Former President Lt Gen Ian Khama is a man gripped by anger as a result of ‘betrayal’ orchestrated by his successor, His Excellency the President Dr M.E.K. Masisi since the 1st April 2018. Both men have conceded that their relationship, put mildly, is at the lowest ebb. If Lt Gen Khama’s plan had worked out, the President of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) would by now be Hon Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and the political landscape in both the BDP and the Republic would have taken a different dimension. Ever since 1st April 2018 or soon thereafter, the tumultuous relationship between them has become a matter of public discourse. Because Lt Gen Khama is intent on ousting the President with the first attempt at Kang having already failed, nothing suggests he will give up any time sooner. Can he oust him while still a member of the BDP? Can the President do anything to thwart any plan Lt Gen Khama may be conjuring? These are some of the questions on one’s mind. This weekend’s Serowe meeting could provide some light into Khama’s next move.
This article seeks to suggest that he cannot do so from within the BDP because he will be acting against the party code of conduct. I will also be looking at how Lt Gen Khama could possibly drive his agenda against the President given that circumstances suggest it is his preoccupation. There are instances where Lt Gen Khama and in total deviation from the BDP code of conduct, has started endorsing BDP political enemies as will be shown hereunder. This modus operandi by the former President suggests that he will throw all but the kitchen sink to oust the President.
As a result of failure to oust the President at Kang, Lt Gen Khama is somewhat compelled to devise plan B to oust him because this has been his crusade ever since their fall out given the public punches they have been throwing at each other. Lt Gen Khama has come out openly to sharply criticise the President’s administration in many respects here and abroad. These criticisms have naturally not gone down well with the President and the BDP. One is left with the conclusion that the President may be waiting for an opportune moment to take a strike at Lt Gen Khama to floor him once and for ever. Also, it may not be far-fetched to suggest that given this tumultuous relationship, Lt Gen Khama is possibly alive to the possibility that he could be arrested and prosecuted for the corruption allegations levelled against his administration. The President, and alive to the possibility that Lt Gen Khama’s plan B could pose him personally and the BDP some immediate harm going into the general election, could stop the plan B in its tracks by arresting him. But would it be a politically wise decision to arrest him in a period leading to elections considering the possible ramifications he and the party could politically suffer and also considering the fact that the party is trying reconciliation of some sort, though facts on the ground suggest otherwise? Given the own goals scored by the President and the BDP in recent times, anything is possible.
It is my considered view that for Lt Gen Khama to up the ante in sharply criticising the President, he would have to resign from the BDP to freely pursue his agenda. Because he feels, rightly or wrongly, that he has been betrayed by the President with regard to the reported ‘agreement’ he had with him before he left office, any form of mechanism available to him that may be in conflict with the expected rules and regulations of the BDP would impede him from taking aim at the President more than he has done before. His resignation from the BDP will give him unrestricted platforms to de-campaign those Members of Parliament from the BDP who are sympathetic to the President by vigorously endorsing opposition MPs. This way and assuming opposition MPs triumph, the BDP could lose elections and by extension, the President would be surely and effectively removed from office. Would Lt Gen Khama’s plan B work to deliver desired outcomes?
Lt Gen Khama is well aware that BDP members are not all behind the President as evidenced by the pre and post Kang congress shenanigans where the President was endorsed after his challenger pulled out at the eleventh hour. One is not sure about the number of BDP members who for example feel Hon Venson-Moitoi was badly and unfairly treated by the President from the moment she announced her desire to challenge him and the subsequent chain reaction following the Kang congress; how many feel alienated by the BDP’s decision to suspend and dismiss Hon Maele and Hon Moyo respectively and so on. Whatever the case, I conclude that the BDP is its worst enemy through these and other un-strategic decisions and actions. I still believe that Lt Gen Khama still commands influence as a politically active former President and a Paramount Chief notwithstanding corruption allegations and other suggested transgressions against him. Similar influence has been shown by the immediate past South African President Jacob Zuma who remains popular in the political space despite his legal woes. Zuma’s influence was evident at the 2017 ANC elective congress where his camp lost to President Ramaphosa by a marginal 179 votes from more than 4000 delegates. The failure by Lt Gen Khama’s preferred candidate to stand at the Kang congress may have given an indication of his influence or lack thereof. Purely for political expediency and survival, other opposition candidates may invite Lt Gen Khama to endorse them as was recently reported that he endorsed BCP’s Dr Gobotswang. Given this scenario and particularly the numbers of those against the President, Lt Gen Khama could to some extent, influence the outcome of the upcoming elections. I must emphasise and harp on the point that this could be possibly achievable only if Lt Gen Khama stays out of jail or under house arrest. We have seen these situations in other parts of the continent and we may very well witness them here given the current political volatility.