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Masire, Mogae helped Masisi to defeat Khama

Publishing Date : 11 November, 2019

Author : UTLWANANG GASENNELWE

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has conducted several surreptitious meetings with the late former President Sir Ketumile Masire and former President Festus Mogae to take advise in outsmarting the powerful Khama family from the reins of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the country. 

 
This was revealed by a research paper seen by Weekend Post this week titled “How Masisi outsmarted Khama to take the reins in Botswana”. The paper was released on November 6, 2019 by a Research Fellow in African Studies at Indiana University in the United States, Dr. Barry Morton. Dr. Morton has published numerous books and articles on that topic. In 2017 he was hired by Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation to work with the now-late former President Masire on a new book, “The Minds of Masire and the Making of the Botswana Democratic Tradition” which is forthcoming later this year, 2019.


Dr. Morton stated in the article on how Masisi outmaneuvered the former President Ian Khama who appointed him as his Vice President and later succeeding him by taking the Counsel of the two former presidents in clandestine meetings. “It is clear that former President Khama (66), like many others, underestimated his young vice-president (Masisi). Masisi took advice in secret late-night sessions with former presidents Masire and Mogae as well as other veterans who despised “the New BDP” that Khama led,” Morton wrote in the paper.


Using their counsel, the author observed that he attended party meetings across the entire country to build up his own constituency. Masisi described his years as vice-president as “brutal hell”, adding that “I was the most abused vice-president,” Morton narrated in the controversial research paper. He added by predicting that: “the full story of how the underling Masisi prosecuted his silent war with Khama is one we must wait for. Ultimately, it is his energetic campaigning and his desire to bring back the forgotten ethos and policies of the early BDP – of Seretse Khama and Masire – that won over the voters (in 2019 elections) despite the defection of the Khamas.”  


According to the academic, Masisi now vows to reinvigorate Botswana’s stalled economy, and in this regard his supporters expect him to show no less stamina than he did in the election. Like the priest in Paton’s story who went to Johannesburg seeking his sister and son only to find a degraded and desperate situation, so Masisi is understood to have found the central government and cabinet unrecognisable from the institutions that his late father had served so well in the past, he said.


“With the BDP having been taken over by a coalition of Khama lackeys and “tenderpreneurs” – business people who enrich themselves, often dubiously, through government tenders – even the party’s founder, former President Masire, disowned it for lacking the values and discipline of the original,” he observed. Dr. Morton highlighted that Masisi’s role as vice-president was to serve as a short-term stopgap for Ian Khama’s “Fredo-like” brother, Tshekedi and his looming appointment as Khama’s successor was highly unpopular inside and outside the party.


Once Khama handed power to Masisi in April 2018, he pointed out that “Sisiboy” moved quickly onto the attack, arresting the despised Isaac Kgosi and installing his own supporters in key positions. “Once the Khama brothers defected to the opposition ahead of the 2019 election, they and their supporters were thoroughly outworked by Masisi’s relentless campaign organisation.”


Masisi managed to win the governing BDP’s primary and general election, landing in parliament in 2009 and within two years he was in the cabinet. In 2014, President Ian Khama, looking for an inexperienced and pliable deputy, appointed him vice-president. Ever since 1998, the BDP has transferred power from the president to the vice-president a year before the next general election. Masire did this for Mogae in 1998, who then did the same thing for Ian Khama in 2008.


Masisi has always been easy to underestimate


Dr. Morton states in the paper that although his father, Edison, was a senior cabinet member, Masisi did not display the charisma of a Sir Seretse Khama, the first president of independent Botswana. “Neither did he show the technocratic brilliance of a Quett Masire, who succeeded Seretse Khama as president in 1980; nor the emotional oratory of a Daniel Kwelagobe, the BDP chairman,” he continued. He furthermore stated that although Masisi today compares favourably to any of these political legends, none of this seemed evident in his youth.“He has always been easy to underestimate. Although a prefect at Gaborone’s Thornhill and Maru A Pula private schools, he was not a standout personality,” the Research Fellow said.


How Masisi wrestled control of Botswana from Khama’s

Masisi’s decisive victory in the recent Botswana elections (2019) over a coalition backed by his former boss, Ian Khama, is the culmination of an astonishing 10 year political career, the US born academic pointed out. “Morphing from an obscure first-time MP in 2009 to a surprise vice presidential appointment in 2014, and then president in 2018, the man affectionately known as “Sisiboy” (a play on his surname) has wrested control of Botswana from the powerful Khama family. This he has achieved using tireless campaigning and “the rebirth of the Botswana Democratic Party” (BDP),” he stated out in the paper.


He highlighted that the Khama lineage has dominated Botswana’s politics since the 1870s, right through the modern presidencies of Sir Seretse Khama (1966-1980) and Ian Khama (2008-2018). “But they are now a discredited, spent force with Ian Khama’s new party (Botswana Patriotic Front) having won only 5% of the vote,” he asserted. He cited the prosecution of Khama’s security chief, Isaac Kgosi, and presidential secretary, Carter Morupisi, following his assumption of power in 2018, showed that Masisi was no longer willing to tolerate the widespread corruption that flourished under his predecessor. “Investigators continue to uncover allegations of shocking malfeasance.”


According to the author, Masisi, 58, is on a mission to restore Botswana’s reputation as a beacon of clean governance on the continent, and is pouring resources and energy into that effort. “His ascent and success have surprised everybody. Even Khama admitted: ‘I have come to realise that I have maybe misjudged him,’” Morton wrote.


The author, Dr. Barry Morton was raised and educated in Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe before returning to his native United States for university. In the course of obtaining a PhD in African History in 1996 he established his credentials as an authority on the history of Botswana.


The Conversation in which the paper is published is funded by the National Research Foundation, eight universities, including the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University and the Universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pretoria, and South Africa. It is hosted by the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Western Cape, the African Population and Health Research Centre and the Nigerian Academy of Science and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a Strategic Partner.

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