Botswana’s former president Ian Khama on Saturday quit the governing BDP which has ruled since independence more than half a century ago, citing a fall-out between him and his successor.
It is the first time in Botswana that an ex-president has abandoned the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the history of a 57-year-old organisation which has ruled Botswana uninterrupted since independence in 1966.
Khama told thousands of supporters in his rural home town of Serowe that he made a “mistake” in choosing Mokgweetsi Masisi as his successor in the diamond-rich country which has enjoyed a carefully-crafted reputation for stable government.
“I came here today to tell you I am parting ways with the BDP. I am throwing away my BDP membership card,” said Khama as he trashed his card.
“I don’t recognise the BDP anymore”.
Thousands of people who thronged the meeting at the town’s showgrounds also threw away their BDP membership cards.
Khama, whose father Sir Seretse Khama was the founding president of Botswana serving from 1966 to 1980, said he did not have a party yet but will support the opposition parties fight the BDP.
Khama and his successor have fallen out publicly, with Masisi reversing some policies introduced by his predecessor – including most recently the lifting of a ban on elephant trophy hunting.
Botswana has a two-term presidential limit and in 2018, Khama had picked his then-vice president Masisi to succeed him after serving the maximum ten years in office.
But Masisi has moved to break with the past and establish his own authority since his inauguration a year ago.
Masisi will contest his first election in October this year, which analysts warn will not be a tough run for the BDP.