Tshekedi Khama: A man apart

Tshekedi is certainly a man apart. While many of his elder brother Ian Khama’s close associates have fallen from grace, TK is still hanging in there but is aware that anything could happen any time. Can he survive the storm that is being brewed by his Big Brother Ian?
TEFO PHEAGE ponders this question.

Is it not ironic that Tshekedi Khama has remained at the Botswana Democratic Party after his elder brother, former president Ian Khama, dumped and denounced it? Ian did not only squander the BDP’s chances of electoral success at his dramatic meeting in Serowe but has also turned many against it, reducing it to the sorry state of one of Seretse Khama’s ruins. Serowe has always been known as the capital and heartland of the BDP, but the current political spirit hovering in the what was once Africa’s largest traditional village has entered a state of mystical significance that cannot be subjected to any political or scientific formula. Bangwato are clear that in its current form, the BDP is not for them and perhaps will never be, thanks to the power of the king.

For the first time in history, the BDP cannot thump itself on the chest and claim the constituencies that Serowe straddles because in an unprecedented development, erstwhile dyed-in-the-wool BDP loyalists will vote for the opposition in the general elections later this year. The spirit is high, with songs and slogans all around their Kgosikgolo. Among the most affected by these unexpected winds of change is the Kgosikgolos’ younger brother, TK. Like many within Ian Khama’s circle, TK has already gone through a lot since the much-talked about ‘paakanyo lehatshe’ stratagem and the burden seems to be weighing heavily on him day by day. Like many he doesn’t know what to make of his political situation back home and has, perhaps understandably, grown hostile to media interviews on the matter.

Serowe North legislator Kgotla Autlwetse has already taken a taxing and bold decision to swim against the tide. “I am a BDP member forever duly elected in the 2014 general elections and also in last year’s primary elections which culminated in me being its candidate for the 2019 general elections and I am unshaken,” he posits. Courage is clearly not the absence of fear here and this MP knows very well the aftermaths of his actions. Autlwetse and Khama have never really eaten from the same plate, despite misty beclouded hints of brotherhood between the two.

TK representing the BDP won by a solid margin, garnering 5401 votes against a combined measly total of 1379 for the Botswana Congress Party and Umbrella for Democratic Change. Unlike his brother, Ian and Pelonomi Venson, TK still has a long way to go politically and age-wise. He has only been in Parliament for five years and has tasted the power of political office. But this time around, the challenge is that the wind is not blowing in his direction as was the case under Ian Khama’s watch. He will have to pick and fight his own battles without Big Brother Ian’s backing. Currently he is just another ‘Ngaka Ngaka’, depending and surviving on the presidential mercy of Mokgweetsi Masisi. Needless to say, TK’s rise to the echelons of power cannot be traced to any known political suavity or prowess, except the Khama name.

What could be the master plan in Serowe?

Ian Khama is without a doubt a schemer, a proven political game changer who always makes sure he gets what he wants. It is not far-fetched to conclude that before hatching the plan, he had closely looked at its ramifications and there is no way he could have forgotten that blood is thicker than water. Yet by calling on Bangwato to ditch the BDP and all its manifestations, Ian was also throwing TK under the bus because the inhabitants of Serowe have already indicated that the King’s word is final and is not subject to rationality. This is not surprising because they are the King’s subjects and subjects don’t question.

Bangwato headmen have called on Autlwetse to declare his allegiance, something which they have not done with TK who is the son of Seretse Khama and is therefore untouchable. It is expected that TK will not defect to the newly formed and Khama-sponsored Botswana Patriotic Front right away but will remain with the BDP and perhaps defect after the elections, should the new party pull a surprise in the upcoming general elections. Delivering a well thought out speech on dumping the BDP, a smart Ian Khama said not all BDP legislators were targeted.

“Not all members of the BDP are bad,” he said. “We know the bad ones, and those are the ones we will de-campaign. Others are fine.” TK is obviously one of those under the BDP ticket for whom Khama will campaign and this statement could have been referring to him only. The Ian Khama circle has resulted in personality clashes, power tussles, business crisis and divisions within the BDP.

Defecting for TK would be seriously confusing for voters who have been told and given the impression that that the opposition is a good friend. It may not be obvious that not all Bangwato agree with Khama. What is true and obvious is that subjects do not rise to openly criticise or disagree with their tribal leader because with subjects, democracy is relegated to the periphery when a chief speaks. Many Bakgatla did not agree with their tribal leader Kgosikgolo Kgafela Kgafela II on some matters and decisions but every time he spoke they continued to chant “Kgabo! Kgabo! The Kgotla attendance gradually decreased as many continued to speak in disapproval in corridors.

Does Tshekedi agree with Khama?

“Of all Seretse’s children, TK is the only one who has always disagreed openly with Khama,” a close family member says when asked about the relationship of the brothers. TK is never one to hide his views, but in all matters Big Brother Ian has always had the last word. “TK raises his point and then gives up when you don’t listen to him, leaving the matter to you so that he can come back later and say, ‘I told you so.’ TK always gives up because Khama always tells him that he has been in the game for far longer than him and has had more successes than failures,” said another close relative who preferred anonymity.

One curious case in the brothers’ relationship was the Isaac Kgosi element. TK has never hidden his views that Kgosi was the enemy behind Khama and openly charged at his brother” ally. They also clashed over Peter Magosi’s employment at the tourism ministry. TK may not have opened his mouth on the political developments in Serowe yet but he certainly disagrees with Masisi’s ‘paakanyo lehatshe’ stratagem that has placed the family and its circle of friends on the back foot.