Botswana President who is also the leader of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama and long time BDP strongman Daniel Kwelagobe threw tantrums at each other during the funeral of ex-president Sir Ketumile Joni Quett Masire.
The state funeral of the ex-president which was characterized by somber mood as well as laughter alike to break the ice was conducted on Thursday at his home residence at Goo Motebejana ward at Kanye. The former President died last week at the age of 91 at Bokamoso Private Hospital in Gaborone. At the funeral, Khama and Kwelagobe exchanged jabs in front of distinguished leaders among them Lesotho’s King Letsie III, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa who graced the funeral.
Also in attendance were former Botswana President Festus Mogae, ex- Presidents Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Armando Guebuza (Mozambique), Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzanian) and serving Deputy Prime Ministers of both Swaziland and Lesotho. First to draw blood was Kwelagobe, who was the longest serving Member of Parliament until he lost last 2014 elections. In delivering his eulogy, he made sure it was punctuated by the theme that the country is at crossroads.
The BDP strongman indirectly advised the current government to introspect and he continuously stated that “we are at crossroads”. Kwelagobe said that during moments like this, the leadership needs to look back at the legacy of the architects of Botswana such as Masire, to lend a leaf from them on how to run a government and deliver themselves and the nation from challenges.
He observed that Masire’s unrelenting attribute was his inclination for intra party democracy in the BDP and the significance of being steadfast and in compliance to the party’s constitution, rules and policies as well as traditions which define the soul of the party he, together with Sir Seretse Khama founded. “Democracy both within the party and in public affairs was not merely a slogan or principle to which lip service was paid. Masire was a democrat at heart. He lived and breathed democracy,” Kwelagobe said.
According to Kwelagobe, thorough, robust and wide ranging consultation defined Masire’s leadership to the core. “If you are on a journey and you get lost on the way, go back to the crossroads and ask for directions from those who know the road well,” he maintained in which speech, in which Khama was seen from time to time taking “notes.”
Kwelagobe also took a swipe at Khama and the government for failure to honour the founding fathers thus far hence consequently summoning them to honour the legend by naming some facilities, streets, stadia under his name – as a priority going forward. According to Kwelagobe, Masire left the presidency 20 years ago, but nothing in this country has been named after him, so, “we bury him with his legacy it appears.” Kwalegobe then stated boldly: “I humbly requests my government to review our honours policy and make sure that Sir Ketumile is appropriately honoured.”
The former Molepolole legislator maintained in his eulogy as a family friend to the longest serving president Sir Masire that the government should also speed up and name one of its facility after President Masire in honour to great service he has rendered to the nation over the years spanning in more than 60 years.
However when he took to the podium to also give a eulogy to the second president and founder of Botswana, President Khama upon realizing the indirect attack from Kwelagobe, also threw political salvos to the former Molepolole law maker who had spoken before him as they paid tribute to former president Masire. “I do not want to spare Kwelagobe (in terms of what he said before),” he said adding that “kana ene ke motho yoo ratang go tswa mo tseleng (meaning he naturally likes being non conformist/ defying the consensus or getting out of the way).
To tear him into line, Khama in responding to Kwelagobe stated that: “in terms of the honours policy of our leaders – we have a blue print of such already in place. And it was crafted at the time when Kwelagobe himself was a sitting cabinet Minister.” Khama continued: “but obviously he (Kwelagobe) has forgotten because he was pre-occupied with the issue of cabinet and legislators salary adjustments which he mentioned earlier in his speech. Eish, politicians!”
Kwelagobe had prior pointed out in his tribute that, Botswana in terms of salaries of cabinet Ministers, was the lowest when comparing to others in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. In light of this, he (Kwelagobe) and colleagues in cabinet then demanded a salary hike, in which Masire is understood to have said to the ministers that they may continue with the adjustment but – at his exclusion as a president.
His contention against the idea was premised on the fact that Botswana was still poor and many citizens were also suffering and needed that money than the cabinet minister or Members of Parliament. Khama also asserted: “so, that is something we are going to do (honouring Masire). In fact, it was only yesterday that I was also discussing this matter with BDP Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane, whom he can attest to this. I hope he is here with us. Oh there he is (pointing a finger at him).”
Khama then accused the non suspecting Ntuane of “not wearing properly” as he was clad in communism regalia. In light of the attire, the president invited South African Mbeki, Ramaphosa in jest to lure Ntuane to the Communist party in their country. The fourth president maintained that the issue of Honouring Masire will be tabled at the next cabinet meeting in which they will discuss on what way to honour the statesman and which facilities to name after Sir Masire.
When Khama stated this, he received a thunderous applause from the mourning audience which had been quickly switched on to a euphoric mood. “So Kwelagobe spoiled the disposition by revealing the undisclosed secrets while it’s still early which forced me to spill the beans on this ongoing process to honour Sir Masire,” President Khama pointed out to Kwelagobe.
He continued: “and where are the roads crossed,” he asked Kwelagobe rhetorically while adding that “we will go back there and ask for directions leading to the right way, the straight way – and I will make sure I go there with you,” he added in which the crowd teared up in laughter upon recognizing the punch line directed to Kwelagobe.
Former presidents ‘cheated’, Masisi may serve 5 years
From Kwelagobe, Khama also said that we should not be mourning but celebrating the life of Sir Masire. He reminded all that Masire was Minister of Finance and Development Planning concurrently with being the Vice President for 14 years as well as President for 18 years.
President Khama also said that the former presidents, his father Sir Seretse Khama who served 14 years, and Masire who served 18 years as president, both of whom are now late – cheated the Presidents that came thereafter as they are only restricted and compelled to serve only 10 years each respectively.
“My father did 14 years, Masire did 18 years, Mogae will do 10 years, and I am also going to serve for 10 years. So the duo has cheated me together with the third President Mogae. So, it appears it’s going down, be careful you Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi when you become president. They might give you only 5 years,” the hypothetically mourners again laughed their lungs out at the time when President was having a field day on previous speakers at the funeral. Khama was the last to speak on the line-up.
Memories as BDF Commander under President Masire
He said as you know “I served under President Masire while I was still the Commander of Botswana Defense Force (BDF), my memories are when I regularly toured with him around BDF operational areas, as he was our Commander in Chief.” He pointed out that there is one incident in which he has been debating of whether to remind former BDF Commander under him Tebogo Carter Masire about, although he said he wasn’t there at the time.
It was at one of these bases in the Okavango area, he said adding that as you heard from Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe that Okavango is an area which has a lot of water. Mugabe has spoken before him of how Masire hosted him at the Okavango Delta in north western Botswana.
“Some of our operations, we, or the BDF conducted on horseback because the water is so deep the vehicles cannot go through. So we took him to one of the places where we do the horse riding and trainings. One of our Captain Officers said President Masire would like to ride one of the horses and before Masire could answer I said ‘no’ the president does not want to ride.”
Khama continued to narrate: “but knowing him, as he was, he said he wanted to ride the horses. And I wondered what I was going to tell Batswana incase he falls from the horse while riding. So I said to the captain find me the gentlest horse which won’t misbehave. And then find me the second gentle horse so that I ride it, because I had a few experiences of falling from a horse on my life. So what happened later we all know by now. The gentlest horse misbehaved. And it threw him off. The President (Masire) fell. And that Captain Officer the next day was a Civilian,” meaning that he was fired.
Khama’s leadership style
President Khama has been accused of being an authoritarian leadership who is hell bent on applying the kind of discipline he has inherited from the barracks in his days as member of BDF and later as Commander. Some observers believe that his leadership style as president is a deviation from the founding fathers leadership style which was premised on utmost democracy through thorough consultations.
The first and the second president initiated the national principles being Democracy, Development, Self Reliance, Unity and Botho while Khama brought in his own road map of 5 “D’s of Development, Democracy, Discipline, Dignity and Delivery. President Masire had also sent a chilling message in 2014 at a funeral of opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy leader Gomolemo Motswaledi that some leaders only want to make a name for themselves against a collective in which they founded Botswana and instilled nationalism.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.