Seretse Khama Ian Khama
President of the Republic of Botswana
Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama (or Ian a Sêrêtsê; born 27 February 1953) is the President of Botswana and the Paramount Chief of the Bamangwato tribe. He is the first born son of Sir Seretse Khama (the country’s foremost independence leader who was President from 1966 to 1980) and Lady Khama. He was born in Chertsey, Surrey during the period his father was exiled to the United Kingdom due to the opposition by the colonial government and the emergent apartheid regime in South Africa to his marriage to a white woman.
Khama, serving as Commander of the Botswana Defence Force, announced on 16 December 1997 that he would retire from his command on 31 March 1998. Because this was the same date as the planned retirement of President Quett Masire, it fueled political speculation about Khama.On 1 April 1998, when Vice-President Festus Mogae succeeded Masire as President, Khama was appointed as the new Vice-President. However, Khama did not hold a seat in the National Assembly, and so could not immediately take office as Vice-President. In early July 1998 he overwhelmingly won a by-election in Serowe North, receiving 2,986 votes against 86 votes for the candidate of the opposition Botswana National Front. On 13 July, he took his seat in the National Assembly and was sworn in as Vice-President.
Following the victory of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the general election of October 1999, Khama remained Vice-President as well as Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. Mogae granted Khama a one-year leave later in the year, a decision that the opposition Botswana Congress Party and the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organizations sharply criticized. Khama’s leave became effective on 1 January 2000. He returned to his duties as Vice-President on 1 September 2000, although he was replaced as Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration at that time.
Khama, already a member of the BDP Central Committee, was elected as Chairman of the BDP on 22 July 2003 at a party congress; he defeated the previous Chairman, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, receiving 512 votes against 219 for Kedikilwe. Khama had been backed for the post by President Mogae, and the outcome was viewed as crucial, paving the way for Khama to eventually succeed Mogae as President.
Mogae stepped down, as he had long said he would do, on 1 April 2008, handing power to Khama. At his swearing-in ceremony in Gaborone, Khama said that there would be continuity in policy and no “radical changes”, although he said that “a change in style and special emphasis on a number of issues” might be evident, and he emphasized his commitment to democracy. He immediately undertook a major cabinet reshuffle, and he appointed Mompati Merafhe, who had been Foreign Minister, as the new Vice-President. The next general election is scheduled for 2009.
Upon becoming President, Khama left his post as Chairman of the BDP; Daniel Kwelagobe was chosen to replace him.
In 2007, Khama appeared on British television in the BBC’s Top Gear motoring programme. In his short appearance he met presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond as they prepared to cross the Makgadikgadi Pan in northern Botswana, by car.
Khama is a qualified pilot and attended Sandhurst Military Academy, where the British army trains its officers.