- Automatic succession touted as part of the feud
The feud between former President General S.K.I. Khama and his successor His Excellency Dr M.E.K. Masisi came to the fore a few months after the two exchanged the number one position in the country. Up to the day the latter was officially sworn in on that rainy day in Gaborone, the two were simply inseparable. Mid 2019, the former quit his father’s political party the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to facilitate the founding of the Botswana Patriotic Party (BPF) to which he was bestowed with the honourary title of Patron. To this day since the feud became a matter of public knowledge here and elsewhere, no official reason for it from either side has been pronounced. It remains a matter of speculation. What is not speculative however as far as I am concerned is that it is a political feud. Legal and bogosi (chiefstainship) issues to the feud are just add-ons in my view. So why do I say the feud is political than anything else?
Context is always important. Before he quit the BDP, Khama was complaining about almost anything in the party and government wherein he pointed at Masisi as the cause. Towards the end of 2018 in December to be precise, political euphoria was palpable towards the BDP congress in which the position of President of the party was up for grabs. The congress was scheduled for Kang in April 2019. Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi as she was then, had indicated her wish to contest for the position. She was immediately fired by Masisi for wanting to challenge him. Khama, who was at that stage gatvol (Afrikaans for fed up) with Masisi, supported Venson-Moitoi by sharing political platforms with her to garner support at the congress. For just indicating her wish to exercise her right as a BDP member, Mma-Venson-Moitoi was splashed with harrowing expletives mainly by her fellow party members including the women folk. It was so sad to watch and hear.
In the meantime, the name of Bridgette Motsepe whom Khama and herself said they had been family friends from the times of their parents, emerged on the scene as allegedly Venson-Moitoi’s financial sponsor for the congress and further that she was sponsoring both Khama and Venson-Moitoi to overthrow Masisi. I still vividly remember how the three were rumoured at the time to have been arrested in Victoria Falls where allegedly, millions of money were seized from them. They vehemently denied these allegations. At this stage, Masisi was trying to fend off fierce political storm from the two as it appeared Khama and Venson-Moitoi posed real threat to his ambition of being elected the BDP President in Kang. Masisi was well aware that in the event Venson-Moitoi won the Kang contest, his political career was all but over. That meant he could not be a BDP presidential candidate for the 2019 general election. Alive to this reality, Masisi it is believed galvanised the BDP machinery from all corners to malign and ridicule Venson-Moitoi as already said.
One the eve of the congress, she withdrew her candidature from the congress to Masisi’s sheer delight because it guaranteed him the presidency of the party and the fact that he was going to be the BDP presidential candidate in 2019. Following the failure by Venson-Moitoi to challenge Masisi, Khama would eventually quit the BDP to facilitate the founding of Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). It was expected she would follow him but that was not to be. She was later seen at Mochudi West where Hon Mmusi Kgafela was launched by Masisi. Ever since Khama and Masisi fell out, the former has relentlessly spoken against the latter’s governance of the BDP and government here and abroad particularly in South Africa where television channels are ever ready and willing to give him airtime. Masisi has also had a fair share of criticising Khama at times promising to spill the beans. Still waiting for the spillage! Elevating his disdain for Masisi, Khama would later approach the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the grounds that his life was in danger as he felt the DIS amongst others were out to harm or assassinate him.
From the foregoing, it is apparently clear the Khama/Masisi feud is political and therefore requires in the main a political solution. It is not in dispute that the feud resulted in legal proceedings pursued against Khama in what was seen by some as putting him on the edge of the cliff. Such legal proceedings are still on course. That said, it is the view of some political science scholars that part of the feud was borne out of the automatic succession dispensation. The argument here is that because the outgoing President in this case Khama would have anointed Masisi as his successor, he would expect some level of reciprocal favouritism is some or all instances from him. The favouritism agenda would have been discussed long before the outgoing exits office and agreed upon between the two and possibly with close allies. When the promised deal is not honoured, a political feud like the one under discussion naturally obtains. It is almost a given that had the two gentlemen not fallen out against each other, Khama would not have left the BDP; that the legal wars pursued against him would not have arisen; Khama would not have sought refuge in South Africa and lastly that Khama would not have embarked on a crusade to criticise Masisi.
Perhaps as the last ditch effort to broker peace, Khama’s uncles have entered the fray by demanding to see Masisi over the matter. I am curious to know whether he has told his uncles what led to his relationship with Masisi breaking down irretrievably. This piece of information is vital in the broader context of attempting to find the solution. It appears the uncles are entering the fray from the premise that only Masisi is to blame for the breakdown in their relationship. This will suggest Khama is not blameworthy. I thought the need to resolve the impasse is to get to the bottom of where it went horribly wrong whereat finger pointing would result in hardened attitudes from either side. Masisi could very well say Khama is the source of the feud. Is it a good thing for the uncles to be entering the fray to which I hold has its origins from politics?
Frankly spreaking, I think it is a bad move. If they are entering from a bogosi angle which I suspect is the case, they will be well aware that for them to have an audience with Masisi, they must as per established protocols, first go through the Minister under whose portfolio bogosi falls. That Minister is currently Hon Kgotla Autlwetse. They have already said they are seriously opposed to Autlwetse having an input of whatever kind in the matter. The point they raise that Autlwetse is conflicted with the greatest of respect, is hopelessly misplaced if not complicating their own mission. They seem to confuse him as a Mongwato vis-à-vis his ministerial position. Secondly, they tend to forget that they are negotiating from a very weak position relative to Masisi’s. If they genuinely appreciated this fact, they would be strategically smart not to bring in trivial matters that could possibly render their position even more troubled and complicated. Thirdly, they must appreciate and recognise the fact that as matters stand, Khama is not under the supervision of Autlwetse as he has not assumed his bogosi position at the Serowe kgotla to perform the functions of a Kgosi as it obtains in other jurisdictions. The implication of this is that Autlwetse could very well say from a bogosi perspective and given the prevailing circumstances, Khama does not fall under his supervision and direction and therefore, he has nothing to do with his problems with Masisi. But he (Autlwetse) sounds to be willing, nevertheless, to facilitate resolution of the impasse as far he possibly can.
In the final analysis, it is my considered view that the Khama/Masisi feud finds its roots from a political fallout more than anything else. As a consequence, a political solution is desirable depending of course on whether the two parties are willing for the facilitation of such solution. Willingness unfortunately seems to be in short supply from both parties. The automatic succession dispensation may have had its fair share to the feud as alluded to above. The arrival of Khama’s uncles into the fray and while I do not reject it out-rightly on the basis of finding a solution to the all-important issue of national importance whose consequences the country currently suffers from, appears to be premised on a confrontational attitude from both parties which I believe could be an impediment to the resolution of the feud. If the approach from the uncles is purely on the bogosi ticket, I am afraid they will have to bear with the established protocols government deals with such matters. If on the hand they are dealing with the matter with a hidden political agenda as has been suggested by some, it will require a purely political solution whose formula I am not able to prescribe. Only time will tell how the uncles continue with their mission given the acrimony between the two parties and most importantly, hurdles the uncles face. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise as always. Judge for Yourself!
On a sad note, I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the family and friends of the departed Ambassador Rre Mothusi Rabasha Bruce Palai. You have run your race in the public service for Kgabo. What a humble human being you were. MHSRIP.
‘No one is safe until everyone is safe’. Covid-19 is still very much in our midst.