Monday, July 15, 2024

Dr Dow’s prescription should be taken with a cautionary

In a rare show of bravery, former cabinet minister Unity Dow broke ranks with her party and went on a tangent.

From the onset we must congratulate Dr Dow.

But then again we must point out that she is not by any stretch cut from a different cloth.

There is absolutely nothing extraordinary about her presentation in parliament which I have read through no less than three times.

More to the point, there is nothing original in what she said.

To further provide an anchor to her presentation, I want to add the public has been terribly unfair in their response to her.

It is a sign of the times we live in.

In fact the public has been uncouth to Dr Dow.

We live in a social media era where uncouthness is confused with bravery.

Social media has changed the way we interact beyond recognition.

It has exacerbated intolerance and removed all sense of proportionality in our social interface.

It promotes meanness and accommodates abuse.

Social media glamorizes rudeness and rewards divisive culture. It is like a wild, wild west where there is absolutely no accountability.

In this environment people genuinely believe that they are experts or even leaders simply based on the high number of followers on Facebook or Twitter – its despicable.

Our political discourse repels descency and that makes it near impossible to have a public debate that is both courteous, informative and honest.

The upshot of it all is we have a tortured public discourse.

Political parties across the spectrum are guilty of these crimes.

They unleash their attack dogs who masquerade as intellectuals to attack opponents using fancy soundbites to crowd out, hound and even silence alternative views on social media.

That is why social media is the new battleground.

In a way Dr Dow is a victim of those circumstances.

People are not debating the substance and content of her presentation.

Instead they are out to dissect her very person, going as far as to say she is saying what she is saying to protect a son in law who is serving suspension at DIS.

Dr Dow is accused of muddying the waters. But in making such accusations, her detractors are themselves worse or at the least equally guilty of the same charge.

As a context we must point out that Dr Dow had lost a debate inside President Masisi’s inner circle and with that lost favour with the President.

That led to her leaving cabinet.

Her leaving cabinet predicated primarily on relations between Botswana and South Africa.

The big elephant in the room was of course the P100 billion that South African banks and indeed prominent people there were said to have either facilitated or participated in its siphoning from Botswana’s coffers.

At the time Dr Dow called for caution.

The intelligence agency DIS, public prosecution (DPP)  and corruption busting agency DCEC wanted to go for broke. And indeed they did as they engaged Afriforum – a Afrikaner right wing to take on the South African government.

There is some truth in what some people are saying that she is throwing tantrums, that her presentation is that of a worried person.

The worry is however not about herself, but about the trajectory that our country is taking.

It is also somewhat ironic that her tone is that of a person who is not feeling confident, much less assertive about own future.

She sounds vulnerable.

Hers might of course be a cry for help. That is all beside the point.

What she is effectively saying is that Masisi government is not dissimilar to that of Ian Khama.

Like the Khama regime before it, the current one targets opponents for specific purposes of surveillance, harassment and/or persecution.

Nothing she has said is new.

In fact the opposition has been saying this and more about the DIS much more strongly than Dr Dow,

This is a classical example of why it matters a lot who speaks.

It matters who is saying what Dr Down said.

And for that we have to thank her.

Dr Down is a former High Court judge. But more crucially on this matter she is a former minister.

When she talks about deterioration in the rule of law all of us must pause and listen.

She goes further to ring a warning bell on civil liberties and personal freedoms.

These are the ideals why so many people threw their weight behind Mokgweetsi  Masisi, to start with.

They are also the reasons why there is a palpable disappointment with Masisi.

Too many people are worried because Dr Dow’s presentation is also in a subtle way setting an elephant trap for the BDP.

If she were to be dragged before the courts for any reason, she will point to her speech as the sole reason why she is being victimized.

Instead of seeing the woods for the trees, already a propaganda machine is hard at work with disinformation and also spin against Dr Dow.

She is effectively being accused of moral blackmail.

It cannot all of it be a coincidence that all attacks on her since her submission in parliament have been to depict her judgement as skewiff.

This is unfortunate. Its not only unfair on Dr Dow – which for me is a small issue – but unfair on Batswana who deserve much better.

The objective is to undermine her by casting aspersions on her credibility.

Questions are being raised over her probity.

She is being hit with loaded innuendos of ethical impropriety.

Again the intention is to undermine her.

She might be the target, but the goal is much bigger than her.

The goal is to warn other potential dissenters to know that a similar fate awaits them.

Dr Dow might be a former judge. But she is not an angel.

Which reminds me of a line by Johan Kriegler, a former judge in the South African Constitutional Court when he said “judges are lawyers not saints.” That was in an opinion that was part of declaring the death penalty in that country unconstitutional.

We often tend to place too much faith in our judiciary.

We forget that judges are just ordinary people, with all our frailties and imperfections.

And by the way, its beginning to show – in a big way within our judiciary.

But I digress.

It is no longer a secret that the corruption busting agency, the DCEC is investigating Dr Dow.

It is however unfair for anybody to say Dr Dow should shut up because there is an investigation on her.

An investigation, especially under today’s  climate does not mean much other than to tarnish one’s career and reputation.

Dr Dow has fared badly after an Auditor General’s report found that established processes and procedures had been unobeyed in financing an aviation school attended by government sponsored students.

At the time Dr Dow was Minister of Education.

Still we should learn not to throw away the baby with dirty water.

When the law establishing DIS was discussed in Parliament the then BDP strongman PHK Kedikilwe was on the backbenches at the time.

I still remember his powerful submissions on the law.

He was totally contemptuous of the Bill.

He said if it was to be found that a President had used the DIS to harass political opponents then the president should be impeached – or something to that effect.

The then Leader of Opposition, Otsweletse Moupo was more scathing.

He argued persuasively for parliament to reject the law.

The law  went on to pass. And the rest is history.

The DIS has since become a Frankeinstein monster. Not even its Director General, let alone the president have full control of it.

The organization has become fractious and difficult to control.

I often think that its founding Director General, Isaac Kgosi, even with multiple criminal investigations to contend with has more control of DIS than the current top man.

This is because Kgosi created the DIS in his own image.

Like him the organization is infinitely rapacious, abrasive and swashbuckling.

For its own sake the DIS needs to get its act together.

There is no whitewashing the fact that the intelligence body has a bad public image.

This much was recognised and identified as priority number one by Peter Magosi when he arrived there.

He talked of starting on a clean slate.

This was music to everybody’s ears.

He said never again shall DIS harass citizens.

He recognisded that to become more effective on its mandate, the DIS needed citizens on its side, not against it.

Years later, the organization is still fighting the same dark forces.

And those have nothing to do with Dr Dow’s presentation in parliament.

Every week sensitive security information is leaked, obviously by disgruntled officers who no longer feel they belong or simply do not want to be part of what they’re seeing play out in front of them.

Batswana should be worried at the level of polarity that is plaguing DIS.

Would the DIS even know it if a coup was afoot, for example, given the kind of things operatives and the leadership immersed with?

Intelligence operatives are human beings.

And when the situation becomes desperate they naturally look for something to cling on to.

With blind nostalgia, they look back with fondness to Kgosi’s days gone by.

DIS needs to redeem itself.

DIS should reflect on Dr Dow’s sentiments in a detached manner.

Anything less will not work.

They do not need to agree with all that she is saying.

If she is shooting a preemptive strike in order to dodge her day in court the law will deal with that.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper