Botswana president vows to fight embezzlement at inauguration ceremony

President Mokgweetsi Masisi at his swearing-in ceremony promised to fight graft

Botswana’s newly re-elected President Mokgweetsi Masisi was sworn in on Friday during a ceremony snubbed by his predecessor after the two former allies fell out in a highly public feud.

In a speech before several thousand supporters, Masisi promised to tackle corruption in diamond-rich Botswana, which has been seen across Africa as a beacon of stability and democracy.

Masisi did not mention his predecessor, Ian Khama, who has been embroiled in a dispute with the president since last year and who himself is now entangled in a corruption scandal.

The President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi (4L), inspecting the Guard of Honour after being sworn in as the 5th President of Botswana, in Gaborone on 1 November 2019. (Photo by Monirul Bhuiyan / AFP)

“My government will put in place… mechanisms through the application of practices of good governance to ensure that corruption is defeated,” Masisi said.

“I am committed to the rule of law in this country in order to enhance confidence in this country and send a message to all of us that the law must be abided by or face the consequences of non-compliance.”  

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Read: Backers of ex-Botswana president summoned to disciplinary hearings

Khama, whose father founded the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) that has ruled since independence from Britain in 1966, has renounced his hand-picked successor Masisi and accused him of authoritarianism.

According to the programme for Friday’s ceremony, Khama was supposed to attend, but he did not show up.

The feud between the two men erupted soon after Khama stepped down at the end of his second five-year term and handed power to Masisi. The president was elected in October general polls, though the opposition called the vote rigged.

Khama and two others — a former intelligence chief, and a South African businesswoman — have been accused of embezzling more than $9 billion in public funds since 2018.

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Khama has dismissed the accusations as “ridiculous”.

“This is just fake news designed deliberately to discredit me,” the former leader told reporters.

The President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, delivers his speech after being sworn in as the 5th President of the country
The President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, delivers his speech after being sworn in as the 5th President of the country in Gaborone on November 1, 2019. (Photo by Monirul Bhuiyan / AFP)

In a statement on Friday, Khama’s lawyers denounced the allegations as fabricated and an attempt to “settle personal vendettas”.

“Our client will launch a thorough investigation of all the allegations made against him, in order to clear his name, offer the nation the truth, and expose this clandestine conspiracy by some government institutions to assassinate his character,” it said.

The businesswoman Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe also denied the accusations against her in a press conference on Thursday.

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