Botswana's Ian Khama calls on people not to vote for his former party

Khama announced he was leaving BDP after reports that his relationship with his successor, President Mokgweetsi Masisi, has broken down.

Botswana president Ian Khama. Picture: Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - Former Botswana president Ian Khama has launched an election campaign to call on Batswana not to vote for the party that made him president, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

Khama says he has not joined any other party yet.

He announced that he was leaving BDP after reports that his relationship with his successor, President Mokgweetsi Masisi has completely broken down.

This week, a new party was registered in Botswana with speculation that Khama is behind it, but he didn't confirm or deny this, saying only that he will back its candidates and BDP candidates who don't support Masisi.

It’s not clear if Khama will go back to politics or state house should the collective of candidates he is backing succeed to beat the BDP at the polls in October.

Botswana has been hailed as a stable democracy whose presidents leave office after two terms totaling 10 years. But some have called this policy undemocratic because it puts presidents in office before the people elect them.

The constitutional amendment was introduced by the late former President Sir Ketumile Masire, who handed over the reins of the party and the government to his deputy in the party - Festus Mogae - before the parliament term had ended.

Mogae handed over to Khama in a similar way - until last year when incumbent president Masisi took office at the end of Khama's 10-year term, even though national assembly elections weren't due for another 18 months.

Since then, Khama has accused Masisi of purging officials he had appointed - including controversial former intelligence boss Isaac Kgosi.

Kgosi was arrested at an airport in the capital Gaborone as he arrived from Dubai with his family and later charged with tax evasion.

During that arrest and in anger, Kgosi threatened to overthrow the government.

Last month, the BDP went to an elective conference and long-time Khama-era foreign minister Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged Masisi for the top position.

Masisi fired Moitoi from his cabinet the day after she announced her candidacy.

The turnout at Serowe where Khama announced his future is an indication he still enjoys support. When he announced that he was leaving the BDP those supporters threw away their membership cards in solidarity

Khama says he hasn't joined any party, but he will support candidates of the new party - BPF - and other parties so that party doesn't win constituencies

He says there are BDP candidates that he will support but he won't name them because they will be called his people and they will be victimised or suspended, presumably by Masisi.

Botswana is going to elections in October, and for the first time, a former president will be campaigning against the party that has governed the most stable democracy on the continent since its independence in 1966.

Khama says he will criss-cross the country showing his support for candidates by attending their rallies, and in some parts, he will announce who people should vote for.

Khama drew admiration when he became the only SADC president to tell former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe to retire.

His latest move has caused concern for Botswana security as he is a former army commander who is still seen to have the potential to influence in the security cluster of that country.