Former President Lt. General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama says the only relationship he previously had with the current President, Mokgweetsi Masisi was that of a president and his vice, “and that relationship is no more”.
Khama’s remarks come at the height of talks that his successor, Masisi has failed him, since many believe he was appointed to the power seat through an arrangement that Khama would continue to run the show from behind the scenes. Many are of the belief that there was a secret agreement that once appointed, President Masisi, who once confessed publicly that he was Lt. Khama’s bootlicker would continue to appease Khama by fulfilling his wishes.
Lately, Masisi has been seen to be reversing a lot of Khama’s initiatives. His current changes are seen as a total reverse of the ‘Khama administration.’ While many have praised Masisi’s changing of some of the initiatives for the benefit of the nation, they posit that Khama has been caught off guard.
“I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t want the current president to change this and that. Of course there are things I wouldn’t want him to change, but I will not go public about it,” Former President Lt. Khama told WeekendPost in an exclusive interview on Thursday. Among the changes is the axing of former DIS Director General Isaac Kgosi who is an ally of Khama’s. The Masisi administration is also reviewing the alcohol levy, with a view of scraping it altogether or lowering the levy.
When asked if he had expected Kgosi’s removal from the security agency, Lt. Khama’s response was that, “Whether one expects it or not is not really an issue. What I expect is that he will make changes the way he wants to make changes. So when he makes changes, we must all expect that changes will be made.” When pressed further to comment specifically on Kgosi’s case, he said, “Kana I’m dodging your question.”
In the interview, which was his first since leaving office, Lt. Khama kept on stressing that he would not want to comment on the current administration, saying in his view it is not appropriate to do so. He noted that in the United States there is some kind of an agreement between the incumbent president and his predecessor that they don’t criticize one another’s administration. “But I’m not here talking about criticism. I’m talking about commenting on an administration. And I think that has worked well for them until Donald Trump came.
And of course being the chaotic president that he is, he has spent all his time criticizing President Barak Obama.” I don’t undermine Masisi’s administration Recently, there have been allegations that Khama was undermining Masisi’s administration. This notwithstanding, the former president this week refuted the allegations. There have been at least three incidents that have been pointed out as a way of undermining the current president.
This publication is alive to the fact that during the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) day in April, the former president did not stand up with everyone else as is norm during the passing of the flag at the end of the parade. However, in his own defence Khama says, “The procedure is that when the parade ends, only the president stands up with the commander, the rest of the crowd remained seated. After the flags have passed the president, everybody should sit down and the president and the commander remain standing until the rest of the parade has passed.”
He stated, “I do not recall that whatsoever. When the flags passed on every occasion I stood up. Why wouldn’t I stand for the flags? He questioned. “That’s the procedure which I introduced. So I know when to stand up and when not to stand up. And even if I had not stood up, which I say I did, it would have nothing to do with the president, it would be me not recognizing or honouring our national symbols, the flags. It would have nothing to do with him but more to do with the flags.” He is also said to have left the stadium before the current president.
On the issue of leaving before the current president, he admitted that he left before Masisi as he had explained to the commander that he had two engagements in Palapye at the time, and he “would want to sit at the back so I could sneak out before the final display”. “How can I undermine somebody when I’m not in a position to undermine him? I’m not in government or any formal party structure. I’m just a member of the party,” said the former president.
THE KHAWA INCIDENT
Another incident that Khama is said to have shown disrespect towards Masisi was at Khawa where he arrived after the current president. “If he arrived first, I remember that the evening before they were discussing the time when the race will start. There was a discussion around the fact that the race should start at 9am. So, I arrived for the race to begin at 9am, akere I was racing. So as a racer I knew that I would be starting at 9am. I think what happened on that occasion, is that they had not told him that there was a change in the time that the race was going to start. So, he probably got there before us. “
KHAMA AND POLITICS
Lt. Khama says he is very active in the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) campaign for 2019. He noted that he has already offered to the BDP that he is prepared to engage in campaigning for them. “And that would really come about dependent on the central committee if it wants to engage me in any formal campaign structure or it could be as I would expect and as I already have requested that candidates for each constituency would come and ask me to engage with them in their campaigns in those constituencies,” he said.
He said some have already been coming forward. ”As you are probably aware, BDP held some primary elections in some of the constituencies already. And the rest are going to happen later this year. So, those who have already emerged as candidates have already asked me to assist them. So that’s what I have done.”
He also stated that recently he also took part in a pledging exercise where they were asked to raise money for the party campaign, where he pledged that he would raise by the end of the year around P1m. “But I just want to say that some have chosen to misunderstand the pledge thinking that I’m going to be giving the million pula myself.
But it’s not the case that one would have P1m to donate. I said I would raise the P1m from donors,” he emphasized, adding that before he left office, there were some donors who had indicated that they were prepared to donate towards the party’s campaign towards 2019 as they had done in 2014.
RETIREMENT ROAD MAP
Lt. Khama noted that he was a very busy man, saying he has been tasked with a number of things to do. “I have not retired. I have just stepped down as the constitution provides,” he said. He noted quite a number of things like being given the tittle of the Champion of 2036 vision where he has already started attending meetings with the council as they put together their plans.
He is also tourism Ambassador for the country; the patron of Arts and Culture where he will continue to promote the Arts and Culture and major sporting codes. Further, he is board member of an international conservation organisation called Conservation International based in Washington. He continues his involvement with charitable organisations like the housing appeal.
He has since stepping down two months ago, been invited to countries like South Africa, and Mozambique where the president had invited him as a keynote speaker during an international event: And he will be visiting Gabon soon. Asked whether he has received any formal invitation from President Masisi, Lt. Khama said, “President Masisi said he would, so it really depends on him- what the issue is, whether he wants to do that or that. The thing is he was a vice for a long time. So, things are not new to me. So I don’t really expect him to be calling on me, but if he does, we will wait for that day to happen.”
“That is one issue I will never relax on. Facts are out there, it’s not me inventing stories of how alcohol destroys people’s lives. At the rate that Batswana drink, we are heading for a train smash.”
ADVICE TO BATSWANA
Khama stressed that he has always appealed to Batswana to be patriotic, which is their dedication to the nation. And not to do anything or say anything which undermines nation building. “For me that is very important. We only have one country.” The former president said he was not happy about some of the things that people say on social Media. He said it was highly disappointing that people engage themselves in some cases in a negative way like they do. He pointed out that social media should be used in a positive manner.
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.