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DOUBLE-EDGED BLESSING

The MidweekSun Admin

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Euphoria attended Ian Khama’s arrival into Botswana’s political space back in 1998. However, the excitement soon turned into palpable fear especially among the rank and file of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

This, the party that his late father and founding president of the country, Sir Seretse Khama founded with Sir Ketumile Masire – was riddled in factions along the North/South divide and plagued by a leadership struggle at the time. Ian Khama was ostensibly recruited from the army to stabilise the party and restore its credibility among the electorate. From day one that he entered political office as then President Festus Mogae’s Vice President and Minister without Portfolio, Khama’s tenure has been dogged with controversy.

As party leader, he amended the party constitution to centralise power, much to the chagrin of veteran cadres and the Young Turks, some of whom eventually trooped out of the BDP to form the Botswana Movement for Democracy. As the country’s president he ruled by fear, clandestinely using his security apparatus to silence dissent in the party, Parliament, Cabinet and the entire public service. He, alongside his then Permanent Secretary to the President Eric Molale earned the tag, ‘Public Workers’ Enemy No. 1’ on account of his oppressive labour practices, which led to thousands of retrenchments in mining companies – notably, Debswana, BCL and Tati Nickel mines.

Some 21 years later, Khama’s legacy is not only a national project, but has also permeated the African region and some parts of the world on account of the values and democratic credentials he espoused. Here is a fearless former Army Commander – a soldier at heart and a stickler for costitutionalism whose word has equated to law – who dared to put China in its place over Tibet’s struggle for independence and particularly its treatment of the Dalai Lama. A leader of a small nation of just over 2 million people who dare to challenge the largest nation on the face of the earth! As for his treatment of neighbouing Zimbabwe, the opposition would eventually describe his foreign policy as ‘rooftop diplomacy’!

Here is a leader that was accused by his African peers as being ‘Eurocentric,’ a leader that would not attend African Union or United Nations meetings preferring instead to perpetually delegate the tasks to his Vice President or Foreign Minister. All of a sudden this leader is out of power and is being denied permission to use state aircraft by “Hitlaranyana” (Little Hitler) – the Permanent Secretary to the President.

Khama – the all powerful has had to contend with a few lessons in humility since the ascendance in April 1st 2018 of his successor, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to the office of the President of the Republic of Botswana. Along the way, his trusted lieutenants and loyalists in the government machinery such as the founding Head of the once-feared Directorate of Intelliegence and Security Services (DISS) and a personal friend of Khama, Colonel Isaac Kgosi, have been ejected from their lofty positions with little regard for Khama’s protestations.

Khama has now returned with a vengeance following the routing of a BDP faction allegedly linked to him – New Jerusalem – in the recent party’s presidential congress in Kang, where Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, a suspected Khama decoy, withdrew her bid at the eleventh hour. There is no doubting that this development irreparably dented New Jerusalem’s ego, especially since one of its key players, Samson Moyo Guma, who had been poised to challenge for the position of party Secretary General, was missing in action, believed to be self-exiled to South Africa’s posh surburb, Sandton.

Compoundiing the situation was that Khama was also absent without official leave (AWOL) at the Kang Congress, where Masisi would sail through unopposed as President of the party. Obviously this played against the script. Masisi was supposed to go by any means necessary even it meant creating a party precedence!

In any case, the party constitution provides for election of party president – it’s just that over time tradition had been used to trample on democracy! Ever since the country’s second president, Sir Ketumile amended the constitution to provide for automatic succession of the president – all incumbents have benefitted from this undemocratic clause including Khama. Khama, the Kgosi of BaNgwato, has now hit a cul-de-sac within the BDP and wants out. He says the party leadership has subverted the constitution; that decisions are based on emotions and he will not want to associate with such an organisation.

As a result he called his tribes people from all over GammaNgwato – the stronghold of BDP with 17 constituencies – this past Saturday to apprise them of his decision to resign from his father’s party. He found a willing audience, loyal subjects drawn from across the country’s political divide, but certainly with an ear only for his message – in the true spirit of the Tswana maxim, ‘Mafoko a Kgosi a agelwa mosako.’ Khama bared his soul to his subjects. They cheered him; they cried with him; they felt his pain and finally accepted his errand – to go into the country and find out whether people want him to stay in the BDP or to leave it.

However, couched in that instruction is the clear and unambiguous decision, that Khama has finally left his father’s party. His dressing down of BDP cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament including all the three arms of government, gave him away. Worse still, Khama not only announced how he has been humiliated by the minister for Environment and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila who has “suspended” Khama from his position as Botswana’s Toursim Anmbassador, but also announced to the meeting that he was resigning as Vision 2036 Ambassador to pre-empt such eventuality by government. Wise decision indeed: Which Vision Ambassador goes around the country denouncing his own master as unfit? But what was music to the ears of many was when he endorsed the opposition parties as having credible leaders and signalling his wish to work with any of them. The nail on the head of the BDP coffin was when he announced plans to decampaign some of the BDP Members of Parliament whom he accuses of dishonesty.

He has promised to visit the constituencies of VP Tsogwane; Dorcas Makgato’s Ramokgonami/Sefhare and Bobirwa constituency where parliamentary candidate Francisco Kgoboko, whom he claims to have helped beat MP and Defense and Justice Minster Shaw Kgathi, has turned against him. All these are clear indications that Khama is on an all-out campaign and will stop at nothing to remove Masisi from the presidency and by extension, BDP from power in the October general elections. The stage is now set. Duma Boko’s Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) which is currently embroiled in what promises to be a protracted legal tussle with one of its expelled contracting partners – BMD – has suddenly been thrown a lifeline. There is a good chance, if the UDC could play its cards well by staging a convincing public relations exercise, it could sway the Central District votes to its side.

On the other hand, with Khama gone, the BDP, could, like the falcon, rise from the ashes to become a much more formidable force unencumbered by royal privilege or captured by personality cults. Indeed, Khama’s resignation may just be the blessing that the party has always craved in as much as it could be the trump card that the opposition has always needed to taste state power. Let’s wait and see, but all is well that ends well. In the final analysis, it is the country’s democracy that stands to be enriched by the actions of these two men – Khama and Masisi. The latter is being accused of betraying Khama just because he is reversing most of Khama’s programmes and policies, which were largely described as ‘populist.’ Masisi has earned the wrath of MPs – in and outside his party – for many of his decisions. These same MPs who used to be called ‘Vultures’ when they demanded pay rise in Parliament! Like Khama said on Saturday, man is an untrustworthy animal!

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He was shot!

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The family of Rakops Chief Letang Segaise is convinced that high-ranking officials are behind his gruesome murder.The family has vowed that it will not rest until justice is served. Segaise was laid to rest last week after his burnt body and car were found in the bush a few kilometres away from the village.

The chief had been missing for more than 40 days. “Of course we know who is responsible (for the heinous crime) it’s just that we do not have enough evidence to prove it but this was a well-orchestrated plan by big names with flourishing bank accounts,” said an angry family member who preferred anonymity.They believe that the killer is well prepared and has covered his or her tracks well to reduce chances of ever getting caught.

They say people were hired to do the dirty job and that the “big guns” behind the murder are watching quietly from high places while “we waste our breath screaming for justice.”
This week Segaise’s family accused the government system of failing them. A member told The Midweek Sun that they have long asked the Police to grant them permission to go on a peaceful protest against ritual killings in the village but are being sent from pillar to post.

They said they went to the police for the permit only to be told that they should seek help from the District Commissioner, who allegedly sent them back to Police.Rakops station commander Thito Freeman said he advised the woman who called him that they have never heard of a family wanting to demonstrate because they would not know how to classify them.

“Permits are obtained here and it is normally organisations or unions but a family is a first and I do not know where to place them in the eyes of the law,” he said.vThe family member said the family is now scared to publicly air their opinions because it is proving extremely hard to reason with the government. “How can we reason with them when they do not want to listen, we are nobodies to think we can take on the mighty government.

“They will easily squash us and airing our views here on newspapers is angering them,” they said. The family shared that they have received a half baked report that indicates that Segaise was shot with a gun on his left ribcage. They suspect that the criminals who killed their father were aiming for his heart. The family is now struggling to come to terms with what happened to one of their own, whom they described as a departed hero, The family member said acts of people disappearing without a trace in the village have become commonplace, but nothing is being done about them.
It is for these reasons that they wish to unite the community with a peaceful demonstration.

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‘I have lost a pillar’

Yvonne Mooka

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HAPPIER TIMES: The late Roda with Rorisang

Rorisang Matlhaku – boyfriend to the late Rodah Putsini Kegontse – says she was an ever-smiling girl who loved giving people advice and was always there for them whenever they were experiencing challenges.

Kegontse, 19, took her own life two days after Independence holidays inside Matlhaku’s house in Ramotswa. In an interview with The Midweek Sun this week, he narrated the painful ordeal.
“She had travelled to her home village of Kanye for Independence. She surprised me by coming back to me after two days.

“There was an entertainment event which we both attended with friends,” he said. Around midnight, she asked to be dropped off at Matlhaku’s house, where he said he would join her a bit later.
Matlhaku stated that around 2am, he asked his younger sister who was with him at the event, to go and drop him off at his place. “As I passed by the bathroom, I noticed the bathtub was full of water and I thought my girlfriend had probably just finished bathing.

“When I entered the bedroom, I saw her lifeless body hanging inside the wardrobe and I quickly called my sister to drive back to my place,” he said. Matlhaku, 27, said that she had no clue what could have led his girlfriend to take her own life as she was likeable and jovial. “She was the most loving person I had ever met. She put me first before everything. When I asked her why at that age she loved me that much, she would say it was embedded in her. She even quit alcohol saying it wasn’t right that she was drinking while I wasn’t,” he said,

He said they started dating this year March. But again, he said Kegontse exhibited signs of depression. She would tell him that she used to burst into tears while in class while at secondary school becaue she felt at the time that her spirit was not well or that nobody liked her.

“She felt she wasn’t beautiful enough, that she was worthless and that people were always mocking her about her weight loss, but I always assured her that I loved her with my whole heart,” he said.
He described her as a simple person and a God-fearing young woman. “Whenever I came to her with my problems, she would advise me like a mature person, leaving me feeling better.

“She even joked that I should pay her because I had turned her into my business advisor. She used to call me every morning saying I should wake up and go and work for Basmati rice and not pap, saying we should aim higher and work for expensive things. She was my pillar,” said the man who runs a horticulture business.
Kegontse was buried this past Saturday in Kanye.

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