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.
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.