To those who have been following the unfolding political events at the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) since the assumption of office by President Masisi, few will be surprised or shocked by the resignation of Rre Tshekedi Khama. And this because he has been on the back foot ever since then. While it should justifiably be argued that his political career was safe and sound under the presidency of his elder brother Lt Gen Ian Khama largely due to their family relationship, the same cannot be said about it under President Masisi. A lot of red flags have been raised under the President to give an indication that Tshekedi was living on borrowed times and that it was a matter of when rather than if he will quit the party. This has since been confirmed.
Any person in Tshekedi’s situation would have reasonably quit. Tshekedi’s tenure at the BDP under President Masisi was by all accounts, dead in the water. It is fair to suggest rightly or wrongly by his body language under the Masisi administration that he felt alienated in more ways than one probably for his brother’s commissions or omissions. Only him can tell the story. The BDP press release dated 25 September 2019 on the resignation of Tshekedi and perhaps acknowledging that he had no choice but to quit says in part that “…It is unfortunate though understandable under the current circumstances…” The circumstances referred to in this quote I want to believe, are some of those that I am exploring hereunder and which the BDP cannot convincingly dispute. They have been conspicuously displayed for all those who cared to watch and listen.
Tshekedi’s situation has not been more to do with his performance or lack thereof as a Minister or a Member of Parliament but that of victimhood occasioned by the bad blood between his elder brother and the President. Consequently, he became the collateral damage of some sort. It is a well-known fact that Tshekedi has, just like some of his colleagues, had his own fair share of shortcomings as a Minister particularly at the ministry of wildlife and tourism where he had a serious fall out with his erstwhile Permanent Secretary and the Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Tourism Organisation for various acts of poor governance. These were laid bare at various meetings of the Public Accounts Committee and the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises. The two individuals would later resign for a broken down relationship at personal levels and for his arbitrary management of that ministry. In the process, a lot of public funds were fruitlessly used by his arbitrary conduct. One would have expected the President not to include him in his cabinet after taking office for the above. It is fair to conclude that he retained more as a political strategy than anything else. It could further exacerbate the instability in the BDP caused by the political standoff between the President and his predecessor.
Following the reversal of some if not all decisions, policies and programmes taken by Lt Gen Khama by the President like the disarming of the anti-poaching wildlife staff, Tshekedi like his elder brother, is known to be against this decision citing the likely increase in high levels of poachers on elephants. There is that incidence where a large herd of elephants were reported to have died under mysterious circumstances from which Tshekedi and reportedly so, took a different view from that of government. An impromptu press conference to address the mysterious deaths of these elephants amongst others would later be held. Strangely and against the usual protocol, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Unity Dow instead chaired this press conference and not the relevant minister under whose portfolio the subject matter of the press conference resided and who happened to be Tshekedi. This was an indirect signal that Tshekedi’s days in cabinet could be numbered. Tshekedi it would emerge, was not aware of this press conference but his Permanent Secretary and other ministry officials were. As fate would have it, he got to know about it which he gate-crushed to the sheer embarrassment of its conveners. This without any shred of doubt was a palpable indication that Tshekedi’s authority as a Minister was slowly but surely being eroded or undermined by his colleagues presumably with the blessings of the President. He would subsequently be removed from this ministry and deployed elsewhere. At this stage, the standoff between the President and Lt Gen Khama was in full motion and would, without doubt, weigh heavily on Tshekedi. But neither the President nor Tshekedi himself were ready to blink first. Some sort of silent diplomacy or Cold War and whichever is applicable in the circumstances was brewing at the Government Enclave. There must have been a call on the President to recall Tshekedi but predictably, the former would be verily aware of the political ramifications of such recall as alluded to above.
The last straw that would break Tshekedi’s back was the alleged public remark by Minister Makgatho at some political rally that Tshekedi’s father died as a result of alcohol abuse. While the Minister remains resolute to this day that she has been misrepresented in an attempt to tarnish her reputation politically, Tshekedi would have none of it thereby joining his brother and their followers that the Minister indeed was referring to the Khama brothers’ father. It has been reported that Tshekedi approached the President to reconcile him with the Minister on this issue but that his efforts turned out to be an exercise in futility. Some are of the view that the Minister’s remark issue was just an excuse for Tshekedi to decamp from the BDP. Whatever the case, some political rivals of Minister Makgatho believe the remark was directed at Tshekedi’s father.
What does Tshekedi’s resignation from the BDP mean? The point of departure is that more than anything else, the party has potentially lost a constituency in its historical stronghold even before voting stations opened. As a party defending its over fifty years of democratic rule, the BDP has never approached elections dodged by so many internal election issues to a point where candidates are either suspended, fired or their launchings postponed when an election is around the corner. Parliamentary candidate Rre Moswaane’s launch was postponed on the day of his launch while former MP Rre Maele was suspended and is now standing as an independent candidate. In Tshekedi’s case, the person replacing him is a fairly new face with less than a month to the elections day. Granted, this individual is still in with a chance like other contestants. But realistically speaking, Tshekedi stands a better chance borne out of his immediate past incumbency as an MP amongst others.
Even if Tshekedi had remained in the BDP, his tenure would have been tumultuous given his frosty relationship with the President. He would have remained in an ‘abuse relationship’ that could neither work for him nor the President and by extension, the BDP. Put differently, it was more of good riddance in the circumstances for the party albeit belated. When all is said and done, the loser and the winner between the BDP and Rre Tshekedi Khama will be revealed beyond any reasonable doubt by the 23 October 2019 general election result. Only then will one conclusively state which of the two had the last and the longest laugh. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise. Judge for Yourself as you enjoy your long independence weekend. God Bless Botswana.