The ongoing stand-off between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama reached the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) this week. The Permanent Secretary from Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Thuso Ramodimoosi was having a difficult time trying to defend the actions of his superiors.
Ramodimoosi who indicated that he is new at the Office of the President, had to be rescued by his support team on several occasions in answering piercing questions from a seven member panel. PAC is a parliamentary committee that studies public audits, invites ministry officials for questioning, and issues a report of their findings subsequent to a government budget audit.
The committee, currently chaired by Abraham Kesupile wanted to find out the reasons why the Office of the President issued a directive on government media blackout against former President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama. “There is nothing that says we should not cover former president, however, there have been concerns regarding the statement he made especially in Bobonong, and we were told to use our editorial discretion when covering him,” said deputy permanent secretary for broadcasting and information services, Bonnie Matshaba.
It has however emerged from the PAC sitting that President Masisi never issued the directive but rather it was his permanent secretary, Carter Morupisi who did. “It was not a directive from the President, the PSP raised the concerns,” added Matshaba. “There has never been a blackout as you put it, resources permitting we will cover him. We will use our editorial judgement and of course blackout is still an option,” a seemingly nervous Matshaba highlighted.
The message to cut-off Khama in the government owned mediums was delivered to Mass Media top echelons last month. The directive which came from the Permanent Secretary to the President asked the gate keepers to throw away any material from independent content providers that has the former president. It was argued that Khama will gain ‘political and undeserved mileage’ through production houses which normally cover his ‘charitable’ initiatives.
“We are focused on delivering government material to Batswana. We give priority to those who push government initiatives like President, his vice, and ministers. We are not going to give him (Khama) airtime because both BTV and Radio Botswana are pushing government initiatives, and what is he pushing?” Morupisi said in an interview with this publication. In response Khama has turned to private media which he hated with a passion during his reign. Most of his activities are covered by independent media houses with the entire government mediums including print shunning him.
THE AIRCRAFT DEBATE
The accounting officer, Ramodimoosi could not clearly respond to another directive that blocked Khama from getting air transport. “I am not aware of any directive, but I have heard about that,” he said before adding, “I don’t know if he can ask for a lift from other organisations if he needs air transport,” he responded to a PAC member, Dithapelo Keorapetse’s question before the committee ordered him to go and inform himself before re-appearing.
The Office of the President (OP) has rejected Khama’s request to use a chopper two times before ordering Debswana, BDF and other organizations not to lend Khama any or give him a lift. The Former President’s Pensions and Retirement Benefits Act which was amended prior to the stepping down of Khama from the presidency, gives provision for either boat or air transport by state as and when need arises.
It has been explained that for any mode of transport to be extended to former presidents other than road transport (the three vehicles) as per the amended Act, a formal request must be made but the release of such transport is dependent on the approval of the sitting president and only the president can authorize such a request. There are reports that spanners are at work to procure a helicopter for Khama.
KHAMA YET TO SUE MASISI
The accounting officer, Ramodimoosi has told PAC that Office of the President is yet to receive statutory notice from Khama. “As far as I know, we have not received anything about that. But I have heard about it,” he said. Khama has last month declared that he will sue the state for refusal to appoint his ally and close friend, the former Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) Isaac Kgosi as his private secretary (PS).
Khama’s argument emanated from the fact that Kgosi is free, and he is not working for government. “Presidents, Vice Presidents, Ministers, all choose their Private Secretaries because they are people you have to be able to work closely with. Even a member of parliament, his constituency administrator is chosen by the MP that is the practice, so I too have the same right,” Khama was quoted saying.
Khama on the matter is expected to be represented by once bitter rival advocate Duma Boko who is also the President of the main opposition party Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). Kgosi, who is the founding Director General of the DIS was fired by Masisi at the beginning of May earlier this year. Kgosi was replaced by Khama’s nemesis, Brigadier Peter Magosi, a decision that has infuriated the former president.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.