Tshetlha: The Unholy Guardian of Botswana Politics

To say that Khama’s post-presidency antics are political tantrums of a spoilt brat would be an understatement. The enfant terrible of Botswana politics has upped the ante and now resembles a raging bull in a China shop. He is on the rampage and is not sparing anything in his path and sight. His sights are trained on one man: Mokgweetsi Masisi must bloody get off the presidency.
This article compares and contrasts the fourth president of the Republic of Botswana Ian Khama with South Africa’s nimble-footed and dazzling midfielder of yesteryear, the former Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates player who captured football fanatics with his skills but had a fair share of his troubles with his legendary escapades and drinking sprees. Just like “Shuffle the Pack” or “Ngwana wa Tshwenya,” as Jabu Pule was affectionately called by the legions of football lovers, Ian Khama, the persona built on myth and intrigue, has been throwing political tantrums from the first day he landed on the political arena.

Jabu Pule (now Jabu Mahlangu) is a South African former football player who burst on the football scene playing for the Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs. He scored in his debut and he managed to engrave his name in the hearts of football fanatics within a short period of time. Jabu, with his sublime skills, was poised to reach great heights in his footballing career but this never materialised because of his legendary escapades when his teams needed him most. The other ‘ghost’ of his career was the perennial flirtation with the bottle. Ian Khama is a personality cult of legendary status in Botswana. His persona has been built on myth and intrigue since he was born. This enigmatic character that is Ian Khama Seretse Khama owes its being to the accident of birth and privilege, he being of royalty in one of Botswana’s major tribes and born of a Caucasian mother, giving him a life of honour, privilege and the red carpet treatment.

Ian Khama was the most beloved person of all time in Botswana before his political sojourn. When he entered politics, it was hailed as the best thing to happen to Planet Botswana. When he ultimately ascended to the highest office in the land, it was to ululations and unprecedented goodwill.  A lot was given to him but a lot was not expected from him because he was the first son of our nation’s founding father. We dropped the standards we had set for our leaders for the man. Notwithstanding this rare treatment, Ian Khama is demanded more and more from this nation even when it had made it distinctly clear that we had reached the end of our elastic limit. When he was officially endorsed as the country’s vice president in 1998, he immediately asked for sabbatical leave. There were antagonistic murmurings within government and ruling BDP structures and the leave was abruptly cut short with a bit of apprehension about the man’s sense of entitlement. Ian Khama could not make sense of it because as far as he was concerned, he had sacrificed his youth serving the nation and “defending the democracy” and needed and deserved a vacation. He soldiered on and vowed to sort out the renegades who made the loudest noise about his sabbatical leave when he would ultimately ascend the throne.

Khama had agreed to leave the barracks as BDF commander to the Praesidium on condition that he would succeed President Festus Mogae. In 2003 when he ran for the BDP chairmanship with the former vice president Dr. Ponatshego Kedikilwe, he allegedly forced his boss President Mogae to endorse and support him. This was against the party tradition and convention but Dr. Mogae reluctantly succumbed to his junior’s demands in order to smoothen the working relations in the Office of the Presidency. These demands were to test Mogae’s honesty in keeping his word of relinquishing power to him.

At that juncture there was a bit of mistrust from Ian Khama of President Mogae because there were fierce opponents to how Khama was conducting government business. Some of those critics were members of Mogae’s kitchen cabinet and the old boys club at Notwane.

Ian Khama’s administration was not dealing with corruption as he had promised, tenders and vacancies were seemingly the preserve of BDP functionaries. The BDP card took precedence to the national identity card during that era.

This is what Mogae’s kitchen cabinet and the old boys of Notwane Club did not want. They feared that this was the beginning of seismic divisions of a nation that should never be left to fester. To put it bluntly, President Mogae’s cordial relationship with the late Gobe Matenge was anathema to Khama because Matenge was a BCP member. Just like Jabu ‘‘Ngwana wa Tshwenya’’ Pule, after one of his many escapades, would put in a scintillating display that the fans would chant his name even after the game had ended. He wanted assurance from the fans that so long as he put in his best displays on the field, he would always be forgiven and this would make him indispensable in the eyes of the Motaung family, the owners of Kaizer Chiefs. Khama’s earliest machinations in politics were to placate the BDP faithful that in case Mogae did not fulfill his promise, he could incite a revolution from within.

When he ultimately ascended to the Botswana throne, Emperor Khama the Fourth had one thing in mind. He wanted to quell dissent from within his ruling BDP and decimate the limping opposition. He introduced his pet projects that appealed to rural folk. He became too distant and remote to the middle class and academia. He knew this was the section of society that naturally supported the opposition. His was to divide, rule and conquer so as to entrench the Khama dynasty and hegemony and the presidency never to leave the Khama family. He came on board the presidential jet with his right hand man Isaac Seabelo Kgosi who was to enforce the master’s prerogatives.

He instilled and inculcated fear in the nation, and John Kalafatis became the nation’s sacrificial lamb.
Before his blood could soak down the soil after his killing by members of the army and intelligence, using his Presidential Powers, Khama pardoned the convicted killers and immediately reinstated them back to work.

State brutality became the order of the day at the slightest provocation. This became a case of killing a fly with a cannon. In Ian Khama’s view, he was ordained by God to lord over us and any antagonism was to oppose the Almighty. The opposition to the Almighty was the gravest sin and a blasphemy that deserved the strongest possible sanction. At this juncture he was still revered and hero-worshipped. He was King Solomon who came to inherit his father King David’s throne. The majority of Batswana were of the opinion that he must be left unchecked and unbridled to enjoy his presidency and carve his own legacy.

The majority of Batswana who were still in the Khama presidency honeymoon came to have a slight preview of his narcissistic mentality and perverted outlook on life during the “mother of all strikes’’ when public servants down tools to demand a salary increment. He told all and sundry that he would never go to the negotiating table with the public sector unions. He vowed he would never effect any increment even if the strike lasted ten years. In Ian Khama‘s dystopia, the public purse, water resources, land, and the flora and fauna of this country were his father’s estate and therefore his rightful inheritance. Being the patriarch of the Khama family, it was for him to decide who should benefit from his father’s estate. The public servants were an ungrateful lot who wanted the lion’s share of his father’s estate. He responded by firing close to a thousand public service employees because he simply could not understand why these “educated blacks” cannot comprehend the bare underlying factors. Ruling party elders tried to intervene in the mould of his predecessors Sir Ketumile Masire and Dr. Festus Mogae. They were told bluntly that they must not try to rule from the grave, which is what he himself has been pushing for since his retirement but not what the elder statesmen ever sought to do. He is the only one who is allowed to rule from the grave because all animals are created equal but some are more equal than others.

Just like Jabu Pule who wanted to write his own rules and enforce them, it is alleged that in one of his disciplinary hearings, he brought the once self-christened number one Kaizer Chiefs fan, Saddam Maake, to plead for his forgiveness from the Motaung family because if any action was taken against him, the fans would boycott games. In Jabu Pule’s world, he was bigger than the Kaizer Chiefs brand. In his view, fans thronged to stadia to see Jabu Pule play. The Motaung family docked him a monthly salary and gave him a stern warning. To Khama, Botswana and the BDP are beholden to his family. This is why Khama is bringing the international mafioso, crime cartels and century old monopolies to tell us that Botswana will never know peace if we dispense with him and his family. We cannot live without the Khama dynasty and actually need them more than they need us. This is the message of Ian Khama and his co-conspirators.

To say that Khama’s post-presidency antics are the political tantrums of a spoilt brat would be an understatement because he has upped the ante and now resembles a raging bull in a China shop. He is on the rampage and is not sparing anything in his path and sight. His small hairs are trained one man: Mokgweetsi Masisi who must bloody get off the presidency! In Ian Khama’s view, Masisi is akin to the biblical Judas Iscariot. How dare he sell a dummy to the slave master when he does not even qualify to untie his shoelaces? To Emperor Khama, the insult is too ghastly even to contemplate.

Just like Jabu Pule who ultimately crossed the Rubicon to play for Kaizer Chiefs’ arch rivals at Orlando Pirates in order to spite and show the Motaungs his invincibility, Khama also left the ruling Botswana Democratic Party to form a regional party whose base is the Central District where Khama is paramount chief. He also joined forces with the Duma Boko-led Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). The motive of this move was to show the Masisi-led BDP his own indispensability. The sole purpose was to unseat the BDP and ultimately remove Masisi from State House. When the BDP won this year’s general elections, Khama was the first person to be aggrieved and speak of “massive electoral fraud”. How can the BDP sail through the elections without him? It can only happen through vote rigging, in his rationale. It is for the first time that elections in Botswana are petitioned at such a massive scale.

Jabu Pule, whose escapades never ended even at Orlando Pirates, was eventually put through a traditional cleansing ritual by Pirates boss Dr. Irvin Khoza. He came from the ritual with a new family name, Mahlangu. Just as it showed with Jabu Mahlangu that the traditional ritual was not a panacea for his problems, we do not know with Ian Khama if traditional cleansing ritual would work. Jabu Mahlangu joined team after team but the problem persisted. Jabu Mahlangu, with his skills gone to waste, seemed also to have luck in abundance. When everybody was busy writing his obituary, his support system offered him a lifeline. People like Stan Matthews nad Peter Khobane offered him endorsements and football punditry. He is currently raking in millions of rands. What we do not know about Ian Khama is whether his handlers like Cheryl Blair and Brigette Motsepe-Radebe will be there at the hour of reckoning. But if there is any person who should be grateful to this nation, it is Ian Khama and his family.