Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A  Masisi/Khama deal has potential to create moral equivalent between a Head of State and a wayward warlord

From the beginning it is important to state upfront that what the ruling party elders are doing in trying to reconcile President Mokgweetsi Masisi with Ian Khama is patently wrong and ill-advised.

Just out of principle, as ordinary citizens we should be immensely worried that any such peace accord could be reached involving our Head of State and somebody so overtly threatening the legitimacy of state.

This is because from public pronouncements so far made, such efforts by the elders presume that Masisi and Khama are in those negotiations treated as equals that should be encouraged to parley and negotiate in equal terms.

And as we know, that is not the case.

Masisi is a Head of State. He derives his power from his office.  And any effort to reduce his stature, however the benign intent of those doing it should be rejected out of hand.

As a nation we have not been told or at least taken into confidence from whence Khama derives his powers as to be equated to a sitting Head of state.

By a sleight of continued pressure, the president’s detractors, and now the elders too, albeit inadvertently seem determined to create an impression in the public that Mokgweetsi Masisi is unfit to be the Head of State.

The whole noise is artificial and phony. It is created to unnerve Batswana, force Masisi to buckle under pressure and start cutting dealing with a belligerent. That would be a national tragedy.

Instead of cutting deals, Masisi should play a long game. He should know what is at stake. At stake is not his stay in power, but the very survival of Botswana as a viable state.

If there is anyone person who was ever unfit, unqualified, unready and morally defective to be president of Botswana it was Ian Khama.

Ten years of Khama presidency have ruined Botswana. The same person now wants to come back in another different incarnation, the use of proxies and appendages that are wholly accountable and answerable to him ÔÇô which is really what Pelonomi Venson is and should be seen for.

For those longing for the Khama days, here is a catalogue reminder of a life as it was under Khama.

Not only did he actively nurture corruption, he also destroyed the country’s democratic institutions and systematically undermined fairness and meritocracy in all his actions including appointments in both cabinet and the public service.

He allowed the crooks surrounding him to run amok. And he set Batswana against one another.

He repeatedly persecuted the media and continuously humiliated the judiciary.

He took away our liberties and freedoms by unleashing his intelligence agency to spy on citizens.

That same spy agency became a law unto itself ÔÇô literally.

Education standards collapsed to lowest ebbs under him.

Public services like health deteriorated.

Internationally Botswana came to the verge of being a pariah state.

Trade Unions literally had their backbone crushed. New words like extra-judicial killings entered our national lexicon.

Political opposition was consistently de-legitimised. Journalists were hounded and hunted down.

Cronyism got rewarded as independent and different thinking became outlawed. And any such dissent was duly and invariably punished ÔÇô and with routine vigour and merciless determination.

By the time he left office even the once robust institutions like the media and judiciary were on their knees. Now we hear that new information might be surfacing on how even political opponents died during his time.

He repeatedly sought greater powers and greater wealth for himself, his cronies and his family.

He used the powers of his office not to grow accountability but to make it easy for himself as the executive to run roughshod over all institutions created for purposes of checks and balance.

For the first time the country got a feel of how it is to live under a president who had absolute powers.

He broke every elementary governance rule, emasculating parliament and turned men and women in cabinet into a little crowd of zombies.

This week former president Festus Mogae said Khama has always been a divisive figure.

He is right, but only up to a point. What Mogae however did not say is that Khama is inherently petty, self-centred, self obsessed, and megalomaniac with an arcane behavior that often looks more and more like that of a conman.

Botswana cannot afford another day under Khama or a Khama controlled proxy, by whatever name.

A few months ago Khama went on a national tour and told the nation that Masisi was the best qualified to be president. He implored the nation to take him at his word.

Now the same Khama has come back and is saying he lied, and that more qualified than Masisi is Pelonomi Venson. What if given his now known public track record he’s lying again? And a few months down the line he comes back to say even Venson is not appropriately qualified!

That peace treaty being brokered by ruling party elders risks just that.

Batswana should not give their trust to a prince, even if that prince’s name is Ian Khama.

Khama is leading a multi-pronged effort to undermine not just Masisi but the state of Botswana.

At face value Khama’s efforts are about replacing Masisi with Venson.

But at another level there are other more serious and more sinister covert operations related to that, like installing a captured president.

Those covert efforts by him have got nothing to with democracy.

If anything they are a national security threat.

And that is how they should be analysed and interpreted by the country’s security structures.

As already stated there have been calls from some quarters for a rapprochement between Masisi and Khama.

Those efforts are primarily led by ruling party elders.

For some of us these efforts are a dangerous misnomer, and should not live to pass.

As a Head of State Masisi should not be morally equated to some self appointed warlord.

Calling for reconciliation between a sitting Head of State and a recalcitrant person who has an oversized image of himself could create a dangerous precedent.

After cutting such a deal, just where does the whole truce go and where does it stop?

Such a truce would amount to blackmailing a Head of State.

The subtext for such a deal is that there should be a blanket amnesty for all the past evil and corrupt deeds. The ruling party elders do not seem to care that such a deal would amount to making the Head of State an accomplice to all such past criminal deeds.

A sitting Head of State is the embodiment of the state, and should not be cutting deals with rogue elements under the fear that they would otherwise be overthrown.

Such a deal also presupposes that President Masisi emerge from it as his own man – which is also false.

Concessions extracted from him would basically mean the president shares power with Khama who henceforth would quite rightly begin to act as a spiritual guarantor and underwriter of Masisi’s stay in power.

That too cannot be allowed.

Worse, even the mere mention of such a deal has the possibility of creating a siege mentality on the Head of State.

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The Telegraph September 30

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 30, 2020.