Tough Khama has elite worried

Ian Khama : Dep. President of Botswana 19/03/08.pix Robert Tshabalala
Ian Khama : Dep. President of Botswana 19/03/08.pix Robert Tshabalala

GABORONE - President Ian Khama has command in his blood as son of Botswana's founding father, but the pilot and former army chief faces criticism over his military-style leadership ahead of elections tomorrow.

GABORONE - President Ian Khama has command in his blood as son of Botswana's founding father, but the pilot and former army chief faces criticism over his military-style leadership ahead of elections tomorrow.

Discipline is the buzz word under the leadership of the 56-year-old - also chief of Botswana's largest tribe, the Bangwato - who took over from Festus Mogae in April last year.

Khama's traditional roots make him hugely popular among rural Batswana who see him as their king, but the urban elite are uncomfortable with his autocratic style and the extreme power granted him in the constitution.

After taking office he immediately reshuffled the cabinet, sacking people perceived as unable to follow direction and announced the tenets of his government as "the four Ds: Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline".

Critics fear this might come at the expense of personal liberty as he pushes through directives without consulting his ministers.

Despite his tough reputation, Khama is also a soft-spoken wildlife enthusiast who loves the outdoors, horse-riding and safari - calling himself Africa's greatest conservationist as he seeks to protect his country's natural beauty.

Much to the chagrin of his security, he flies anything he gets his hands on, including a powered parachute, and has to be stopped from flying his own aircraft when travelling.

A fitness fanatic and teetotaller, Khama has slapped a 30percent tax on alcohol to crack down on abuse, saying people must live responsibly.

A former lieutenant general and commander of the Botswana defence force, Khama entered parliament in 1998 and was fast-tracked up the government ranks and sworn in as vice-president.

He was also made chairperson of the Botswana Democratic Party, which has ruled since independence in 1966. - Sapa-AFP

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