve of elections and this happens. We cannot and should not deny the problem because we will suffer a lot including those who have not taken part in creating the problem.”
Tafa is quick to point out the example of the split within the BDP which led to the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), which he said paralyzed the BDP and tainted its image. He expresses hope that those tasked with mediation will succeed.
It was a struggle to get BMD members to return, reveals Tafa “people do not know what was at stake, we had to urge and beg those who had gone to return to the party. I know because I was often part of the team.”
Is Tafa still Khama’s legal advisor?
Tafa is unsure whether he is still Khama’s lawyer or not. Asked about whether he is still advising Khama and acting for him, he says “you are asking a very dangerous question,” he says with a slight laughter underpinning the tone of his voice on the phone.
Tafa struggles to answer the questions but eventually says: “I am not on a retainer with him. So, it’s difficult to say yes or no. You will note that he has recently engaged a lot of people including Dick Bayford, Duma Boko, Mothe Marumo and Toteng and Company.” Tafa reveals that there is nothing wrong or unusual in Khama engaging other lawyers as the former President has engaged him on a case by case basis in the past, and he says he was still not fully recovered.
Curiously, Tafa says Khama did not inform him “of his decision to engage opposition lawyers” and still adds that he is not complaining. Asked for his views on Khama-opposition bromance, Tafa says a lawyer is a lawyer whether he or she affiliates differently to yourself or your associates.
“Lawyers are highly professional people. People talk about conflicts issues but I don’t see them unless if this was a very sensitive issue. I have represented Daniel Kwelagobe and Peter Mmusi in 1992 to set aside the Kgabo commission. Some cabinet ministers were saying it was wrong of party lawyers to take the party to court. We succeeded. There was also the Phandu Skelemani case to set aside the Khumalo Commission where I opposed the ruling party and I also acted for the late Debswana director, Louis Nchindo as a Debswana lawyer. The list is endless. Lawyering is just lawyering,” he said.
Balancing between Khama and business interests.
The level of tensions between Khama and Masisi is likely to spill over to their associates. In any confrontation, a friend to an enemy becomes an enemy.
sources say Tafa has been cautious to engage with the former president in a desperate effort to balance their relationship and his firms’ business interests. Tafa however says they are still friends.
Collins Newman and Co has in the past appeared to have been favoured by government during Khama’s era, a matter that once sparked outrage in parliament.
Tafa told this publication that in fact they still get business from government. “We still get more business from government, even through tenders because nowadays you also tender for legal services.”
Sources at Khama’s residence say Tafa has of late been seen frequenting the former president’s offices. “It appears Khama has complained to him that he has deserted him in times of need,” a source revealed who said it appears Tafa has been left with no other choice but to resurface.
On September 21st, 2018 in the afternoon at Khama’s residence, Tafa, Khama and Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi were locked in a tense and awkward meeting over several disputed issues.
Tafa declined to share the details of the meeting and eventually said he wasn’t part of it. Another attendant, Morupisi however confirmed the meeting with this publication but said he was not ready to discuss the contents of the meeting.
“It is true that myself, Tafa and former president Khama had a meeting at Khama’s office where we discussed some issues which are purely personal and not for public consumption,” he said. The showdown over the purely personal issues, sources reveal lasted for about an hour and ended acrimoniously.
Stepping down from BDP electoral board.
Tafa reveals that he together with his committee members stepped down because they felt some things were not being done appropriately.
“We were volunteering our services and not getting any remuneration out of that and that brought a sense of fulfilment to us because we were serving the party. However, some had misdirected themselves on their roles and our roles and Khama asked us to consider stepping down and we gladly did because we also considered other factors to like going for rest.”
Asked on his views over the recent Bulela Ditswe, the party ‘s primary elections systems and process on appeals and protests, Tafa declines to comment but says that the party should and can do better.
Tafa concludes by saying he has shed of much of his load and will be leaving University of Botswana Council Chairmanship next year as his term comes to an end. He also reveals that he has never wanted to be a judge.
Tafa has had one of the most successful legal careers in the history of Botswana, growing Collins Newman and Company into an internationally respected law firm.