Private radio station Gabz FM was on Friday forced to issue a hasty apology to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, after airing a program in which listeners lashed out at President Ian Khama calling him a lekutwane (person of mixed race).
The Gabz FM morning show, the Solid Morning Drive, hosted by Reginald Richardson and Tshepo Ntshole, aired a clip in which Khama referred to a public servant of Zimbabwean origin as a mokwerekwere during a kgotla meeting in Molepolole. The word mokwerekwere is a derogatory word used to refer to expatriate Africans. It is said to originate from a Zulu word, isikhwele, which means sexual jealousy, and thus the accusation that “foreigners steal our women”.
After the clip was aired, listeners called in, lambasting Khama for his words, accusing him of xenophobia and calling him a lekutwane.
Incensed at what they perceived to be an insult to the President, BDP foot soldiers called Gabz FM and demanded an apology, threatening to withdraw adverts from Gabz FM, and institute legal action against the station.
Gabz FM Programs Manager, Kenneth Moeng, confirmed the incident.
“They said our presenters were irresponsible because they failed to control the listeners. They lost focus on the relevant issue and instead allowed callers to insult the President,” he said.
Faced with a possible lawsuit and loss of income, Gabz FM management quickly apologized to the ruling party.
In a letter addressed to BDP Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, Gabz FM Station Manager, Joyce Manase-Ntau, apologized to the BDP for allowing listeners to utter unsavory words on air.
“One of our presenters lost focus on the topic and allowed some listeners’ unpalatable comments to go on air. I fully apologize for that and would like to assure your office that the matter has been addressed internally and shall not repeat itself. We thank you for your understanding and working with us to resolve this undesirable occurrence,” they said.
Manase-Ntau admitted that her presenters were careless, saying they should have stuck to the issue of whether Khama was right to call someone a mokwerekwere, instead of allowing people to insult the President.
However, the Vice President of the opposition Botswana National Front, Isaac Mabiletsa, feels differently. He has instead called for Khama to resign, saying his utterances show that he is unfit to lead the nation.
“Such statements are regrettable and unfortunate. How can a whole head of state utter such discriminatory words to a fellow African who happens to reside in Botswana legally?” asked Mabiletsa.
He said the BDP should first have asked Khama to apologize to the nation instead of demanding an apology from Gabz FM.
“How can I stand proud at the Pan African parliament when Khama utters statements that intrude on the integrity and democratic credentials of Botswana,” he said.
The same sentiments were expressed on social website facebook, where Batswana blasted Khama for his “hateful and xenophobic words.”
“The meaning of this word is as demeaning, derogative, and racist as the words kaffir and nigger,” they said.
Moeng could not explain why the BDP, and not government, raised a complaint about a matter which did not occur in the BDP forum. He confirmed that they did not send an apology to the Office of the President.
The BDP was also accused of using its incumbency and financial muscle to bulldoze those who don’t agree with them.
Questions were asked as to whether the BDP was threatening to withdraw party adverts or government adverts.
The Sunday Standard is informed that key industry players pressured Gabz FM to issue an apology or lose adverts. Sunday Standard can reveal that key BDP members control stakes in big corporations and advertising agencies, which parcel out adverts to media houses. However, their role in the whole saga could not be established.