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Home » Volume 55 Issue 4- February-March 2018 » Feature » Article Details

Remembering the Khama Years

Seamless transition from one presidential administration to the other has been one of the hallmarks that have characterised the democratic traditions that Batswana hold dear

Seldom wonder as Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama spent the dawn of 2018 traversing the length and breadth of Botswana bidding farewell to the citizens, plaudits from the plebeians have been expressed by the bounty.

As Khama takes a bow, it will be left to historians to carefully examine the legacy he bequeaths to the nation, as he hands over the baton to his successor, Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Raised in the gazing eye of a Botswana public familiar with the Bangwato royal family, the independence-era first family of his parents Sir Seretse and Lady Ruth Khama and his own career in the military, the outgoing President was not an enigma upon assuming state reigns on April 1, 2008.

He became the fourth President of the republic, following in the footsteps of Sir Seretse Khama, Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae.  In his inaugural address, President Khama outlined his vision of being guided by “the four Ds” of democracy, development, discipline and dignity. These would in due course be joined by a fifth D- delivery.

2008 was a year Botswana felt the negative effects of the world economic crisis.  The mainstay of the country’s economy, diamond mining was affected by plummeting sales, and other sectors of the economy similarly suffered.

 

The President set up a task force to hatch ideas for the recovery of the economy.  Crucially, the country was cushioned from marketed job losses during the time.

 

After being elected to power in the October 2009 general election, President Khama made an unflinching pledge to pursue poverty eradication.

 

Various initiatives were launched or improved in order to avail economic opportunities to Batswana. The Economic Development Drive (EDD) was among these, affording Batswana small-scale enterpreneurs the opportunity to sell their wares to government departments.

 

The government also focused on empowering the youth.  Unemployed graduates were empowered through the internship and national service programmes, and through the Youth Development Fund many others accessed business start up capital.

 

Constituency football, and various cultural expressions such as traditional music, poetry and other such artistic forms were promoted through the President’ Day Competitions.

 

Having been re-elected to power in 2014, President Khama and his administration introduced the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), which assisted in the creation of  jobs and the empowerment of citizen construction companies.

 

Through the ESP, the developmental backlog from the recession years was partially addressed as new classrooms in schools, teaching quarters in schools, the extension of clinics and other such important development took place.

 

Another initiative, building from the earlier commitment to work on eliminating absolute poverty, was the Poverty Eradication Programme.

 

Some of the country’s poorest were identified by social workers countrywide, trained in rudimentary small-scale business skills and assisted with packages that would allow them to earn a basic living for their families.

 

Through the Presidential Housing appeal, as many as 800 houses were constructed for the poorest sections of society, as companies and individuals heeded the call to assist the needy.

 

But President Khama will also be remembered for his fondness polka dance, which he helped to promote.

 

A qualified pilot, he would fly helicopters, ride quad bikes, motorcycles, and bicycles.  His fitness levels were evident in the various activities including on the football field where he proved a decent footballer.

 

A royal, son of an iconic founding President; but to many across Botswana, who got to sit with him by the kgotla fireplace and narrate folktales; who got served diphaphatha and soup from his hand; who welcomed him into their homes during Presidential walkabouts- he exuded the aura of being just another one of us. ENDS

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