MAJOR ABSENTEE Former Botswana president Ian Khama missing at his sister’s funeral
“It is unthinkable that a family like them could not come to the funeral of their sister for a fault that is not their own,” Kgosi Mokhutshwane Sekgoma told the multitudes that gathered at the funeral of Jacqueline Tebogo Khama, the first born child and only daughter of Botswana’s founding president Sir Seretse Khama.
As had been expected throughout the week, Jacqueline’s brothers, former president and Bangwato tribe paramount chief Ia Khama, as well as his younger brothers Tshekedi Khama and Anthony Khama, were conspicuous in their absence at her funeral service conducted at the main Bamangwato kgotla in Serowe on Friday morning. They only watched the livestream of the funeral service on a television set from an undisclosed location in South Africa.
This comes on the backdrop of the brothers and other relatives of the family fleeing the country since November last year, on account of what they term fear of harassment and persecution by the country’s intelligence arm, Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS). Former president Khama himself revealed in recent weeks that there were actually 13 out of 18 members of the Khama family who have moved out of the country.
The DISS has since been investigating the Khama family and their allies, for alleged acts of corruption, abuse of state resources and illegal possession of firearms among other reported transgressions. The Khama family on the other hand sees the charges as an extension of the feud they have with current president Mokgweetsi Masisi.
The relationship between Masisi and Khama was severed immediately after the former took over as president, with the latter repeatedly complaining of betrayal and unfulfilled promises. The two however have never come out to publicly state their real source of conflict, until Local Government minister Kgotla Autlwetse recently hinted on the bone of contention recently while addressing some Bangwato royals in Boteti.
This Friday morning’s funeral service was conducted without the brothers, with former president only addressing the funeral through a recorded message. In his message, he reiterated that the current government was harassing him and his family. He thanked Bangwato for their support in these trying times, saying the security forces have in the past even tried to kill him through poisoning, an allegation the DISS has since rubbished. Khama said his sister died while bearing a heavy heart, although he did not elaborate.
Addressing the mourners at the funeral service, one of the Bangwato royal uncles, Kgosi Mokhutshwane Sekgoma, spoke heartily to the matter of their paramount chief and his family members missing at their only sister’s funeral
“Our hearts bleed with the knowledge that any attempt by the Khama brothers to come into Botswana for this service, will be met with their arrest. We pray, as a tribe to continue to be peaceful in the hope that the current administration will see the tears that refuse to dry on our faces because of the unending persecution and harassment on the family,” Sekgoma said, adding that they were hopeful the Khama brothers would soon return to the country to take their rightful place as the Bangwato royals.
Although he repeated that they were not aware of the source of the feud between former president Khama and current President Masisi, local government minister Autlwetse recently shared that Khama was actually unhappy that the promises made to him by Masisi when he chose him to be his successor, were not fulfilled.
The minister told a gathering of other Bangwato chiefs and headmen about a fortnight ago that among others, Khama had demanded that after his retirement, he continues as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces; and that President Masisi chooses his younger brother, Tshekedi Khama, to be the Vice President of Botswana. During his retirement, according to the minister, Khama further demanded that he be given three (3) cooks to serve him; a security detail comprising 15 men each with his own gun; and also that the State must buy him groceries.
The current president is said to have declined to accede to these the demands, prompting the protracted feud between the two men. Autlwetse added that the presidents who retired before Khama – Festus Mogae and Sir Ketumile Masire – did not enjoy the benefits and entitlements as demanded by Khama. According to Autlwetse, Khama insisted that he should be granted his demands because he is not only a retired president but also a retired Army General, and therefore his upkeep must differ from the rest.
Efforts to bring the two men together have since failed, and subsequent investigations into allegations of corruption against Khama, his intelligence boss of the time Isaac Kgosi, his brother Tshekedi who served as a cabinet minister under his presidency, have been seen by the Khamas as a way to fix them by the current president.
Several Batswana commenting on social media as the funeral service of Jacqueline continued, expressed mixed reactions to what has been unfolding. While some felt that the government of the day was cruel to have barred the Khamas from attending their sister’s funeral, others questioned how the government was responsible as the family members left the country on their own while their co-accused remain in the country without being harassed.
Ian Khama was the first to leave the country to South Africa in November, without the knowledge of the Office of the President that manages the protocols of former presidents, and he has since remained there saying he fears persecution. He left just after he was slapped with 14 criminal charges and had been asked to report to the offices of the DISS. His brothers would follow him later in recent months after they too had been called in for questioning regarding their arms dealings in the past.
Speaking at the funeral service, Jacqueline’s son Dale Ter Haar, told the gathering: “My mother was not well in her final days and died peacefully in her sleep on the night of 24 May. She died sad that her brothers were away from the country for months. We cannot say it was the cause for her death, but she was stressed.”
He added that when all has been done regarding the mother’s funeral, whose body was cremated, he would be returning to the United States where he has been staying, leaving only his brother Marcus, his wife and children to be the only Khamas remaining in Botswana.