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Farewell Khama, you could have done better!

Publishing Date : 04 April, 2018

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

On 1st April 2018 you will, in keeping with the tradition set by your predecessor, Festus Mogae, step down after a ten year tenure as President of the Republic of Botswana.

For this we are grateful, for you will have kept your word and retired when the time came contrary to speculation that you were going to cause an amendment to the constitution so that you remain as president beyond the ten years prescribed by our constitution. I say we are grateful because some African countries have been plunged into civil war and strive because their presidents changed the constitution to prolong their stay in power.

We have seen that with Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi. In the Democratic Republic of Congo though Joseph Kabila has not changed the constitution he has remained in office for more than a year after his term ended. President Khama, when you leave office you will have served Batswana for the past 41 years, 21 of which were in the military, 20 in politics, with 10 as vice president and the other 10 as president.

It is for this service to country that you deserve a farewell tribute from us all. It is because of your leadership that many Batswana gave you gifts as you travelled the length and breadth of this country bidding them farewell. Given the number of gifts you received from our people and the eulogies showered upon you by the youth, the poor and those with disabilities, it is incontrovertible that you touched the lives of many.

I disagree with those who insinuated that our people gave you gifts because they were coerced by the local leadership and their supervisors. I disagree with those you have the audacity of implying that, in receiving the gifts from the poor, you stole from them. This is an insult to our people, for it implies that they are not intelligent enough to know who to give and when to give. The Batswana I know give not because they have plenty but because the person they give is worth giving.

I know and many, including those who spoke ill of you when you received the gifts from our people, know that you do not need those gifts. We know that you will give those to the needy as you have done throughout your tenure as president. You might know that I have been one of your fiercest critics, but I cannot stoop as low as claiming that you did not deserve the gifts you got from our people.

Though your leadership was tainted with many maladies, especially in the area of governance, you led us well enough to deserve the farewell you got from our people from the Opposition and ruling party alike. I join the multitudes of Batswana who are bidding you farewell as you retire. But, unlike in funerals where only the good is said about the dead, in governance when leaders leave both the good and bad should be said for the benefit of their successors.

Mr. President, I have been your critic, not because I hate you but because you strayed, especially after you won your party’s chairpersonship race against Ponatshego Kedikilwe in 2003. Many may not believe it, but I, and I believe many who are today your fierce critics, started off as your supporters, but were disappointed when you strayed, especially in the area of governance, labour relations and media relations.

After winning your party’s chairpersonship in 2003, and when you became president in 2008 you started alienating those you believed were your political adversaries within your party. Such stalwarts as Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Daniel Kwelagobe and David Magang were purged. Not only that. Such up-coming talent as Botsalo Ntuane and Gomolemo Motswaledi had their shining light dimmed simply because they were aligned to Kedikilwe and Kwelagobe. Motswaledi’s hard won victory as Secretary General in 2009 was stolen from him when you suspended him from the party.

It was because of your factional leadership that those who felt maligned and purged left the party and formed the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) in 2010, something that nearly cost the BDP power in 2014. It was under your leadership that the Bill establishing the infamous Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) was rushed through Parliament and passed despite the fact that the Opposition boycotted Parliament.

Since its establishment, the DISS has, under your watch, been a source of disquiet for our people. This, partly because there is no Parliamentary oversight body for the DISS and it is only accountable to you. It was you Mr. President who, after the execution of John Kalafatis by members of the Security Service, not only had government paying for their legal costs when facing prosecution by government’s own agency, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, but also pardoned them after they were convicted.   

It was also under your leadership that your party abused its majority in Parliament to pass the infamous Media Practitioners Bill despite popular opposition from the media, civil society, the Opposition and the international community. It was during your tenure that relations between labour and government deteriorated to their worst, culminating in the 2011 public sector strike which resulted in the dismissal of thousands of essential service employees.

It is you who disregarded the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) and made unilateral salary increments, resulting in several disputes which culminated in the abolition of the PSBC by your government. It was during your tenure that Botswana Television and Radio Botswana became more and more partisan, giving unfair coverage to the BDP and mainly reporting on the Opposition when it was in the wrong. It was under your watch Mr. President that we witnessed the purging of such journalists as Joshua Ntopolelang and the late Laona Segaetsho simply because your government believed that they were pro-Opposition.

Under your watch, Mr. President, your government punished the private media which it believed is pro-Opposition by instructing government departments and parastatals to stop placing adverts with them. For the first time in many years, we saw the use of the archaic sedition laws to charge Sunday Standard Editor, Outsa Mokone, and journalist Edgar Tsimane, resulting in the latter fleeing to South Africa to seek political asylum.

It was during your tenure that we witnessed the militarization of the public service, with many former members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) appointed to head government departments and parastatals often at the expense of merit and experience. It was during your tenure that we witnessed the weakening of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime and a rise in corruption, with several of your cabinet ministers being paraded before the courts though it ought to be stated that they were acquitted.

Just recently Mr. President our country was hit by the National Petroleum Levy scandal, with allegations that you, the vice president and cabinet ministers are involved, yet you refused to at least establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the allegations. Mr. President, you signed into law an Act allowing the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) despite the fact that most Batswana, including members of your own party, are opposed to it. In fact, you had the law rushed through Parliament under a certificate of urgency.

Yet, you have refused to at least hold a referendum on such issues as political party funding, Specially Elected Members of Parliament and Nominated Councillors despite the fact that many Batswana have long been advocating for such. You have shown a total disregard for the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, sidelining the incumbent even when having visits by foreign heads of state and heads of government. This is uncalled for in such an internationally acclaimed democracy as ours.   

But, you also did a lot of good Mr. President. You exhibited an admirable love for your people, especially the elderly. You have made it your duty to give donations to the needy and the elderly.  Obviously motivated by your desire to uplift the lives of your people, you initiated and or up scaled such pro-poor programmes as Ipelegeng, ISPAAD and back yard gardening. These, however, did little to uplift our people’s lives because they were not modelled in a sustainable way.

You prioritized youth empowerment as evidenced by such programmes as the Youth Development Fund, Young Farmers Fund, National Internship Programme, Youth Employment Scheme and Constituency Tournaments, but their impact was undermined by poor programme design and implementation. You, through the Traditional & Cultural Competitions, you introduced and supported, contributed to the preservation and promotion of our culture. Not only that. Though at subsistence level, this created income generation opportunities for some people, especially the youth.

Your introduction of the National Housing Appeal, Legal Aid Botswana and putting the coordination of issues for people living with disabilities under your office demonstrates your prioritization of the poor and under privileged. You have respected our courts’ decisions. For instance, your government abided by the decisions in such significant cases as the Francistown West 2013 bye elections case; the 2014 vote by secret ballot vs voting by show of hands case and the recent decision compelling you to appoint Justice Omphemetse Motumise as a High Court judge.

You, especially at the beginning of your tenure, instilled in the public service a sense of performance improvement and delivery, but you gave it less emphasis as years went by. Also, though it was not easy to sustain, you instilled in our people the sense that they can hold public servants accountable, even by referring their grievances directly to your office and phoning cabinet ministers on designated days.

It was because of your desire to uplift our people’s lives that you relaxed regulations and bye laws to allow those in the informal sector to do business by, for instance, allowing them to offer catering services to public servants in government offices during meal breaks. All in all, Mr. President you could have done better, but you were blinded by factionalism, political expediency, an obsession for the military and security intelligence, and the scotched- earth policy in relation to political adversaries.

But, your love for the poor and needy is unparalleled. Your unannounced walk abouts; the bonfires you shared with ordinary Batswana; the houses you had built for the homeless; the gifts you gave to the poor and needy and the dignity you gave to those living with disabilities may well be enough to offset your shortcomings. Farewell President Khama! 



Do you think the courts will help put the UDC, BMD impasse within reasonable time ahead of the 2019 General Election?