Backers of ex-Botswana president summoned to disciplinary hearings

If the charges were upheld, punishments could include “specific written warnings to members or suspensions”
Botswana’s President Seretse Ian Khama arrives for a rally in his village Serowe on March 27, 2018, before officially stepping down on March 31 and handing power to his vice-president on April 1. (Photo by MONIRUL BHUIYAN / AFP)

Botswana’s ruling party has summoned 32 supporters of ex-President Ian Khama, including MPs, to disciplinary hearings after they attended a speech by the former president, according to documents seen Wednesday.

Khama and his successor President Mokgweetsi Masisi have fallen out in a public spat that could undermine Botswana’s carefully-nurtured reputation for stability.

Khama had picked his then vice president Masisi to succeed him in a peaceful transition after serving the maximum 10 years in office. But Masisi has moved to break with the past and establish his own authority since his inauguration last April.

The group of 32 attended a meeting in Serowe, Khama’s hometown, last month addressed by Khama and former foreign minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, who has ambitions to stand as the candidate for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party in new polls due in October.

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The BDP is to hold a special congress on April 5 in Kang village, southwestern Botswana where it will pick its presidential candidate for the elections.

The BDP’s secretary general Mpho Balopi said last month’s gathering was against the party’s rules because it was not officially sanctioned and warned that action could be taken against attendees.

Balopi said if the charges were upheld, punishments could include “specific written warnings to members or suspensions”.

In a recent interview with the SABC public broadcaster in neighbouring South Africa last week, Khama said he regretted picking Masisi to follow him.

“He had a nature, a character which I just felt very close to and part of. What I’m seeing now is a totally different person than the one I knew,” Khama told the SABC.

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“Regrettably and very unfortunately… I have come to realise that may be I had misjudged (him) and now we have a situation where there is a bit of a standoff between himself and myself.”

Masisi last year used his first state-of-the-nation address to openly attack his predecessor, saying the “transition from the previous administration has not been as smooth as expected”.

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