Tension between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor former President Ian Khama deepened further last week when the latter declined an invitation to fly on Presidential jet OK1 to London.
Both Masisi and Khama were invited to the two-day conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in London which ended on Thursday. Sources at Office of the President (OP) told The Patriot on Sunday during the week that Masisi extended an invitation to Khama to fly with him on OK1, but he turned down the offer.
Instead, Khama used commercial flights to make the trip to London on Tuesday, a development that has not sat well with Masisi.
Ahead of the London trip, OP is said to have written a letter to Khama's office inviting him to fly “at His Excellency’s invitation” to the conference.
In response Khama is said to have told OP that he had already made his own travel arrangements to attend the conference. Efforts to convince him to accompany President Masisi are said to have hit a snag as he told them flatly that he did not want to be embarrassed by the Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi at the airport telling him he can no longer fly on OK1.
“He gave example of the Debswana private jet incident where Morupisi instructed the mining company not to give him a ride on their flight as it is against protocol,” the source said.
In August, Khama asked for a seat on a Debswana private jet flying to Orapa and was duly accepted by the company’s Managing Director Balisi Bonyongo. However, a few days before the scheduled flight Morupisi instructed Debswana not to give him a ride as it is against protocol.
In an interview Morupisi refuted allegations that Khama refused to fly with the President at His Excellency’s invitation. “Remember that President Masisi went to London a few days before the conference to attend some events including delivering a lecture at Oxford University. So there was no way they could have travelled together for the conference,” he reasoned.
On whether they knew about Khama’s London trip, Morupisi said they were not aware that he is in London as he did not inform the Office of President as protocol dictates. “Government pays for four external trips in a year, flying on first class for the former President. He has to inform us (OP) so that the ministry of foreign affairs can make travel arrangements for him,” he explained.
The two former political allies and confidante, now turned political nemesis, have recently differed on numerous issues among them wildlife conservation. Khama has openly stated that he is against the lifting of the hunting ban which was introduced during his tenure while President Masisi is of the view that it must be reviewed.
The latest incident is not the first as it is alleged that in August Khama declined another invitation to accompany Masisi and former President Festus Mogae on the Presidential jet OK1 to attend the inauguration of Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Masisi in Serowe
Masisi will address a kgotla meeting in Serowe on Thursday, where Bangwato tribesmen are expected to take him to task over allegations of bad blood between him and Khama. Early last week Bangwato royals rejected a delegations mandated to consult on the liquor trading hours, saying they do not have the authority to allow them to talk about the issue in the kgotla.
The liquor trading hours were changed during the presidency of Khama, who also introduced the alcohol levy. Observers said they were not surprised when the delegation from the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry were blocked from addressing morafe about the issue.
Contacted for a comment, Bangwato Regent Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane refused to discuss the issue. “No! I am not going to discuss that issue. Just go and ask the District Commissioner,” said Kgamane.
Morupisi confirmed that President Masisi will address a kgotla meeting in Serowe on October 18 and said it is just a consultative meeting.
There is feeling among some of Bangwato tribesmen that President Masisi is ill-treating Khama, who is their Kgosikgolo.
When President Masisi was invited to officiate at the Serowe Agricultural Show, there was clash between the organisers and Office of the President over the invitation of former President Khama. The organisers wanted Khama to give closing remarks as a patron of the show but OP informed them that it will be against protocol for the former president to speak after the Head of State.