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Khama builds palace in Eswatini, Botswana  unhappy

King Mswati of Eswatini with former Botswana President Ian Khama/ PHOTO: The Swaziland News

Khama builds palace in Eswatini, Botswana unhappy

20 April 2024

After he overstayed his welcome in South Africa, former president Ian Khama is reportedly building a mansion at the luxurious Nkonyeni Golf Estate on land given to him by King Mswati of Eswatini.

Three years of self-imposed exile in neighbouring South Africa, came to a bitter halt for Khama under the strain of bad decisions and an increasingly frosty relationship with Pretoria. Khama is believed to have angered the South African government by cozying up to the opposition Democratic Alliance, which is contesting against the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in next month’s general election. Resultantly, he had to look for new refuge but the Eswatini government has denied allocating land to Khama or granting him permanent residence.

A source with intimate knowledge of the Swati royal family disclosed that certain officials within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been briefed regarding Khama’s imminent relocation. Khama’s designated protocol officer, Manqoba Ntshangase, has been recalled to his duty station at the ministry and instructed to resume his regular duties. This clearly indicates change in Khama’s status from visitor to permanent resident.

Ntshangase is a cousin to King Mswati through his mother, Princess Tsase who died recently.  Protocol officers plan and put together the schedule of a visiting dignitary and provide general administrative support required for the duration of the visit.

“He [Khama] no longer has a protocol officer, he stays permanently in Eswatini,” said the source, reluctant to reveal identity for fear of victimisation.

Nkonyeni Golf Estate is a top contender for Africa’s ultra-luxury real estate market with residential property prices ranging from E3 million (approximately US$160 000).

“Khama has been seen entering and leaving Nkonyeni Golf Estate on several occasions,” revealed the source, adding that Khama has reportedly taken up residence within a section that has already been developed and one in which the Minister for Commerce Industry and Trade, Manqoba Khumalo, also resides. “When I went there, there was heightened security because of the revelation by The Swaziland News that Botswana media is looking for Khama’s address.”

No details have been revealed about the plot size and name of property developer. 

A diplomat in Botswana, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed concerns about the potential diplomatic tensions that may arise if Khama remains in Eswatini. They highlighted that Khama’s presence in the country could exacerbate existing diplomatic strains, particularly considering that he is regarded as a “wanted man” under Botswana’s laws.

Eswatini government spokesperson, Alpheus Nxumalo, denied that Khama allocated any piece of land.

“He stays in South Africa. He occasionally comes in the country when we have certain events,” he said sighing than added that Mbababe is not amused by Gaborone’s undiplomatic response to the matter.

When addressing diplomatic heads of missions earlier this month at their annual meeting which takes place in Gaborone, President Mokgweetsi Masisi chastised King Mswati, referring to him as an absolutist who is harbouring a fugitive.

“He libeled us by calling us an absolute monarchy. There is nothing absolute about Eswatini,” said a visibly bemused Nxumalo.

“We are a constitutional monarchy. We respect the independence of judiciary, the executive and the legislature. I believe he spoke out of a heat of the moment.”

Nxumalo believes that those who live in glass houses need not throw stones.

On a positive note, Nxumalo looks beyond politics and noted that Batswana and AmaSwati are essentially the same people.

“The same thing happening to the former can happen to the incumbent when they become the former,” said Nxumalo warning that Masisi should desist from labeling Eswatini an absolute monarchy.”

“The same thing happening to the former can happen to the incumbent when they become the former,” said Nxumalo warning that Masisi should desist from labeling Eswatini an absolute monarchy.

“Masisi has relatives here,” he declared, acknowledging the long history of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Botswana President, Mokgweetsi Masisi with South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa recently in South Africa/ PHOTO: CLUB OF MOZAMBIQUE

Nxumalo revealed that Khama has not sought political asylum and that Eswatini imposes no restrictions on SADC leaders. In the past, Khama himself told Botswana Gazette that he has no plans to leave South Africa. Indeed, Eswatini has provided refuge for SADC leaders facing difficulties in their home countries and in some cases, gifted SADC leaders with land. Following his forced resignation in 2009, former Madagascar president, Marc Ravalomanana, sought refuge in Swaziland. Reports from Eswatini media indicate that former South African president, Jacob Zuma owns a home in the country. In 2018, King Mswati gifted then Zambian president Edgar Lungu with a residential plot which, however, remains undeveloped. The plot, which originally belonged to Inyatsi Properties, spans 4105 square meters.

“Hey, the other day, [Cyril] Ramaphosa was here; the following day Zuma visited,” said Nxumalo referring to South Africa’s president and Zuma’s predecessor. “The King treats everyone equally. Masisi was here recently too – Amaswati love that president.”

Khama has maintained a strong relationship with the Swati royal family over the years. It is reported that his father and founding Botswana president, Sir Seretse Khama, had a close bond with King Sobhuza II, King Mswati’s father. During the late 1970s, while Khama was a student at the prestigious Waterford Kamhlaba College, Sobhuza graciously accommodated him at the royal palace.

South African government spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, said he is not aware that Khama left the country.

“You will have to speak to our Home Affairs department which deals with immigration-related issues,” said Magwenya.

However, a diplomatic source told INK Center that the ANC was growing suspicious of Khama close relationship with the Brenthurst Foundation which is close to the opposition Democratic Alliance.

“It made some in the ANC treat him with suspicion,” the source said.

Born of a black father and white mother, Khama has always aligned himself with the west and western causes. It is thus not surprising that, at least in the eyes of the ANC, he is fraternising with the white-majority DA.

The Botswana former president went on the run in November 2022 ahead a deadline to hand over some firearms to the Directorate of Intelligence Services and Security. Had the deadline elapsed while he was still in the country, he would most certainly have been arrested. The SADC Protocol on Extradition outlines extraditable offences as well as procedures to be followed to initiate extradition. Botswana hasn’t invoked this protocol. It has also not made a formal extradition request to South Africa even after a Botswana High Court pronounced that Khama was a fugitive from the law. “If he committed crimes, Botswana government knows what they must do,” said Nxumalo.

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