Former Vice President, the late Mompati Merafhe attacked opposition party MPs as naive in his book The General, “in the service of my country.”
Merafhe says the opposition MPs mindset that Botswana system of┬á government and democracy has to be a carbon copy of governments in Western Countries is naive.
“It only serves to lay bare vestiges of a still lingering colonial mentality. Even the United States of America and British Political systems have elements peculiar to their own circumstances. In the United Kingdom for example, ministers have to be members of parliament while in the USA they are appointed from outside the legislative bodies, that is congress and Senate. If these two prototypical western countries have aspects unique to them, why can we not have our own distinct brand of Parliamentary democracy?”
Merafhe said during his time in parliament it was patently obvious that the opposition did not respect President Ian Khama to a degree that bordered on contempt and obloquy.
He said they seemed to view him as the president of the Botswana Democratic Party and not as the State President.
“One backbencher from the ranks of the opposition made direct insinuations to the effect that the President was a foreigner. Another said the President was capable of coming to the honourable house and shoot all of us.”
The General as he has been popularly called said such utterances were not only juvenile and ludicrous but raised serious aspersions on the utterers’ state of mind.
“In my remarks on such abominable ravings, I did not mince my words. I said that such people needed psychiatric evaluation and I would not apologise for such pronouncements.” says Merafhe. The General also took a swipe on the ‘Saleshandos’ as he named them (Dumelang Saleshando and his father Gilson Saleshando). He said the two Saleshandos were not particularly enamoured of him. Merafe said they had innate hatred over him but they did certainly evince certain rancour with him that just stopped short of being spiteful.
“The one particular MP who seldom applied brakes in his broadsides at government was Gilson Saleshando of the BCP. On one occasion he insinuated that we were a government of thieves. On another he charged that BDP was a satanic party. Any person is liable to explode when a particular boundary is breached and inevitably my reaction just stopped short of a volcanic eruption.” Merafhe recalled November 2011 Parliamentary sessions when the two Saleshandos were firing on all cylinders. He said at the time, clearly Dumelang Saleshando could not bear him any longer and so he advised that Merafhe should step down from the Vice Presidency in a manner evocative of his own father (Gilson Saleshando) who had stepped down as BCP president in July 2010.
“Of course the advice was not given in good faith. Everybody could see through its paradox, it was an open secret that the father decided to stand down for no reason other than to pave way for the son. My response therefore was that since the BDP and the government were not a monarchy, I was in no hurry to relinquish my post to pass the baton dynastically on to some relative waiting in the wings.”
Merafhe said the same Saleshandos also charged that he was not fit to be the Vice President as he did not dispense proper advice to Khama.
“This was as nonsensical as it was curious, for how on earth could they be sure that I did not perform such a role.┬á Whilst I did my propositions to the President, he was not obliged to embrace them. And once he had taken a particular stand, it was incumbent upon me to throw all my weight behind it in the spirit of Collective responsibility irrespective of whatever reservations I held. Tragically, this common sense perspective was lost on the opposition, some of whom were at least on paper, well schooled in the art of responsible leadership.”
The general further said if there was one subject that the opposition seemed clueless about, it was normative economics. He said there were times when he wondered whether the opposition were living in the same world.
“The inception of the Khama administration coincided with a raging global financial meltdown that had practically every nation clutching at the straws. At such a turbulent time, the then Botswana National Front Otsweletse Moupo said we should abolish school fees, reduce taxes, increase the Salaries of Civil Servants and go on a borrowing spree to fund pensions and other social security programmes.”