- Outgoing central committee members ordered to share their side of story - Khama wanted to control BDP while no longer president - CC members - BDP experienced party president contest for first time - Khama wanted to impose conditions of Masisi’s presidency - Tafa - I appointed Masisi who was less favoured for nation building - Khama
The real root cause of the feud between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor former President Ian Khama might never be known, but will be carried to the grave by the two statesmen.
They however, continue to give conflicting statements in an attempt to vindicate themselves. The feud dates back to 2018 when Masisi assumed office and has escalated with time. All efforts by various people to reconcile the duo have been futile.
Last week during the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) National Congress in Tsabong, President Masisi seized the moment to ask for central committee members who were there at the time when trouble started.
Outgoing central committee members Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, Deputy Secretary General Shaw Kgathi and MCC Ponatshego Tshiping had to share what they know.
What came as a surprise to many was when Khama’s closest ally and legal advisor, Parks Tafa took to the podium and shared what he termed unfortunate incidents.
President Masisi told the congress that he is not making anything up and the central committee members were there even at the time when Khama wanted to continue as President of the BDP when Masisi takes over as president of the country.
President Masisi stated that Khama made it clear in a central committee meeting that he has to continue as the president of the party as he was given such a mandate from 2014 to 2019.
Balopi stated in his report to the congress that during the 50 years of existence, the party has never experienced contest for the position of Party President, even though the constitution allows for it. He told the congress that in 2018 and 2019 some incidents changed this.
“One incident was a suggestion by the then National Strategy Team that the party should adopt the former president as the face of the 2019 general election campaign. I, as the secretary general and supervisor of sub-committees then, opposed the suggestion by citing not only precedence or practice, but also Article 34 which states who the face of the party should be.
“The other was the former president’s assertion that there was uncertainty as to whether he should remain as party president or not. He brought this to the attention of the central committee and even instructed that legal opinions on the matter be sought.
“The central committee after protracted discussions clearly guided on the matter as there was never a time whereby any party president resigned as a result of the end of his term as State President,” Balopi said, adding that the central committee further reminded Khama that he benefited from the same due process that he was questioning.
According to Balopi, another incident was in the lead-up to the 2019 general election whereby Khama sponsored a challenger and campaigns like never seen before, ensued.
Kgathi who was called to confirm the utterances, indicated that he was there. He revealed that two items made part of the meeting, the first being the interpretation of the BDP Constitution about the presidency and another being that Khama should be the face of the party for the 2019 general election.
Kgathi expressed concern that he has for long been vilified and associated with Khama, while it is the same Khama who de-campaigned him during the BDP primary elections. He said he has suffered at the hands of his fellow democrats on unsubstantiated issues.
Tshiping also stated that she was there at the meeting which Khama wanted the party to seek legal opinion and interpretation of the BDP Constitution regarding the term of president.
“I was there when Masisi was to be sworn in the following day when Khama stated that he should continue as President. He even demanded that a legal opinion be sought. He reiterated that we should not ask for legal opinion from Parks Tafa.
“We do not know why he didn’t want Tafa. Khama refused to hear my comment on the matter because I had my hand up as I wanted to ask him why he would want things changed when the same arrangement was there when he took over from former President Festus Mogae,” Tshiping said.
Attorney Parks Tafa sealed the fate when he revealed that he played a facilitation role between Khama and Masisi at a time when Masisi was a breath away from becoming head of state.
He revealed that in December 2016 ahead of the party’s Tonota elective congress in 2017, Khama sent him to then vice president Masisi to relay the message.
He said the message was that Masisi should vacate the chairmanship seat and pave way for Tshekedi Khama and that when he becomes president, Masisi should appoint Tshekedi his Vice President.
“I was still not well at the time but I did relay the message. Masisi told me that as Vice President, he has not been working well with Tshekedi Khama. He said Tshekedi always looked down on him. He even shared with me what happened in one of the cabinet retreats.
“I told him that when you take the oath, even after a few seconds, you are free to do what you want to do and nothing will change. Well, he told me he will sleep on the matter.
“On a Monday morning, he sent me a message and said he slept on the matter and said it will be a hard sell to have Tshekedi as Vice President and Chairman even within the party. So I took the message to then President and what happened after that I do not know,” Tafa told the congress.
According to Tafa, Masisi should be allowed space to run government without disturbance. He stated that Masisi is a humble man who has not been changed by the presidency. Tafa indicated that he has advised that there is no how conditions could be imposed on the president as to whom he or she should choose for vice president or as minister.
He acknowledged that currently there is a problem between Masisi and Khama. Tafa said even though there is nothing they can do about the feud it should not be ignored. He expressed hope that one day a solution will be found.
He challenged democrats not to undermine the influence of Khama as Kgosikgolo of Gammangwato and implored them to work hard to reclaim constituencies in the north.
Tafa expressed his full admiration for Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kgotla Autlwetse for having been in the brunt of the dispute. He said Autlwetse has been brave and needs to be applauded.
Former president Khama has indicated that many people, in and outside government, and within the BDP lobbied for the nomination of Tshekedi Khama as Vice President. According to Khama, he had been adamant in his belief that he could not appoint his brother to succeed him.
“I was also categorical that if indeed my successor or any other President wanted to appoint Tshekedi, it would be on their own volition. Let us remember the straw poll I conducted in Caucus immediately after the 2014 general election to determine the Vice President.
“Of the top four or five contenders Mokgweetsi Masisi came in last. In the interest of nation building, I however, opted for Mokgweetsi Masisi. My successor was a beneficiary of primarily my desire to build an inclusive and united nation.
“Before the public pronouncement, I shared my thoughts with Parks Tafa, someone I consider a close confidante. His objection was instant, before relenting the next day. After re-considering his position Parks conveyed my thoughts to Masisi, and this outside my knowledge.
“According to Parks, Masisi’s reaction was great excitement, jubilation and appreciation that brought him (Masisi) to tears. I am further told by Parks that as if to thank me, Masisi pledged to Parks that he would make TK his own Vice President,” Khama said in response to claims levelled against him.
He revealed that he has never told neither Tafa nor Masisi to make Tshekedi Vice President. That was entirely Masisi’s pledge, something he reiterated in the Office of the President, and in the presence of Parks Tafa, added Khama.
He said that Masisi did not carry out what he would do as it was his prerogative.
“If there was anyone who should have been upset it would have been TK but he wasn’t, accepting to serve as a Minister nonetheless. Notwithstanding the current circumstances I deliberately and consciously against opposition from within Cabinet, BDP Caucus and beyond endorsed VP Masisi to occupy the position of fifth President of the Republic of Botswana. If I live the rest of my life as a victim of nation building, then so shall it be,” Khama contended.