Thursday, October 5, 2023

A response to article by Benjamin Segobatetsho

Kindly publish my response to the article you carried on February 4, 2009 entitled ‘A Canadian academic pours water on Botswana’s democratic credentials’ submitted by Benjamin Segobaetsho. The relevance of my response is to give your report a nuanced and balanced perspective because I was the only Motswana in the audience.

Given the demands or even requirements of the academia, and my passion for knowledge, I have attended public lecturers cutting across all developmental issues – social, political and economic. Such debates are hosted by Academic and International Institutions in Canada and elsewhere; where issues relating to Botswana are openly presented and discussed. This is done in highly professional settings, where freedom of knowledge is promoted. And so was the case with the January 28, 2009 presentation. As we have all learnt, professor Poteete of Concordia University in Canada presented a paper entitled ‘Botswana’s 2009 Elections and Political Development: Unfinished stories. The value of presentations of this caliber is to contribute immensely to the body of knowledge.

The reason for finding time within my already over stretched schedule is to respond to the contents of the articles that appeared in a number of local papers in Botswana ÔÇô Botswana Gazette and Sunday Standard ÔÇô Telegraph (e.g., the articles were publish in the two papers The Botswana Gazette and Sunday Standard on February, 04, 2009). I will be addressing the validity of the contents in the articles written by the ‘correspondent’ (claiming to be a student) and also those addressed by Benjamin Segobaetsho (the name given to Sunday Standard).

I feel I have a duty as Motswana who was part of the audience to sincerely clarify some alleged statements. First, I start by drawing the attention of the reader to the audience described by the ‘correspondent’ ÔÇô international students and the community. It would have been interesting to elaborate on who constitutes the community. I was the only Motswana in the audience and I identified myself as it is customarily required, specifically at a time of questioning. What caught my attention was the arrival of Mr Segobaetsho late into the presentation, and later leaving before the end of the presentation. During question period, he had quick comments or observations to make and requested the professor to explore them ÔÇô Funding of Political Parties and Declaration of Assets by the Cabinet. By the way, Mr Segobaetsho had already left by the time the professor addressed his question(s).
Surprisingly, he is claiming the statements on Funding of parties were expressed by the professor. This is a striking observation given that the same person who left before the response was given turns to be the ‘reporter’.

According to The Gazette quotation; ‘In Botswana it is common knowledge that the ruling party leaders unequivocally refuse to establish a law that would oblige them to declare their assets to the public, the ruling class also refuses to create Freedom of Information Act which would accord ordinary citizens their right to know’, this is supposedly a direct quotation which does not hold true to the statements uttered during the question and answer period. This is an unfair representation of the scholarly made remarks. The professor did not ‘highlight’ as alleged in (the Gazette) Financing of Political parties or the Declaration of Assets by the cabinet ÔÇô instead the issues were highlighted by Benjamin Segobaetsho.

Let me take this opportunity to highlight the focal point of the lecture. The presenter gave an overview of Botswana’s elections since 1965-2009, by analysing winning margins between three prominent parties BDP, BNF ÔÇô for years 1965 -1994; later BCP (2004 – 2009) and Independent members.

She talked about factions within parties as contributing factors to the splitting of votes, which she did not pin only to opposition parties but did a balanced analysis by including BDP as well. Above all, the language used in the quotations is hybrid; it is not the kind of language or tone used during the presentation. To show the language use, here are some examples; ‘trigger happy government security agents, the purging of dissidents, as well as the concerns on President Lt. Gen Ian Khama’s undemocratic automatic ascent to Presidency without allowance for presidential domination contest’. This is a clear misquoting of professor Poteete.

Questionably so, as one of the audience, I wonder how the hybrid statements were captured as there was no visible recorder to capture those direct quotations, except if the alleged ‘correspondent’ brought in a hidden recorder, which is something I presume will be violating certain rules. My understanding of public presentations dictates that one (willing to record) must seek consent of the presenter and reporters should identify themselves, except if I am advised otherwise. Another observation is that in his late arrival to the presentation, he had no pad and pen for notes taking.

Another disturbing point is the statement made by the ‘correspondent’ who claims that some Batswana students leaving in Ottawa (leaving and/or studying in Universities in Ottawa?) unequivocally preferred anonymity ÔÇô million dollar question to the correspondent is where did he or she meet the students as there were no Batswana students in the audience other than myself. Is there a possibility of him/her gathering information outside the presentation? If so, what is the credibility of the report? Anyway, I leave this to the student community in Ottawa to respond.



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