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.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.