Masisi, Khama feud claims first casualty

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Mpho Tebele

Gaborone - The frosty relationship between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and former President Ian Khama has claimed its first casualty with the suspension of a key member of Khama’s inner circle by Masisi.

Tshepo Mabaila, who is a leading member of Khama’s inner circle, has been suspended from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) by Masisi over allegations that he sponsored a parliamentary motion of no-confidence against Masisi.

BDP secretary general Mpho Balopi confirmed Mabaila’s suspension, but would not be drawn into discussing the details of the suspension.

“Yes, it is true that he has been suspended by the President, who has powers to suspend and expel members from the party,” said Balopi. For his part, Mabaila confirmed his suspension, but declined to comment further.

According to a letter dated August 7, 2018, Masisi accuses the youthful parliamentary candidate of making some utterances “to Hon Dr Alfred Madigele and Sethomo Lelatisitswe (Members of Parliament for BDP) on July 10, 2018, and letters addressed to the secretary general from the branch secretary dated December 3, 2017, and August 2, 2018”. 

Masisi also noted that Mabaila allegedly committed offences against the rules and regulations and General Code of Conduct of the ruling party.

The President further stated that Mabaila allegedly behaved in a grossly disorderly and unruly manner that might put the party’s name into disrepute contrary to the General Code of Conduct, sowing seeds of discord in the party and using regionalism, tribalism or factionalism contrary to the General Code of Conduct.

Mabaila is also accused of contemptuous behaviour towards BDP leadership and other members contrary to the General Code of Conduct.

In a telling sign of strife, Masisi informed Mabaila that: “It is alleged further that you have also shown that you are against party president and promoted the interests of other parties against the BDP by mobilising opposition members and BDP members to vote for a motion of no-confidence tabled by the leader of the opposition.” 

Masisi added that: “I have determined that this is one of the exceptional circumstances in which he should exercise the powers conferred upon him, as party president as contemplated by Article 34.1.6 of the BDP constitution and, consequently, you are suspended with immediate effect as a member of the party of a period of 60 days pending disciplinary action in light of the complaints laid against you.”

Masisi’s accusation against Mabaila that he mobilised opposition parties to topple him is not unfounded. During the debate tabled by leader of opposition Duma Boko in the just-ended parliamentary sitting, some BDP MPs accused Boko of being a hired gun.

Assistant Minister of Tertiary Educations Fidelis Molao said: “The mover of this motion is a dangerous fellow who should never be allowed near the seats of government. He is manipulative.” Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi also read malice in Boko’s motion.

“Since when has he started loving (former) President Khama. When the devil starts showing a liking towards a Christian, then you have to be suspicious,” said Kgati. This heightened speculation that Khama was the sponsor of the motion of no-confidence against Masisi. Khama has since distanced himself from these accusations.

During Khama’s reign, Mabaila was one of the people described by the local media as the most powerful people in Botswana despite that he did not hold any official position in the public service. Due to his close relationship with Khama, he set up a trust, which donated basic needs to the elderly in Gaborone and this endeared him to the electorate who voted him as a parliamentary candidate in the BDP primaries.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that the BDP Council of Elders has expressed concern over the public spat between Masisi and Khama. Former minister of minerals, David Magang who is also the chairman of the party’s Council of Elders is quoted as saying they intend to summon both Masisi and Khama so that they could reconcile the two men.

“The main concern is that the fallout and public spat is bad for the party and the country,” he was quoted as saying.

Masisi and Khama’s war of words was triggered by the former’s decision to reverse some of Khama’s policies and cut expenses on his life style. Masisi reduced Khama’s security detail and impounded arms of war at Khama’s private residency in Mosu village in the central part of the country. He was also barred from flying army aircraft and his wishes to have his close associate and former Intelligence Director Isaac Kgosi appointed as his private secretary thwarted.

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