Will Khama return to active politics in new party colours?

Botswana’s former president, Ian Khama. Picture: Rosetta Msimango
Botswana’s former president, Ian Khama. Picture: Rosetta Msimango

It was expected to be known tomorrow whether or not Botswana’s former president Ian Khama will lead the charge in a bid to seize power from the governing party co-founded by his father almost six decades ago.

Khama will attend the congress where leadership of the new political party, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), will be elected. The congress will be followed by an official launch event in Kanye, Botswana.

The 66-year-old Khama decided to ditch retirement and get back into politics when he announced late in May that he was cutting ties with the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) following a fallout and a public spat with the incumbent president, Mokgweetsi Masisi.

One thing that has not been clear was whether Khama would play any active leadership role in BPF which is challenging BDP in the upcoming elections later this year.

Read: Former Botswana president Ian Khama might be returning

Having made it clear that he was not happy with how Masisi was running the government, Khama’s return to politics and support of a party opposed to the BDP shows his intention to have his successor removed.

Read: Botswana is going going backwards, says Former president Khama

Masisi was handpicked by Khama to succeed him as president when his term came to end early last year. It did not take long before battle lines were drawn between the two and Masisi embarked on a mission to undo most of his predecessor’s policies and decisions.

Read: Khama's support for BPF heightens tensions with Masisi

The BDP has been the governing party in Botswana since the landlocked diamond-rich country’s independence in 1966. Khama served two terms as president wearing the BDP cap in which he grew up but did not waste time throwing it away when relationships went sour.

Khama has been seen at BPF gatherings sitting among its leaders and has been introduced as a “patron” of the new party.

Asked this week if he was going to take up any active leadership role in the party, Khama played his cards very close to his chest.

“It will be revealed to all on Saturday the role I will play going forward in this new party,” he said.

Mokgweetsi Masisi
Mokgweetsi Masisi

Botswana will go to elections in October after commemorating its 53rd independence on September 30. The upcoming national elections were expected to be the most interesting ever with BDP going into it after a storm where the party would have suffered some membership loss after the formation of the breakaway party.

Biggie Butale, BPF convener and former BDP member of parliament, said they were expecting a twist in the country’s political landscape. He was adamant that his party was going to take to the helm following the polls.

“I believe we’re going to be the first change of government in the history of this country. Something is going to happen in the future; you will see things you’ve never seen in Botswana,” Butale said addressing the media in Gaborone this week.

He took a swipe at his former party, BDP, saying its leadership was “leadership very intolerant, autocratic and heavy handed” adding that the governing party “has reached menopause”.

“It’s time for change, otherwise repression will get worse,” Butale said.

While he tried hard not to talk too much about the new party during its first ever media briefing at its new headquarters in Gaborone this week, Khama said they were determined to unseat BDP through alliance partnership with other political parties.

“We don’t want to go it alone… we want to approach it as a united front. We will form an alliance and help each other out in achieving an objective we laid out,” he said.

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