The growing list of farewell gifts given to outgoing President Ian Khama has set tongues wagging, with some accusing him of stealing from the poor. So far from visiting 22 villages he has received in excess of 300 herd of cattle and over P300 000. The number of chicken is by far more than the cattle he has received. Based on the way things are going his gifts are likely to have more than doubled from current numbers when he finally leaves office on March 31. This has left some of his political opponents almost envying him and going further to declare the donations illegal. The Leader of the Opposition Duma Boko has even gone further to declare that they are going to lay corruption charges against President Khama for taking gifts from Batswana and not declaring them. But President of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) – Vice President of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) – Sidney Pilane differed with his alliance President, saying there is nothing wrong with Batswana giving President Khama gifts. On social media, Pilane – former Special Advisor to President Festus Mogae – said there was nothing illegal or wrong with giving the outgoing Head of State gifts. “You’re free to give to anybody anything that belongs to you. That is your prerogative and your reasons for doing so are your entitlement,” he said, adding that it was started by Khama's predecessors and it seems to be turning into a tradition. Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General Mpho Balopi took a swipe at the opposition accusing them of being petty. “President Khama has never demanded to be given presents but rather the nation found it fit to usher him with gifts,” said Balopi. He called on the opposition to first account for the money they got from Batswana following the death of the founding President of BMD Gomolemo Motswaledi who perished in a car accident near Lobatse in 2014. The opposition parties had sought donations from the public on grounds that they were launching an investigation as to what caused the death of Motswaledi. Many years later the opposition has not made public its findings.
President Khama’s farewell tour started in Moshupa last year in what many political pundits viewed as a historic event as it officially kick-started the transition phase since the incoming President Mokgweetsi Masisi comes from the village. Khama has so far visited 22 villages and Batswana have been more than generous to him, giving him varied presents especially livestock. Khama has seemingly endeared himself to the nation because of his tradition of visiting villages and staying with locals to learn about their culture and traditions while seating at the kgotla. He had always carried donations and even food to offer dinner to the villagers. It is only now that he is entering the kgotla with no goodies and in a reverse order he has become a key recipient of his people’s benevolence. The Central District Council (CDC), which is President Khama’s base as he oversees most villages in the area on his capacity as Bangwato Kgosi Kgolo, is expected to lead in donations to him when the final count is made. Most political pundits were adamant that President Khama will receive a hostile reception in Maun due to government run-ins with Batawana over the Moremi Game Reserve and his toxic relationship with area MP Kgosi Tawana Moremi who is also his cousin. But he was well received by Batawana who gave him 30 cows and P36 000 and other gifts including a donkey. Currently President Khama has received over P300, 000 from the 22 constituencies and over 300 cows excluding small livestock. Most of the cattle are top ranking breeds. President Khama is expected to make more than a million Pula in cash as he is yet to visit the main Bangwato villages of Shoshong, Mahalapye, Palapye and Serowe. A highly placed source in Palapye have revealed that they are planning to buy him the latest Toyota Land Cruiser which is worth more than P1 million and herds of cattle among other gifts. Another area, which is expected to be generous, is the Gantsi region, which in 2008 gave former President Festus Mogae 50 heifers and a bull. Serowe will be President Khama’s final farewell destination and is expected to be the epicentre of all as he is expected to visit Moiyabana, Paje and Mmashoro before being welcomed back as the paramount chief at the main kgotla.
What will Khama do with the presents?
During his inaugural farewell in Moshupa, Khama indicated that some of the presents will be given to the underprivileged. Senior Private Secretary to the President Brigadier George Thalerwa said that having worked with President Khama for seven years, he is sure that he will share some of the gifts with the underprivileged as he has done before.