Opinion within the Botswana National Front (BNF) is divided on whether the recent actions of former President Dr Ian Khama constitute tribalism or not. A veteran activist of Botswana National Front, also Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidate for Boteti West, Sam Digwa is defending Dr Khama on the recent consultative meeting with Bangwato in Serowe.
On the other hand, BNF’s Vice President Reverend Prince Dibeela is of the opinion that Dr Khama is playing a potentially dangerous tribal game.Since the epic fallout between him and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, Khama, who is a paramount chief, has been to Serowe twice to address his tribesmen and women on the acrimonious relationship between himself and the president. Some of those who attended the meeting even openly gave Dr Khama permission to resign from Botswana Democratic Party (BDP); a party founded and led by his father, Seretse Khama.
Reverend Dibeela contends that Khama or any leader for that matter, “should not appeal to their ethnic allegiances to address their political problems.”He added that Botswana has enough experiences from the continent to avoid the politics of ethnicity. According to Dibeela, politics and ethnicity should not be mixed. “What is happening at the moment is very curious. Many will remember that Dr Khama is not the first royalty to be a politician in this country. “We have had his father, Seretse Khama. There were others such as Kgosi Moremi and Kgosi Lotlamoreng. All of them besides Dr Khama have managed to keep the distance between politics and Bogosi.
They saw the value of respecting the sacred space between the two,” said the outspoken clergyman. He reckons that what is happening right now between Dr Masisi and Dr Khama is essentially an internal BDP problem which should have been referred to the party structures for resolution and not a tribe. Dibeela believes that if every individual were to involve his or her tribe each time they have a problem with the organisation they belong to, there would soon be tribal wars in the country.
But Digwa, who stands to gain from Dr Khama’s promise to decampaign Vice President Slumber Tsogwane for the Boteti West parliamentary contest, has a different view from that of his party number two. He argues that somebody’s home village is important because that is where to get guidance. “I do not see any tribalism here,” he said. Asked if it would be acceptable if Masisi went to his home village too to seek support against Khama, Digwa responded in the negative.
“Dr Masisi is Head of State and President of the ruling party while Dr Khama is none of those.“As such, it would be wrong for Dr Masisi to consult a particular tribe on this matter,” explained Digwa who is looking to benefit immensely from Dr Khama’s support. Digwa is contesting against Vice President Tsogwane who is also BDP Chairperson and incidentally in Khama’s hit list for the general elections this year.
The BNF activist recently attended Khama’s meeting at Serowe where he took to the podium to criticise Masisi for not respecting the Bangwato Kgosikgolo. “Masisi ga a masisi,” he said at the meeting.
Like Digwa, Roseline Matshome, former chairperson of the BDP communications committee, sees nothing wrong with Khama consulting his tribesmen on his problems with his party. “It is normal to seek support from your people because they know you better. The tribe was consulted when he was taken from them to join politics. It is only in order that he consults them back this time around,” said Matshome in an interview.