Former Commander of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Ground Forces, Major General Pius Mokgware, has warned that the on-going feud between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor Ian Khama, if not resolved, could degenerate into a civil war that will reverse the gains made by the country.
Supported by other MPs when responding to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Wednesday, the MP for Gabane-Mankgodi said what is happening between Masisi and Khama is not good for the country. “This is a dangerous stage. We must tread very carefully, lest we slide into a civil war,” he warned.
Mokgware said what is happening in Botswana is similar to what led to a civil war in Burundi. The Burundian Civil War was an armed conflict lasting from 1993 to 2005. The civil war was the result of long standing ethnic divisions between the Hutu and the Tutsi ethnic groups in Burundi.
Recently there has been talk that Masisi appoints senior public servants along tribal lines which was vehemently denied by his supporters who warned that such allegations are used to fuel ethnic tensions in the country.
The Masisi-Khama fallout is alleged to have caused factions within the disciplined forces, especially the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS). One of the members of DISS has taken the spy unit to court after he was deployed from an Air Wing Division to corporate services where he is now a clerk.
In his affidavit Opelonomi Edwin Matlhagela states that one of the reasons he was redeployed is because it is suspected that he is associated with Khama and former Spy chief Isaac Kgosi. “I have not been given reasons why I was redeployed but can only infer that it is because it is believed that I am associated with the previous Director General of the DISS Isaac Kgosi. I say this because after he left, I was asked by Tino Phuthego why I took an instruction from him to fly the previous president Lieutenant General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama to Mosu,” he stated.
During the SONA, Masisi admitted that there has not been a smooth transition from the previous administration to the current one, something that was immediately denied by Khama. Khama, who did not bother to attend the SONA claiming that he was at his farm, said that the transition was smooth as observed by the international community. On the other hand, Masisi openly admitted that Khama has created two centres of powers as he continually addresses kgotla meetings and campaigned for one of the parliamentary candidate Francisco Kgoboko in Bobonong against the incumbent Shaw Kgathi.
Commenting on the issue, MP for Gantsi North Noah Salakae warned the two men that they must resolve their differences amicably. "I want to say three things to these men. I want to caution them one; they are not bigger than Botswana. Two; Batswana do not want bloodshed! Three; there will never be bloodshed in Botswana because this country is God’s creation. This is the message that I want the messengers of Khama and President Masisi to take to them regardless of whatever their feud is all about,” said Salake.
Salakae said it is clear that the standoff is caused by a promise which was not fulfilled. Turning the tables on Khama, who recently revealed that Masisi promised to appoint his younger brother Tshekedi Khama as BDP Chairman and Vice President, Salakae said he must know that he was duped. “Khama must know that a secret promise, a secret deal gone sour is as good as failed. He should not try to disturb the peace and tranquillity we have in this country just because of a failed deal,” lashed out Salakae, warning that the dispute poses a threat to national security and has the potential to cause serious political turmoil.
Salakae said destroying the Khama dynasty comes at a huge cost to the tax payer as Government is using a lot of [public funds to reverse Khama's policies and decisions. “If Tshekedi Khama was promised VP position, he should be given. If it was a gentleman’s agreement that Kgosi will remain in office post Khama era then what has prevailed after the incumbent assumed state power, it is clear that agreed deal has gone sour,” said Salakae, adding that history will judge the two harshly should they not settle their scores.