Seretse Khama’s sons turn their backs on his party and join forces to oppose it

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

The sons of Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first president, will for the first time go to the elections in party colours opposed to the party co-founded by their father 58 years ago.

This is after Ian Khama, Botswana president until last year, managed to get his brother, Tshekedi Khama, to resign from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and join him at the newly formed Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF).

Tshekedi’s resignation was confirmed to City Press by BDP spokesperson, Kagelelo Kentse. His brother, Ian, posted on Facebook last night: “At last, the time has come! Join us tomorrow at the Serowe bus rank at 11am as we delightfully welcome Tshekedi Khama to the Botswana Patriotic Front.”

To Ian Khama, this was victory. He had recently embarked on a campaign to get his brother to resign from the BDP. He went as far as going to Tshekedi’s constituency in Serowe West, one of the areas that falls under him as the Bangwato chief, asking them if they wanted his brother to remain with BDP.

It was, however, not clear if Tshekedi’s decision to resign from the governing party was as a result of pressure from his brother and constituency. He has not spoken on the matter and has not responded to messages sent to him by City Press.

Tshekedi’s departure from the BDP came just a day before the Botswana Independent Electoral Commission’s deadline today for the submission of candidates’ names by political parties, and few days before he was to be unveiled as the governing party’s member of parliament candidate in his constituency on Saturday.

It was not immediately clear if Tshekedi’s name would be submitted to the IEC for the BPF.

His brother left the BDP more than three months ago following a fall-out with his successor as Botswana president and party leader, Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Khama handpicked Masisi to succeed him but reports suggested that their friendship soured within months of the latter being at the helm and allegedly not toeing the line and taking any advice or orders from the former president.

Ian Khama is a former chief of the Botswana army. He was appointed deputy president to Festus Mogae from 1998 to 2008. He then took over from Mogae as the country’s fourth president in 2008 and in 2012 appointed his brother, Tshekedi, as minister of environment, conservation and natural resources and tourism.

Masisi took over from Khama when his term ended last year and moved Tshekedi to the ministry of youth and sports. Tshekedi remained with the BDP after his brother left and has been seen at the party’s rallies campaigning until he suddenly resigned yesterday.

This, to some extent, can only mean that elections contest is getting even tougher for the BDP which has led the Botswana government for 53 years.

Central District, where the Khama brothers come from, is a known stronghold of the BDP and home to 19 of Botswana’s 57 constituencies.

This is the area where Ian Khama’s campaign has been strong with the aim of using his own people to unseat his father’s party.

It was also his first stop of consultation with his supporters before announcing his resignation from the BDP after the declared their support and to follow him wherever he decides to go. While at it, Khama has not only been working against the BDP but also formed an alliance with his former nemesis, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which was an official opposition party during his presidency and very critical of his leadership.

Meanwhile, the BDP spokesperson Kentse, said of Tshekedi Khama’s departure last week: “Good riddance … sometimes it is better for your enemy to be at a distance. He is now a member of the opposition and will be treated as such.”

Kentse said one of Masisi’s priorities was to fight corruption. He acknowledged that “corruption happened under the BDP but who was the head?”

He asked this rhetorical question whose answer will automatically be Ian Khama as the last leader of BDP and government before Masisi.

“If a leader is willing to fight corruption then the entire system will fight corruption. People of Botswana understand our agenda … Masisi deserves a chance to show us what he can do for us,” Kentse said.

More than 900 000 Botswana voters will determine who they prefer to lead their government in less than a month when the diamond rich country goes to the polls on October 23.


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