President Ian Khama’s democratic credentials were once again questioned last week when a leading South African journalist warned that Botswana is increasingly becoming a dictatorship.
In the latest edition of the Sunday Times newspaper, Mondli Makhanya, Editor- in-Chief of Avusa Media Group, said the direction that Botswana has taken under Khama should be a cause for worry for Southern Africa.
Makhanya is also the Chairman of African Editors Forum.
In the column, titled “Malema puts Botswana’s descent on the agenda”, Makhanya warned that recent statements by African National Congress Youth League President Julius Malema about Botswana should be taken seriously. He accused Botswana of pretending to be a democracy when, in fact, access to power is very rigidly controlled by the BDP. He said Botswana has achieved the good boy status because of good public relations.
“Because nothing exciting ever happens in Botswana except for the mooing of the cattle and the hanging of convicted criminals, the creeping dictatorship has evaded the media spotlight.”
Malema was last week forced by the ANC to issue a public apology after it emerged that he would face disciplinary action for his recent explosive utterances on Botswana. The ANCYL has been under increasing pressure from the ANC top brass. The ANC recently gave the league a public dressing down, expressing disappointment at Malema’s “extremely thoughtless and embarrassing pronouncements” and describing his utterances as proof of the ANCYL’s ill- discipline.
Malema said the ANCYL will establish a command center to unite all opposition forces to topple the puppet regime led by the BDP. He called President Khama’s government a foot stool of imperialism, a puppet of the United States and a security threat to Africa.
Makhanya this week reiterated Malema’s sentiments, describing the Khama regime as a creeping dictatorship. He implored the media to start paying more attention to Botswana as it is a potential source of instability in the region. He said presidential succession in Botswana has been so tightly managed that only those who are close to Khama are guaranteed a rise to the top.
“State resources and tactics are liberally used to quash opposition, so much so that election results are a foregone conclusion. But the Botswana government has always managed to do good PR, earning itself a poster-boy image of being one of the continent’s most enduring democracies,” said Makhanya.
He warned that Botswana is a ticking time bomb as discontent is brewing beneath the surface. He accused Khama of militarizing society and giving too much power to the secret service.
“Like many dictatorial regimes, the government has informally spread the belief that the Directorate on Intelligence and Security is everywhere, creating a climate of suspicion and fear.
Khama’s crushing of a public service strike earlier this year was cold and brutal,” said Makhanya.
He warned that Botswana is a dictatorship in the making.
“It is early days yet, but dictatorships do not herald their coming. Dictatorship is sneaking upon Botswana very quickly and it is high time the rest of us in the region realized this,” said Makhanya, who also sits on the board of the South African National Editors’ Forum.
Makhanya’s statements are in consonance with the complaints that have in the past been raised by the opposition. Many of them doubt if Khama will agree to cede power in the event that he loses elections. Others have complained about the government’s abuse of state media and asked for government to fund parties to level the political playing field.