Sometime in April this year, President Ian Khama invited his Malawian counterpart, President Bingu wa Mutharika, to Botswana. Mutharika’s engagements while in Botswana included the official opening of the Lobatse Sporting Complex.
The Lobatse MP, Nehemiah Modubule, boycotted the official opening ceremony. His opposition colleagues in parliament made a collective undertaking to stay away from Mutharika.
They reasoned that as people who advocate for democracy, they found it hard to embrace Mutharika because, under his presidency, Malawi has demonstrated severe erosion of civil liberties and human rights. They argued that, as members of opposition parties, they found it unbefitting to dine and wine with Mutharika because he had started a crack down on the opposition in Malawi.
He was reported to be persecuting his political opponents and in solidarity with their Malawian counterparts, the opposition here refused to be part of Mutharika’s itinerary while in Botswana.
As was to be expected, the Botswana government was not happy with the position adopted by the opposition.
Political hopper and Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration at the time, Patrick Masimolole expressed his disappointment on national television.
Of course, Mutharika’s visit went ahead without any incident, save for the embarrassment on both Mutharika and his host, Khama. Any normal president would be embarrassed when his visitor is not welcomed by the entire nation and any normal visiting president would be embarrassed when some section of the hosting nation gives out the middle finger instead of a handshake.
I have never been a fan of Mutharika.
Well, I find it difficult to admire stupid leaders. Stupid because he makes stupid decisions and makes stupid public statements. This is the man who told the youth of his party to beat up opposition politicians who oppose him. That is stupid.
This is the man whose government came up with a law that sought to prohibit farting in public.
That is stupidity of the highest degree.
Just recently, the people of Malawi took to the streets protesting against the rule of Mutharika. The unrest has been described as the worst since 1994 when Kamuzu Banda’s dictatorship was brought to an end. The people of Malawi are revolting against Mutharika whom they blame for their country’s failed economic policies. The people of Malawi condemn Mutharika’s onslaught on democracy.
During the protests which ended in bloodshed, at least 18 protesters were reported killed by the security forces and these shootings of innocent citizens had been sanctioned by Mutharika’s government. Mutharika went on to brag about the killings. He reportedly made a stupid comment at a police graduation ceremony in Zomba, Malawi’s former capital city.
“If you go back to the streets, I will smoke you out,” Mutharika is quoted in the media as saying.
Police reportedly fired teargas at a Lilongwe hospital, forcing the hospital to shut down. Journalists have also been severely beaten by the police. Mutharika’s government reportedly made another stupid decision to shut down news websites and social media networks, including Twitter and Facebook and has blocked signals from radio stations in a bid to stop the coordination of demonstrations.
I call this madness.
When opposition MP’s boycotted Mutharika’s visit here, his spin doctor, one Hetherwick Ntaba, went on the rampage, even barking the wrong tree. He blamed civil society groups in his country for, according to him, misinforming Botswana’s opposition. He was even arrogant and boastful that the boycott would not stop Mutharika from fulfilling his engagements in Botswana.
The government of Botswana has become known for its public condemnation of other governments who trample upon civil liberties of citizens.
President Khama and Foreign Affairs Minister, Phandu Skelemani, never miss an opportunity to lambast Presidents of other countries who disregard democratic dispensations.
How strange it is that now they have opted to see no evil and hear no evil in the case of Malawi. Innocent protesters are being killed in Malawi and I expected Skelemani to be on Btv, doing what he knows best, lashing out at Mutharika and telling him that what he is doing is madness.
We know that Khama invited Mutharika here because they are on good terms. For him to invite Mutharika here means they are in constant communication.
Will I then be wrong to suggest Khama’s closeness to Mutharika explains his silence towards the man’s brutality on his people? Why is it that Khama is always the first to condemn other presidents who are not in his circle of friends but zips up when it is his allies doing exactly what he always condemns?
Khama’s double standard approach exposes his hypocrisy and cowardice. By applying double standards, it shows that Khama is not as principled as he wants to fool the world. By keeping quiet when his friends trample upon their nations’ human rights, we will end up adopting the maxim, birds of a feather flock together because his silence could mean he knows that at some point he is going to unleash terror on his people just the way Mutharika is currently doing to his people.
The other interesting observation about our country’s response to the Malawi uprising is, even though our national television is normally eager to show us the unrests in other countries, they do not report on Malawi with the same vigour and interest that has become synonymous with them on foreign, negative issues.
My suspicion is that they have been ordered by our government to keep Batswana unaware of the situation in Malawi because what is happening there right now is exactly what Modubule attributed to in his boycott. The government of Botswana knows that by exposing Mutharika, it would vindicate Modubule and earn him and the opposition some integrity and principle.
Khama and Skelemani should come out and openly condemn Mutharika. They must tell their friend Mutharika to cease forthwith the killings of innocent citizens whose only crime is to be on the opposing side.
If Khama and Skelemani choose to maintain silence on Malawi, they should forever shut up and never condemn any country.
Just on Thursday, Khama was in Mozambique charming his hosts as he attacked Muammar Gaddafi for “embarking upon a brutal campaign of killing protesters and opponents in order to stay in power”. Khama should extend the same condemnation to Mutharika because he is doing exactly what Gaddafi is doing to his political opponents.