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A few weeks back, Mmegi reported that while launching his Vice-President Slumber Tsogwane in Rakops, President Dr Masisi told the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) that he was about to spill the beans on former President Dr Khama. It is reported that President Dr Masisi had said, ‘ke tloga ke phantsha’, loosely translated to mean that he could divulge some secrets.
Granted the two are sworn enemies with each trying to paint the other as piggish, evil and a real danger to society. Nonetheless, Dr Masisi should always bear in mind that he is the first citizen and should never allow himself to be goaded into behaving like a tested and certificated delinquent who constantly pleasures himself with threats to beat rivals to a pulp and kill all their chickens and livestock.
It is a sound doctrine to keep one’s distance from petty and childish squabbles that have the potential to distract from providing competent leadership. The current stand-off between His Excellency President Dr Masisi and former president Dr Khama has all the ingredients of a political crisis, at least at the party level.
The squabble is petty and scandalous but also a test of character and moral rectitude for the president. The presidency is a tough job that requires the fortitude, intellectual prowess and moral capacity to avoid getting drawn into petty quarrels and idle threats.
The presidency is a job that requires the holder to be self-assured and effective in managing crisis such as this irritating and awful public spat between two prominent elders.
By publicly threatening to spill the beans on his predecessor, President Dr Masisi has actually revealed that he is withholding weighty and juicy data which data is being withheld against the public interest. Granted the president is entitled to wide-ranging executive privilege, as expressed or implied presidential confidentiality.
It is however, important to emphasize that, as is the case with other executive powers that are generally wicked and barbaric, the privilege accorded to the president to withhold crucial information from public consumption ought to be used in the interest of the public.
The use of the privilege in other instances other than in the public interest would certainly constitute an improper application of the privilege.
At this juncture it cannot be stated with certainty that President Dr Masisi has decided to withhold crucial information relating to the activities and decisions that characterizes Dr Khama’s presidency.
However, President Dr Masisi’s threats to reveal some seemingly ugly deeds committed by his predecessor suggest that key information is being stealthy withheld from the public and that if such information was revealed, it is likely that public perceptions about certain things could fundamentally change.
In other words, President Dr Masisi’s threats seem to suggest that Batswana are deceitfully kept in the dark on a number of key decisions, deals and events.
If theis premise is true as it seems to be, we can safely infer that President Dr Masisi’s judgment to refuse to reveal what is of public interest constitute improper use of executive privilege because circumstances pertaining to the concealment of such crucial information cannot validate a claim of privilege.
President Dr Masisi threats to reveal some secrets seem to suggest that the secrets are weighing on him; that the president’s conscience keeps nagging him to tell it all; that whatever is being concealed does not come anywhere near the pursuit of legitimate needs of confidentiality.
Put differently, President Dr Masisi’s threats suggest that he possibly has inadvertently participated in a scandalous cover up of illegal activities and deals by Dr Khama’s administration in which case executive privilege is not being used in the service of the public interest.
In that case, executive privilege or presidential confidentiality would be particularly bothersome because it compromises quality leadership and presents President Dr Masisi as a dishonest and untrustworthy first citizen who is burdened with political scandalous of his predecessor.
For the most part, President Dr Masisi has effectively revealed that he has incriminating information about former President Dr Khama but that he is not willing to share it with Batswana who have a right to know so that they can make informed decisions now and in the future.
His refusal to disclose the information after publicly revealing that he has juicy stuff would establish a bad precedent, specifically that it is okay and legitimate for leaders to keep citizens in the dark about almost everything that concerns their country and how their resources are mismanaged and brazenly stolen.
In another way, the failure by President Dr Masisi to let out what seems to be bothering him and distracting him from focusing on reconstructing this country and growing the economy would characterize him as a nervy chancer who threatens without ever acting on his ridiculous threats.
When this happens, citizens could become numb to his threats and blackmail. Ultimately, people would then regard every single pronouncement he makes, including policy announcements as bluff.
When citizens begin to receive the president’s words with scepticism; when citizens begin to classify presidential statements as mere rhetoric of someone who is never committed to his words, the presidency – which has long lost public respect owing to misrule by former President Dr Khama – would be finished.
It would be pretty abnormal and frightening when citizens start refusing to take the president at his words. Taken in the context of the last ten years, we all should be worried for the welfare of our country when the president gives citizens every reason to doubt his commitment to act on his promises; to do things differently from his predecessor and put public interests ahead of the personal.
Batswana have had enough of bloody populist rhetoric and were anxiously hoping for President Dr Masisi to generally clean up the mess; restore the stature and dignity of the office of the president and return Botswana to its glory days.
President Dr Masisi must get his acts together, become a truly responsible national leader and set himself apart from his predecessor – a vindictive conman who always used threats as a bargaining chip.
President Dr Masisi ought to behave as befits a president in order to reaffirm the legitimacy of the Office of the President and provide the much needed presidential leadership.
To achieve this, he either has to rid himself of the negative publicity arising from being linked to the alleged illegal and criminal activities of the past administration. This he can achieve overnight by turning in any information that promotes public interest and trust in the government.
If President Dr Masisi chooses to claim executive privilege and presidential confidentiality he must discontinue his threats to spill the beans former President Dr Khama and brace himself for brutal criticism for his attempts to blackmail Batswana.
However, until the beans are spilled in their entirety, Batswana will never stop pondering the question of; what is it that we do not know as a nation about the past, present and future that President Dr Masisi hides from us?