President Ian Khama pulled a surprise again this week when he took a backseat and didn’t bid former President Sir Ketumile Masire farewell during the Memorial Service at the University of Botswana.
This conduct fuelled suspicion that Khama has not got over what he considered criticism of his government by Masire when he gave a eulogy at the funeral of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President Gomolemo Motswaledi in Serowe in 2014.
Indicators that there was no love lost between the two men were clearly visible when as head of state Khama did not announce Masire’s passing last week but instead delegated the assignment to his Senior Private Secretary Brigadier George Tlhalerwa. The development was this week slammed by former Ambassador to USA, Tebelelo Seretse as un-cultural. It is said that at the time of the death announcement Khama was attending the ground breaking for the construction of Mohembo Bridge. His silence sparked debate among Batswana who began tracing the sour relationship back to the funeral of Motswaledi. During the memorial service at the University of Botswana this Wednesday, Khama who attended did not take to the podium to console the nation and the multitudes that thronged the memorial service.
Expectation was that Khama would either address the nation as head of state or leader of Botswana Democratic Party or both. On behalf of the party Khama delegated former BDP chairman Dr Ponatshego Kedikilwe while Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi spoke on behalf of government. It was not stated as to why the president would not speak to the nation about the father of the nation. At press time it was not clear if Khama would speak at the funeral, which took place in Kanye village yesterday (Thursday). It was expected that Masire as one of the longest serving President and being one of the founding fathers of BDP, Khama would have taken the opportunity to speak about his illustrious work for both the party and the country.Early this week there were media reports that Khama cornered the Masire family to bury him on Thursday as opposed to the weekend. In fact Botswana Guardian sister publication The Midweek Sun reports that Masire’s blood brothers revealed that the Thursday burial was agreed at the request of President Khama.
A delegation led by Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Eric Molale and family spokesperson Tebogo Masire held a media briefing on Monday this week where they dismissed the claims saying the date was amicably agreed. Khama was reported to have indicated that he would not be able to make it to the funeral if it is on Saturday because he has other engagements.
Family spokesperson and former Commander of Botswana Defence Force Tebogo Masire said the dates were discussed among family members and they settled for Thursday. He stated that they did not want to disrupt other people’s programmes but was quick to dismiss that such programme is for a particular person and not Batswana at large who would have wanted to pay their last respect to the father of the nation.