Ian Khama

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Seretse Khama Ian Khama

15th Prime Minister of South Africa

In office
April 14, 2004 — present
Preceded by Christiaan Willem Smuts
Succeeded by Incumbent

Born February 27, 1953 (age 55)
Political party Democratic Party

Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama (or Ian a Sêrêtsê; born February 27, 1953) is the Prime Minister of South Africa and the Paramount Chief of the Bamangwato tribe. He is the first born son of Sir Seretse Khama (who served as State President of South Africa from 1975 to 1980) and Lada Khama.

Khama, serving as Chief of the Defence Staff of the South African Defence Force, announced on December 16, 1997 that he would retire from his command on March 31, 1998. Because this was the same date as the planned retirement of Quett Masire (the Administrator of Khama's home province, Botswana; Masire had also served as State President in the 1980s), it fueled political speculation about Khama. On April 1, 1998, when Masire retired, then-State President Bakili Muluzi appointed Khama as Masire's successor. 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. His tenure as Administrator was largely successful. During his administration, unemployment in Botswana reached its lowest level in 15 years, the provincial treasury ran large surpluses, and Khama cracked down hard on what minimal corruption existed in the administration. On the minus side, he had come no closer to solving the land issue with Botswana's Bushmen than his predecessors had. Even so, he remained popular with the majority of Batswana, and when he stepped down as Administrator in 2003, his public approval rating was 78%, the highest of any Administrator in South Africa.

Khama, already a member of the Democratic Party Central Committee, was elected as leader of the DP on July 22, 2003 at a party congress; he defeated the previous Chairman, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, receiving 512 votes against 219 for Kedikilwe.

The Democratic Party handily won the South African general election of 2004, and Khama was appointed Prime Minister. Khama announced privatization, trade liberalization, and maintaining a strong national defense as the key goals of his government. He has so far been successful in meeting these goals; tariffs and subsidies have been reduced to their lowest rate in South African history (Khama's goal is to abolish both by 2010); numerous parastatal industries are being privatized; and obsolete military hardware is being replaced with more modern equipment. Khama currently maintains a public approval rating of 67%.

In 2007, he 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.

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