Sunday, September 20, 2020

Former Presidents deserve praise for engaging in national dialogue

The nation has every right to question certain decisions taken by former Presidents while they were at the helm. There are numerous pronouncements that have been made by former Presidents Sir. Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae which have, in some quarters, stirred up a hornet’s nest. ┬áSome are peeved at Mogae’s alternative ways of fighting the HIV/AIDS scourge by legalising commercial sex workers, the provision of condoms in prisons as alien to the culture that we have to know.

Others feel that Masire was deliberately being economical with the truth by making suggestions that De Beers may have, other than the ruling party, secretly funded opposition parties.
The country must be grateful to Masire and Mogae who appear prepared to speak up their minds whenever they are being quizzed on the ever changing political dynamics experienced by this country.

It is unhelpful for the former president’s detractors to blame them for having failed to act otherwise during their presidency while the reality on the ground is that things have changed. Who would have imagined America and the United Kingdom would by now have taken bold steps to punish countries which they perceive to be discriminating their citizenry on the basis of their sexual orientation by way of denying them so much needed aid? Malawi comes to mind and Sudan might follow.

Botswana’s foreign policy under Masire and Mogae was not rooftop as opposed to that of the incumbent President Ian Khama, who is increasingly resonating foreign policies of the West. Being a small country that we are dependent on the regional economic giant South Africa, which never jumps with glee to condemn other governments for perceived or real atrocities outside the African union, it is perhaps imperative for us as a nation to have dialogue as to whether this will not attract far reaching implications which may see us isolated at continental level.

This and other issues are what we need to engage the former presidents on. Who knows, President Khama’s administration may learn a lesson or two about international relations. We are, however by this observation, not at all implying that our government as a player in the world affairs must be silent on suppressive regimes that continue to maim their citizenry. But we ought to raise our concerns in a manner that may expose us.

There are those who are quick to say that people must give President Khama the chance to rule how he sees fit because others before him had their chance. We find this argument ludicrous because it was Khama himself who, in one of his State of the Nation Addresses, said that his ruling party has never and cannot claim monopoly over conventional wisdom.  It is against this background that we encourage President Khama and those who surround him to desist from dismissing the input of former presidents, whether formal or informal in taking this country to the next level.

It is one thing to interfere but quite another to just participate in public debates.
We are against what some people call ruling from the grave. But it is important to have former leaders who enrich public debates as we do.

We know of former statesmen called the “Team of the Elders”, the likes of Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter, who continue to play an important role in world affairs.
Masire and Mogae are welcome.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.