Khama shuns Botswanan presidential debate

Botswana’s President Ian Khama has declined to participate in an eagerly anticipated live debate on state TV with his opponents in the presidential race in Friday’s elections. The debate expected to be a no-holds-barred slugfest is scheduled for today.

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) announced on Tuesday that President Khama will not honour the invitation from Botswana TV (Btv) to engage live with Messrs Otweletse Moupo of the Botswana National Front (BNF) and Gilson Saleshando of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).

The BDP said that Vice-President Lt-Gen (rtd) Mompati Merafhe will represent the party at the debate. After Btv issued the invitations for the debate, Mr Moupo, the leader of the official opposition challenged President Khama to a verbal duel and urged him to come and face him on national TV. However, Mr Moupo expressed doubts whether President Khama would honour the invitation.

“We know he does not like debating. I suspect he will not turn-up. This will show that he does not have confidence in himself as a leader, hence he should not elected,” Moupo told a rally over the weekend.

Before the announcement that President Khama will not appear in the debate, there had been press reports that he will not make it because he is ill-prepared to slug it out with the two seasoned verbal warriors from the opposition. While Mr Moupo, a lawyer, is an accomplished debater, Mr Saleshando is a rabble-rouser and loose canon with a penchant for blunt speech.

Unlike his three predecessors, President Khama has never engaged in public debate. He has not granted the no-holds-barred press conferences, unlike previous Botswana presidents who could face a battery of local and foreign journalists to lengthy sessions. Besides, he has shied away from addressing the nation on important occasions like on Independence Day, preferring to let ministers and civil servants to read his speeches on such dates.


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