Profile of His Excellency the President, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama
Prior to entering politics, in 1998, Botswana's President, the fourth since independence, had already established a reputation as both an able leader and passionate conservationist. His life has been one of accomplishment and extraordinary circumstance.
His Excellency the President, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, is first born son of Botswana's founder President, the late Sir Seretse Khama, and his revered wife the late Lady Ruth Khama. He was born on the 27th of February 1953 in Surrey, England as the second of four siblings, with an elder sister Jacqueline, and two younger twin brothers, Tshekedi and Anthony.
The location of the President's birth was due to the fact that his parents had been forced into political exile, being barred by the then colonial Government from residing in Botswana. At the time Sir Seretse Khama was the uncrowned sovereign of one of Botswana's traditional Kingdoms, that of the Bangwato. But, for his defiance of racism, he had been barred from assuming his throne. This injustice was symbolically rectified in 1979 when, bowing to popular pressure, his eldest son agreed to be formally installed as the Kgosi eKgolo (traditional ruler) of Bangwato. At the time of the coronation it was, however, understood that Seretse Khama Ian Khama would, for an indefinite period, remain engaged in national service, leaving the tribal affairs of the Bangwato in the capable hands of others.
The triumphant return of his parents from exile in 1956 allowed Seretse Khama Ian Khama to begin his primary schooling among his own people in Serowe in 1960. He thereafter did his secondary education at White Stone school in Bulawayo, in what is now Zimbabwe, and Waterford School Swaziland, Geneva, with further studies Switzerland and Chichester, England.
Thereafter, Khama embarked on what would become a military career. For his tertiary education he attended the prestigious Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, England. After graduating he enrolled for further training at the Nigerian Police Academy at Ikeja. He also underwent flight training, in Gaborone and thereafter Antwerp, Belgium, in 1974-75., and has since maintained his status a qualified pilot.
In 1973 Khama joined the paramilitary Police Mobile Unit, which was the forerunner of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF). With the formation of the latter, in April 1977, Khama assumed the responsibility of Deputy Commander. Formed in the face of rising regional tensions, which were then being driven by the racist regimes of Apartheid South Africa and rebel Rhodesia (liberated as Zimbabwe), who then encircled Botswana, at its formation the new army consisted of a mere 132 Police Mobile Unit veterans. This small force was immediately confronted with the task of countering stepped up cross border aggression by the then Rhodesian Security Forces. As both its Deputy Commander and Commander, from 1989 and 1998, Khama went on to play a central role in forging the BDF into a modern professional fighting force, which has won widespread respect for its record in such areas as international peacekeeping, disaster relief and anti-poaching activities, as well as defensive capabilities.
In April 1998 Lieutenant General Khama retired from the Botswana Defence Force and joined politics. As a member of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, he was appointed Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. In July that year, he won the Serowe North Constituency by-election and became its Member of Parliament. He was thereafter nominated for Vice President by President Festus Mogae; his nomination being subsequently endorsed by Parliament. In addition to being Vice President Khama retained his Ministerial Portfolio at Presidential Affairs.
In the October 1999 general election, Khama again contested the Serowe North Constituency and won; he was again nominated and endorsed by Parliament as Vice President. In October 2004 he contested the General Elections in the Serowe North West Constituency and was the only parliamentary candidate unopposed. He was also once more endorsed as Vice President. In July 2003 Khama was further elected Chairman of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.
Lt. Gen. Khama has a wide range of interests and is patron of various organizations, including Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Serowe Museum, Chobe Wildlife Trust, Mokolodi Wildlife Foundation, the Kalahari Flying Club, Botswana Volleyball Federation, Botswana Football Association and Botswana Softball Association, Botswana Cricket Association, Bana ba Metsi School and the Serowe North Development Trust. He is also the founding Chairman of the Sponsor a Child Trust whose main objectives are to assist disadvantaged children particularly destitute, disabled and orphaned children. He is also Chairman of the Lady Khama Charitable Trust, which he pioneered in memory of his late Mother. The Trust assists other specialised Charitable Organisations with financial and material resources to realise their own objectives.
An avid football lover, Khama is also president of Mogoditshane Fighters, Miscellaneous Football Club and Okavango Football Club. He is Vice Chairman of the Kalahari Conservation Society; Honorary Member of the Game Rangers Association of Southern Africa, and Board Member of the USA based Conservation International.
Khama has received a number of honours and awards including the Presidential Order of Honour, Founder Officer Medal, Duty Code Order and the Distinguished Service Medal. He was awarded the Conservation Award by the African Safari Club of Washington USA in 1991 and the Hotel and Tourism Industry Award in 1996, the Paul Harris Fellow and the Endangered Wildlife Trust Statesman Award in 2001.