Former President Ian Khama outmanoeuvred his handlers at the evening lecture organized by the Oxford Union Society on “Democracy, Leadership and Conservation”.
The world’s most respected university had hosted President Mokgweetsi Masisi two days prior on a similar topic; “Democracy, Resource Management for Economic Development” at the Said Business auditorium organised by the African Studies department.
Probably aware of the tricks that lay ahead, the calm, composed and collected Khama made sure early on in his remarks, he elected to leave out the current administration of President Masisi when discussing any of these areas in the broad topic.
“I went to school like any child and ended up here in England for college where I later trained at a military academy before heading back home to join the army and ultimately headed it before joining politics, which was never my passion or intention, if it were not that my predecessor had asked me to help him. In addressing these areas, which are dear to me, I will limit myself to my tenure and those of my predecessors only,” Khama opened his remarks.
Oxford would be interested in the holistic perspective of democracy, leadership and conservations strategies of Botswana since its independence, especially in the furore that had occurred last month with a widely circulated report appearing in the major networks of Western media that Botswana had joined the rest of African nations in disregarding the protection of its species much to the delight of poachers, who apparently killed close to 90 elephants and removed their tusks to be sold in black markets around the world.
The report famously known within the media circles as “Mike Chase” has intensified strong feelings between the predecessor and the sitting president, whose sentiments have been recorded as diametrically colliding.
While Khama is a well-known conservation enthusiast who even represents international inter-governmental conservation organisation such as the American-based Conservation International, President Masisi has had to entrench his footprint as a protector of the ordinary people against these dangerous animals and continue the long-standing tradition that Botswana has always had in preserving its natural resources.
However, his administration has not escaped unfavourable comparison in the eyes of the West, which cast Masisi as irresponsible to disarm the wildlife rangers shortly after taking over from Khama, a move that animal lovers and activists find a direct link for the alleged 90 poached elephants in early September.
But Khama would have none of this topic addressed by him at the lecture, not when he was at the podium neither when fielding questions from the moderator from the floor.
“Leadership should never be about the person or his interest but entirely about the people. The government should be the custodian of resources of the country. My five Ds – Democracy, Development, Dignity, Discipline and Delivery were informed by what the ordinary citizens told me as I traversed the breadth and width of the countryside, talking to people. I appreciated their living conditions and the expectations they had for government. I equate the country to a classroom, the citizens as the teacher and the president is the student, who keeps learning,” he stated.
This is the same man who barely three weeks ago when President Masisi attended the United Nations’ General Assembly in New Yorkhad took a jab during his countrywide public addresses that “I am going to consult you person-to-person,unlike others who travel halfway across the world to tell the world about you.”
Whoever asked Khama against taking aim at his successor can rest assured he upheld good counsel during his England visit and this might signal hope in the mature approach to their differences as leaders and role models.