In one of my interventions published in the Sunday Standard of August 29, 2007 I observed that the level of political debate in Botswana is intense as a result of the open and democratic nature of our political system. It is, however, regrettable that some politicians and commentators see this open and democratic system as a license to abuse their political opponents, especially in the media and at political forums.
Surprisingly in today’s politics such abusive commentators are some of our very own Members of Parliament. There seems to be an emerging trend whereby some MPs, and most painfully, BDP MPs have joined the bandwagon in labeling, belittling and demonizing other MPs and BDP members who exercise their democratic right of showing support to our current President Lt Gen Ian Khama Seretse Khama, and also some of the governments’ policies and development initiatives. Some MPs, aggrieved for reasons best known to themselves, abuse fellow parliamentarians whose only sin is to openly show support for the President.
Every MP has a right to voice out their views. It is therefore absurd for those who have chosen to criticize his initiatives to start labeling those who hold counterviews derogatory names such as “bootlickers’, “sycophants”, “malope”, etc. This is an attitude of political intolerance and lack of principle.
Again it is regrettable because the said Honorable MPs ‘play the man and not the ball’ by choosing to engage in personal attacks, gossip and innuendo. Some of us expect much better from the Legislators.
I once again refer the reader to the Sunday Standard edition of August 29, 2007, in which I appealed for political tolerance and respect and further advised politicians to conduct themselves in a professional manner. In other words they must see themselves, more importantly, as people with rights and responsibilities rather than engaging in politics of hate, ridicule and intolerance.
Utterances such as “bootlickers”, “sycophant”, “malope”, etc, clearly go beyond the standards of decency and intelligent debate. Unrefined labels against other MPs and the Head of State of the Republic of Botswana does not show respect for others and for the President as an individual and also insults the office that he holds.
Traditionally in the BDP we are a party that welcomes issue based debate and the BDP encourages debate and the views of all, even those who disagree with the BDP vehemently. It is my opinion that it is possible for politicians including those in the BDP to differ with the President and disagree without being disagreeable, and without making inciting statements or insulting utterances. It is evident that the President encourages mutual respect for political opponents and people who differ with him, and for always observing diplomacy and decorum. I hope and trust it will not be asking too much to encourage the BDP MPs with dissenting voices to embrace maturity and decency in expressing their anguish whenever the need arises.
MP’s are also free to express themselves freely in parliament and any other political forum, but their public statements must reflect some personal integrity. Differing with other people politically in a democratic society as ours, does not give them the right to insult and abuse anyone. They do not have the right to heap abuse on people whose only sin is to hold different political views and or show support for His Excellency. They must therefore learn to counter facts with facts.
I conclude by reminding my Honorable MPs, once more, that in Botswana our norms, beliefs and moral values, play an important part in our political stability. Our MPs are free to express their views and opinions. They can, disagree with, condemn, and dispute their opponents’ views but must not forget our culture of BOTHO, TLOTLO and political tolerance. ‘Botho’, according to Vision 2016 is the “process for earning respect by first giving it, and to gain empowerment by empowering others. It encourages people to applaud rather than resent those who succeed. It disapproves of anti-social, disgraceful, inhuman and criminal behavior, and encourages social justice for all”.
I hope that when finally their man of choice holds the position of President after the current president’s term ends they will allow their opponents to differ with them at any given political forum. I also hope that the then dissenting voices who will not be sharing their political views will not be made to suffer.